Customer Watch: Style Clues from One’s Home

The May 2008 issue of Redbook magazine contains an interview of Thom Filicia, formerly of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and currently the host of The Style Network’s “Dress My Nest.” He calls himself a “design detective,” and it is my view that you can be one as well.


In Mr. Filicia’s case, he reports that, on the show, he works with “people who are confident in personal style, but not interior style, so I look for what they gravitate to in their wardrobe.” A preference for hippie style versus buttoned-up and conservative gives him clues how best to appoint their houses. He recommends: “Notice your own style in your closet, and have confidence when you apply that taste to your home design.”



Of course, this begs the question of what to do for someone who is not confident in his or her personal style. My experience is that most people don’t have this kind of innate confidence. Buttoned-up and conservative may be a function of career, not personality.


The person who cares about fashion is bombarded with media and marketing messages proclaiming what is in and what is out, affecting the person’s level of confidence. Still, it is important to recognize the distinction between fashion and style. Just look at the line-up of identical outfits, down to the shoes, marketed to young women in at least one monthly fashionmagazine to understand how it can be easy enough to dress in the latest fashion, yet have no personal sense of style.


The person who doesn’t much care about fashion falls into one of two categories. The first is the fashion icon, who has figured out what works for his or her body and personality, and whose style truly is all her own. Think Katherine Hepburn, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Hugh Hefner . . . the list goes on and on.


The other type of person who doesn’t care about fashion has no sense of style at all, and likely thinks that fashion is boring, frivolous, a waste of money, or completely unintelligible. (The exception to that is if the latter type of person recognizes this cluelessness and hires a professional image consultant to simplify style decisions and create a wardrobe of looks that are situation appropriate, stylish and comfortable.)


I propose a point of view diametrically opposed to that expressed by Mr. Filicia: Clues to an individual’s personal style can be derived from a look at his or her home.


While this approach is not going to work for someone just starting his or her career and still living with student furnishings and hand-me-downs, as the client acquires furniture and the decorative accessories that make a home, he or she begins making style statements about preferences and taste.


As an image consultant, I find it instructive to ask a client to keep a clippings file of images he or she loves, including pictures of nature, flowers, color combinations, and even products. I keep such a file myself, and, by way of example, recently added to it a photo of a chandelier I particularly like. What is the value of this? It provides a reminder of the design elements and styles that appeal and resonate strongly with me. 



The lines of a chandelier or desk may provide clues as to the designs that may appeal in jewelry as well. The atmosphere of a house and its surroundings may provide clues as to the style in which your customer prefers to surround herself or himself.


If you’re the neighborhood jeweler, you can easily play style detective with regard to your customers by a peek at their preferred surroundings. Does your customer live in a formal home, carefully landscaped with sculptured evergreens? In a cottage with a bountiful country garden and a birdbath? In a home with a deck and basketball hoop above the garage? These features provide hints as to a preference for elegant/classic, romantic/creative or sporty personality styles. And these preferences can easily be translated into jewelry choices.


Recognizing the residential style preferences of your customers can make you a style detective who understands what image your customers prefer to convey in their choice of jewelry.