What’s your design personality?

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

Over my years as a designer, I’ve noticed that people take different paths to creating a joyful home. Some care a lot about being on trend, and invest time and energy in staying ahead of the curve. Some put people at the center of their design, creating a space that makes everyone feel welcome. Some are practical and think through every detail, while others follow their hearts, choosing a whimsical mix of things that just speak to them.

Can you see where I’m going with this? There is no one way to create a joyful home.

Curious about these different approaches, I started to dig into them. And what I realized is that there were distinct design personalities — ways of thinking about home decor that influence how people get inspired, how we shop and make decisions, where we are most confident, and where we sometimes get stuck on the path to creating a home we love.

What a design personality is, and what it’s not

These design personalities aren’t styles, like modern or traditional, bohemian or industrial. Styles tell us how people want their home to look. Design personalities, on the other hand, tell us how they want it to feel. They define what a happy home is, and explain people’s motivation for wanting to decorate. When we know someone’s design personality, we understand what they care about and how to help them create a home that feels good to them.

Curious to know your design personality? I’ve created a quiz to make it easy to figure yours out and learn more about your specific type. You can take the quiz here.

In the rest of this post, I’ll share a bit about each personality. I know it’s tempting to read on, but I highly recommend pausing for a moment to take the quiz before coming back to learn about all the different profiles.

The Design Personalities Framework

There are eight Design Personalities, each defined by what they care about, how they think about decorating, and what their ideal home feels like.

The Essentialist

The Essentialist cares about clarity of purpose. They decorate based on a single-minded idea, and everything in their home is chosen with care. Thoughtful and deliberate, they tend not to mix too many different styles, and they would prefer to do without than live with something they don’t like. A space feels good to them when it’s pared back to its essence: just what they need and nothing extra.

The Free Spirit

The Free Spirit cares about self-expression. They decorate based on their intuition, and follow their heart to an eclectic mix of unique things. Open-minded and spontaneous, they don’t like to be bound by rules or dogmas when it comes to decor. A space feels good to them when it reflects who they truly are.

The Dreamer

The Dreamer cares about possibilities. They decorate based on a vision of how their life could be. Exploratory by nature, they have a vivid imagination, and draw from wide-ranging sources of inspiration in piecing together a creative, evocative home. A space feels good to them when it brings a piece of their fantasies into daily life.

The Collector

The Collector cares about stories. They decorate based on their curiosity, and curate their home like a collection: one meaningful, one-of-a-kind object at a time. Authenticity matters a lot to them. A space feels good to a Collector when it’s textured and layered with nuance.

The Traditionalist

The Traditionalist cares about history. They decorate based on tried and true wisdom and rules of thumb. They’re not necessarily traditional in their style, but rather in their approach to design. For example, a Traditionalist who moves into a mid-century modern house would restore it and furnish it with period-appropriate pieces rather than gut-renovating it and filling it with post-modern decor. A space feels good to a Traditionalist when it has a sense of heritage or continuity with the past.

The Pragmatist

The Pragmatist cares about the way things work. They decorate based on quality and function, prioritizing substance over style in their purchases. Practical and discerning, they are well-organized and attentive to details. A space feels good to them when it makes daily life feel effortless.

The Pioneer

The Pioneer cares about novelty. They decorate based on cultural movements and trends, with a kind of sixth sense for what’s just over the horizon. Fearless and inspired, Pioneers see things that the rest of us don’t, and are always willing to take a chance on a bold idea. A space feels good to them when it’s like a collection of experiments, always on the bring of a new discovery.

The Host

The Host cares about people. They decorate to make others feel welcome, and have a knack for bringing warmth to even the most sterile spaces. Generous and perceptive, they notice the little things that make people feel at home, using small, personal touches to create interest and intimacy. A space feels good to them when it sets everyone at ease.

Which one did you get? Do you recognize family or friends in these profiles?

I’ve been asked whether it’s possible to be more than one type, and I think it definitely is. I’m a Collector-Dreamer, and I know other people who have hybrid types as well. Our quiz will only output one, however, so if you find you’re very torn between different answers, take it again to see your other type.

How you might use your design personality

When you take the quiz, your results give a deeper dive into your personality type, explaining your design superpower as well as a place you might be more likely to get stuck in the design process. I also offer a tip to get you started in working with your design personality type.

How might you use this information? I’ll be sharing specific resources and tools for how to work with your design personality type over the coming weeks in the lead up to my 5 Secrets to Designing a Joyful Home workshop which launches again in January. You can sign up for the waitlist here. But for now, here are a few ideas to start exploring:

Focus on what gives you joy

When it comes to design, there are a lot of opinions about what you should care about. But your design personality type reveals what you actually do care about. For example, maybe you’ve always felt that you should choose a specific style and stick with it. But if you’re a Free Spirit, that’s terrible advice! You’ll be happiest at home when you define your own style, and create space for it to evolve and grow as you do.

Go with the grain

Have you ever felt frustrated that you struggle to plan out a room, because it just feels like you’re forcing yourself to make decisions you’re not ready to make? Well, if you’re a Collector, you might be struggling because design is an accretive process for you, one that happens slowly. You’ll be happier if you give yourself permission to take your time. Or, find a collaborator (an Essentialist or Traditionalist, say) who can help you zoom out and take in the broader picture.

Identify where you’re getting stuck

If you’re having trouble finishing a design project, your design personality can shine a light on where you might be getting stuck. For example, if you have endless moodboards but can’t seem to pull the trigger on any design decisions, you might be a Dreamer. Dreamers fall in love with possibilities but can sometimes have trouble committing because it feels like they’re closing down a dream. Starting small can be a way for Dreamers to start making their fantasies a reality.

Essentialists, on the other hand, often wrestle with perfectionism. Their purist impulses can make it hard for them to let go and really live in their space. For Essentialists, it’s important to check back in with their intention for their home, and remind themselves to embrace joy, not perfection.

These are just a few of the ways I think this framework can be helpful. Taking a bigger picture perspective, my hope is that these design personality types help refocus our attention away from the more consumerist aspects of home decor. So often decorating can become about just a series of things to buy. Instead, I hope that approaching decor through the lens of personality can help unlock our natural creativity, giving more people confidence to create imaginative spaces that put the fun back in decorating.

Look out for more to come soon, and in the meantime, please don’t forget to take the quiz. Then, share your design personality type and how it resonates with you!

December 12th, 2020


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    Discussion (9 Comments)

  1. Otiti on December 12, 2020

    Hey Ingrid,

    Thanks so much for sharing this quiz! I took it and found out I’m an Essentialist, but after reading your blog post, I could also be a Host as well!

    I love making people comfortable and creating warmth in my space, and I also can’t be bothered with clutter or anything I don’t like. I just want things to feel fluid, joyful, and beautiful.

    Is there such a thing as a triple-hybrid? 😀 I feel like I could definitely be a Collector as well if I put my mind to it, LOL.

  2. afreespirit on December 12, 2020

    I thought the questionaire was very limiting.  For most of the questions, either more than one answer applied, or there was not a single choice I would have selected, so the selection was not really representative.

  3. Sarah Lyon on December 12, 2020

    Hi Ingrid,
    Thank you so much for sharing this quiz.
    I discovered your work when i was asked to look at your ‘joy makeover’ by my art therapy diploma tutor, and i really liked what i found. This quiz is just another piece of your work that i have enjoyed and resonate with. The quiz said im a free spirit, however when reading the blog i can also be an essentialist (that darn perfectionism, stops me starting and/or finishing projects all the time). I look gorward to your course in January, and thanks again for the work you put out there for all to try,

    Sarah xx

  4. Christine Buss on December 12, 2020

    I’m definitely a free spirit, but with a healthy dose of pragmatist. If the couch isn’t comfortable, it doesn’t matter how well it goes with the art and the rug. The quiz was fun, but I agree with “afreespirit” that it needs a warning about choosing the best answer for you, because there were some questions that were hard to answer. (I don’t have a secret fear about decorating.)

  5. Ann on December 12, 2020

    My quiz results were Free Spirit which I totally agree with but I tend to be an Essentialist also. Used to be a Collector big time. But have now started to become more of a minimalist in possessions but not in decorating. 

  6. Alice on December 12, 2020

    These seem like they could line up with the Meyers Briggs personality types pretty well! I’m an INFJ and mainly a Free Spirit, and I’d imagine many Thinking types lean towards Pragmatism or Essentialism. The description for the Traditionalist sounds a lot like ISTJ or just S types in general, and the Host sounds like ENFJ/ESFJ. Of course, not everyone fits neatly into a label and most people probably use a mixture of approaches to design. That’s also why I treat Meyers Briggs more like a fun quiz than a scientific framework, but this quiz really opened my eyes to all the different approaches designers and non-designers might take to design!

    I’m also an undergrad neuroscience major and I discovered the field of neuroarchitecture when I read Joyful! I’m now in the process of defining my own minor in neuroarchitecture – thank you so much, Ingrid, for helping me find the perfect crossover between my love for neuroscience and design.

  7. Rebecca on December 13, 2020

    This was pretty spot on. Thanks! Maybe there’s a course you could create around this! Lots of people need this kind of help but can’t necessarily pay a designer to do their home. 

    1. Ingrid Fetell Lee on December 13, 2020

      Thanks, Rebecca. Glad it resonated with you! I actually teach a course on designing a joyful home – it will reopen in January – that is about exactly this: understanding how to create a home you love without having to hire a designer!

  8. Claire on December 13, 2020

    This was fun for Sunday morning! Although I don’t need to redecorate, I am a sucker for personality quizzes, I am always looking out for different ways to look at human character


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