Design is Personal. It's a short sentence but a broad statement don't you think? What does it mean? What does "design" mean? Design is everywhere and it evokes feelings. Everyone feels something each time they walk into your home. Is it calm or excitement? Is it comforting or saying, don't get comfortable? The feeling may be strong and identifiable or it may be something more subtle lying beneath the surface.
Think about it. Some of us can walk into our grandparents home and the feelings will be nostalgia, old world charm and warmth. These are the things that you may pick up on from someone who grew up in the depression. Things might be well made, well maintained furniture, things that are homemade from textiles to dinner. Or things covered in plastic meant to protect them so they last. How about many photos of family long gone? If you had never met this person and saw this home before meeting them you could probably guess with some accuracy that this home belongs to an older individual with a style that says where they have been and what they value.
Basically, your design style is you.... Your personality in material form. So how do you find your design style? How do you build "you" into the spaces you live? Take your cues from what you do, how you spend most of your time and also with careful attention to attitudes and looks you don't want. Sometimes knowing what you don't like or want can help direct us to what we do.
A question to ask yourself would be: Where am I happiest? Examples of this might be: On the beach; Reading quietly; With friends; At the movies; Playing with my dog..... the list goes on...
The idea is not to fill your space with too many things that remind you of these places, but with the feelings that make you love these places and creating spaces that are conducive to letting you experience the things that make your place yours.
So if I say I'm happiest with friends, my place would be one that could accommodate get togethers easily. For instance I would maximize seating and have storage for many glasses and dishware. I would also have furnishings with durable stain resistant textiles and flooring that required little maintenance. Some consideration would go into emergency storage for the surprise visit. This means storage ottomans and shelving with doors to quickly stash magazines, piling up mail and the blankets left over from falling asleep on the couch while watching the late show.
If I'm happiest reading quietly, comfort, lighting and shelving would be the focus of my design. Along with calming colors and softer textiles makes for an inviting quiet space that will let you immerse yourself in the story you've settled in to read.
If you're happiest with your pets, then your design should incorporate easy to clean surfaces and durable floors/textiles. You shouldn't have to worry every time your dog comes in from the snow or rain that the carpets and furniture will be ruined.
Basically, your design style is simply about knowing who you are and making no excuses for it. Design is nothing more and nothing less than personal.