What's your home personality?


Years ago, I went to a party that had a wallet reader — like a palm reader, only she read your wallet and told you about yourself.

Cash carefully segregated, facing the same direction by denomination signaled an organized planner. Bills stuffed in willy-nilly telegraphed impulsive spontaneity. Lots of credit and rewards cards equaled an over-extended shopper. A sleek billfold implied the carrier was tidy, controlled, efficient and perhaps secretive. A stuffed, worn wallet held together with a rubberband shouted frugal hoarder.

At the time, my wallet was fake leather, which classified me as a striver, who, though ambitious, had not yet arrived. (I beg your pardon! I immediately bought — and have ever since carried — a leather wallet.) The $100 bill hidden under my driver’s license caused the wallet reader to infer I did not like to be taken by surprise. (Maybe I just want to bribe the cop?)

The wallet reading experience stuck with me, and has often made me wonder, “Sheesh! If our wallets reveal that much about us, our homes must speak volumes!” And they do.

More than we know, who we are is stamped on every fabric, lamp, rug and pillow in our home.

While most of us are blind to what our homes say about us, a little awareness — sometimes coupled with professional help — can help us see what our homes say about us, and perhaps help us improve our spaces so they reflect our personalities, only better.

After all, don’t we all want a home that reflects who we are on our best day? The day we wear our favorite most flattering outfit, have good hair, are at our ideal weight, and have a full night’s rest behind us and our nails freshly done?

Although every designer will say they design homes that reflect their clients, some do that better than others. And those of us who try to do this solo miss their blind spots. Trying to define your own style means you actually have to see yourself as others do. This is like examining the back of your ears, or doing self surgery on your brain.

Memphis interior designer Rhea Crenshaw has a knack for incorporating her clients’ personas in their homes, and bringing out the best in both. “Before I start,” she said, “I spend a good hour or more in their home with them just seeing how they live.”

She asks them to show her their favorite furnishings, and tell her why they’re special. It could be an emotional attachment to a table that’s been in the family, a sofa they paid a lot for and consider an investment piece, or the item might be their favorite color, she said. “All valid reasons because they reflect who you are.”

Once they’ve identified these key items — and you can do this in your own home — they become touchstones. “Build on those,” she said. “Don’t make a single purchase unless it works with and enhances the items you love.”

Then she added: “I don’t believe in completely starting over,” which is just so refreshing.

Like the wallet reader, Crenshaw also looks for design style clues in what her clients wear. “When decoding your own style, your favorite outfit is a great place to start,” Crenshaw said.

Here again, you can try this. Think of what you like to wear, then see how that translates into your best interior. Here are some examples:
• Colorful extrovert. A woman wearing a hot pink dress, big jewelry and big hair will likely have a house that looks just like her, said Crenshaw. It will have lots of color, big floral patterns, and be very vivacious.
• Understated classic. A woman wearing a camel-colored cashmere sweater, tailored tan slacks, a Hermes scarf, a tight pony tail and diamond stud earrings will have an organized, sparsely done but well-appointed home, with few accessories, but each one fine and precisely placed. Everything will be neutral, but for the painting over the mantel, a pop of color like her scarf.
• Steadfast appeal. A man in dressed in khakis, a corduroy jacket and great leather boots, carrying a beat up Hartmann briefcase he’s had for 30 years, will be at home in a relaxed, rugged interior, she said. He would enjoy a worn leather chair, a tweed sofa, a big stack of books by the fireplace, lots of found objects, many from the outdoors, wood floors, and a zebra or cowhide rug.
• Streamlined striver. A power couple working in big city metro, where she’s an ad executive and he as a stockbroker, who dress in crisp tailored shirts, and black, navy or gray suits, will have a no-nonsense home, said Crenshaw. It will likely be very cutting edge, with no patterns, and solid neutral colors. They might have some contemporary bowls as accessories. The lighting will be exactly right.

You get the idea. But, before you try this at home, Crenshaw adds one note of caution: “Beware of the multiple personality problem, which we all have. Many of us like a lot of looks, but we have to decide which direction to take, and stay on track.” In other words, be yourself, because no one else can be.

Marni Jameson

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press)
Last modified: January 29, 2015
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.