The Style Guide System will save your sanity. (Part 4/4)

21 min read A style guide system is the lever that lets you easily control the way your home looks.

A style guide system is a VIP – Very Important Piece – of your masterplan.

You need a masterplan approach to be able to…a) get started in the first place, b) keep going with a minimum of unpleasant expensive surprises and c) end up with a home that looks and works the way you want and need it to.  

Making changes to your home’s layout and flow is how you make sure it is going to work the way you want. Those changes adapt your home to the modern life you and your family are living in it every day. The style guide is the lever by which you can easily control the way your home looks. Your style guide system really is the secret sauce for a simpler remodel. It can both help you get started by simplifying decisions AND is a crucial part of creating a cohesive look.

I’m sure it’s possible to craft a beautiful remodel without one. 

But you will do it at a cost of 10 times more decisions to make – questioning yourself, rehashing every choice and adding endless stress to your remodel. 

I don’t want that for you. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for any length of time you know the master plan method it’s all about doing it right and doing it more easily. 

So make your life easier by using the style guide system to pick every product in your remodel.  


Today’s post is the Fourth Part of the Four part series on the Simple Style Guide System. I’m going to walk you through each step of focusing your style. Doing this will make EVERY choice you face while remodeling 100% easier!!

Make sure you listen to all four so that you can:

Grab my easy Mid-Century Style Guide Workbook to get yourself started on the sort and simplify process!

Use the Style Guide System to harness the power of batching

Basically it’s the difference between doing your dishes on spoon, bowl, or fork at a time and GETTING A DISHWASHER!

Sure you could individually select every single item used in your remodel.  And some people do.  This why they go nuts while the plan a remodel.

Anyone actually done this before – if you’ve remodeled before, you probably have.

Example of doing the dishes.  

You don’t get up from the table (or the sofa) with one empty soup bowl and spoon. Take them to the kitchen, wash them, dry them and put them away. Then come back and ask the person who was sitting next to you for THEIR bowl.  That’s crazy.  

If you’re anything like me you do the dishes once or twice a day. And when it’s time to do them you run around the house and scoop up a few stray items. 

(I usually have several coffee and tea mugs on my desk. And sometimes a breakfast cereal bowl on the table by the sofa.)  I run them all to the kitchen.

Then I clear the drying dishes out of the rack and put them away.  

Then I stack the dishes in the sink by type and wash them: bowls together, silverware together, etc.

They fit nicely in the drying rack that way.

If you have a dishwasher … this process is EVEN EASIER. The point is the same. It’s easier to do the whole process one phase at a time. SO much easier than doing each individual dish. The same goes for each individual remodeling choice.

What the style guide system gives you

Essentially a style guide is the visual master plan for your remodel. 

It will be a framework on which you can hang all your decisions. 

You can return to it again, and again to simplify every choice, whether it be which new area rug to choose or how to decide whether you need to replace or work with existing features in your house like bathroom, Fossetts or whole house door knobs. 

You can use it to emulate more expensive remodels with budget friendly choices.

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • How using the style guide is like using a dishwasher
  • Why the style guide system make your whole life easier AND…
  • Will help make your home feel cohesive and snazzy, as if it were planned by a professional.

Listen Now On 

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Resources to set up your Style Guide System

Read the Full Episode Transcript


You need a big picture approach to your remodel. In order to a be able to get started in the first place. Be keep going with a minimum of unpleasant, expensive surprises and see, end up with a home that looks and works the way you want to need it to.

You make changes to your home’s layout and flow to make sure it’s going to work the way you want it to.


And the style guide is the lever by which you can easily control the way your home looks. Look. I’m sure it’s possible to craft a beautiful home remodel without one people have done it for years.

But you will do this at a cost of 10 times or more decisions to make questioning yourself rehashing every choice and endless stress. I don’t want that for you.


If you’ve been listening to this podcast for any length of time, you know the masterplan method is all about doing it right and doing it more easily.

So make your life easier by using the style guide system to pick out every product and your remodel the smart way.


Hey there, welcome back to mid mod remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes helping you match mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast, you’re listening to Episode 1204.

Okay, before I get too far into this, I just want to remind you this is part four of our four part Style Guide series. And I’d love for you to go back and listen to all of the three earlier parts.


In the first episode, we talked about figuring out what your mid-century remodeling Update Style is more preservationist, more updating, and where you fall in the mid-century moment. What is your mid-century era that you’re reaching back to in your mind.


In the second, because we’ve talked about great places to find inspiration across the internet before, I suggest to you that it’s a wonderful place to start by finding one

Oor better yet a couple of other mid-century homeowners who have updated their homes in a way you love and stealing some great mid-century style ideas from them, stealing, not copying.


And then last time, we talked about why a mood board isn’t going to cut it for your mid-century remodeling plans. a mood board can be useful for some things like setting the tone or agreeing on a vibe or even just keeping yourself inspired.

But it’s not going to do this thing of simplifying every remodeling decision and keeping your style looking really cohesive. For that you need a style guide, you need individual style sheets.


And so today we’re going to talk about the power, the power of a style guide. I was just checking in with some of my ready to remodel students at our monthly Office Hours call few weeks ago, and we had some great questions asked. And I took the chance to ask how they’re making progress.


You won’t be surprised to hear that some of them are moving a little more slowly in their home remodel plans than they would like to in their ideal world. Life gets in the way.

And I bet you feel a little bit like this too, because it can be overwhelming to think about all the steps in a remodel. So within the ready to remodel program, I’m always trying to find ways to streamline and speed up and make this process easier for all the midcentury homeowners who are doing the process with me.


And so I’ve known for a while I wanted to create some opportunities for them to get a jump on those parts of the remodel that can really hang you up. I can’t shorten the supply lines for them. And I can’t easily pay the contractors bill for them. But I can get them over the indecision blockages that preclude getting started on a remodel project. For them, I help them in a couple of ways. We do our regular monthly calls. We have the masterplan program we always do.


We also do spot checks to solve specific problems. So to solve their layout challenges, we do this special thing that’s only for inside of ready to remodel students. Which is we do a layout Buster challenge about once a quarter where they’ll come to me with the floorplan part of their house that’s bugging them the most. And I will brainstorm solutions for it in real time.


We also do specific area topic clinics and you can get access to these outside of the ready to remodel program, although they were created for my student homeowners, and we’ve done topic clinics on outside spaces, creating rooms out of your patios, decks and porches.

When on the midcentury kitchen, and how it can be frustrating, but how it can be capitalized on and how you can tune it to suit your lifestyle. And that’s also available to you if you’re curious.


And then we just did one a month ago on exteriors and how to make right choices for siding and windows and bigger picture updates like that as well as little details like the right house numbers and the right front door color. But here is what I want to talk to you about this week.


This week, I’m sharing with you the same thing that I’m sharing with my ready to remodel students, which is how to jumpstart your style, how to pull together the guideposts that are going to set each little individual decision the faucet the door handle the light fixture for each individual place in your house into a framework that makes them all easier.

And so here’s your resource for the week.


Come along to the style guide clinic this Saturday. I’m making it for my ready to remodel students but I’m inviting you to your best result will be if you can come and carve out two hours and show up live because we’re going to be sharing our energy together and going through the steps of setting a style guide together in real time.

It’s not a “here’s what you should do class.” It’s a workshop where you will make a style guide along with me and along with ready to remodel students.


The best result is if you show up live show that energy and you’ll get the ability to ask me your questions as you have them. If you can’t make it live, the next best bet is to enroll right now.

And then send me a message letting me know that you won’t be there, but your most pressing style or finish question is…I don’t know, what is it? And then I’ll make sure that that topic is either covered in the clinic or answered in the q&a questions at the end, or both.


This is like taking your question off the air on a radio show. If you’re listening to this podcast after the live event, don’t cry.

You can still sign up and watch the on demand replay of the clinic and I promise you will get a lot of benefit from going through the steps and master planning the style of your remodel.


Pulling together these questions in real time, you won’t pick every product in your house in a two hour workshop. But you will set the tone for your entire remodel this weekend. Or whenever you take this class. If you’re signed up already, good job you. If not, right now the link is midmod-midwest.com/clinic. Go sign up. And I’ll see you on Saturday.


And if you’re listening to this episode in the future, Hello, how’s the future? I hope it’s nice. You can get the same experience. Like I said, watching the replay on demand. The link may have changed in the future though. So go check the show notes page of this episode to find out where you can watch the style guide clinic.


All right, as always, you’ll find those show notes and the transcript of the episode and a nice little outline of what we talked about at midmod-midwest.com/ 1204.


Let’s talk about the why of a style guide. And I hope I’ve persuaded you that you do benefit from having something less in your life right now. But here’s the thing, there are two points that that make the most difference about a style guide.


One, it saves stress, because instead of making each choice individually, you’re going to be able to take each choice as part of a bigger picture, I’m going to talk a little later in the episode about the power of batching. And how it works in every part of your life from doing the dishes.

You don’t pick up one dish from the living room, carry it to the kitchen, wash it, dry it and put it away, then go find another dish. That’s madness. But we do sometimes pick the elements of our house that way, which again, is madness.


But the other benefit that I want to talk to you about right now is visual cohesion, style cohesion, having a consistent set of choices made throughout the house is so beneficial.

And so one easy example of this comes to mind again, because I was just chatting with a ready to remodel student. And the question of bathroom faucets came up.


They were really worried because they had in some places in their house, one type of metal used in the faucets. And in another was another type and they were really stressed out because they were afraid that’s going to make their house feel chaotic.


That’s not true. You have the ability to sort of focus both close and far in your house to take a big picture approach to most of the metal in my house should be made of this or this.

But then also to look at certain case by case rooms, you might choose to have one time capsule bathroom in your house even while you update the rest of it.


Or you might choose to fixate on one style, a kid’s bedroom doesn’t have to match the rest of the house. Your basement might have a slightly different approach. But as you go through what you want is a general pool of decisions to make.


And it’s easier rather than to think about, oh dear, are all the faucets identical? Rather to think about, again, the bigger picture the more general what types of metal are you going to have in your house and do they feel related to each other.


This will show up in a bunch of different places. So you might have metal in your plumbing fixtures and your cabinet window and door hardware and your light fixtures. Your ceiling fans your switch blade covers your vent covers might be metal transition strips between one type of flooring and another furniture.


So as I was chatting with this homeowner recently, they’re planning to overhaul a bathroom that was redone in the 90s. And when I say redone in the 90s, I want you to imagine a Jacuzzi tub up on a little stage with a carpeted floor in front of it. Wall to wall carpet throughout the whole bathroom. Yikes.


So one of their questions was as they’re of course going to change the layout and remove some of these 90’s things. How can they play up the aesthetic that they have for some of the more original parts of the house and pick this up but also make it specific to this bathroom.


And the goal is basically to aim for cohesion in the general. So they have original patina brass in their house, and they have that on some door handles. They’re concerned about that not matching with new choices they might make and you’re right you’re not going to match new brass to old brass.


New brass is an anodized metal that’s never going to get that patina so when you have…when you’re working with like they are original brass handles, hardware in your house, you might want to think about bringing in a matte dark brown or a matte black as your more modern or more fusion update to that.


If you’re looking for vintage look you might be going for salvaged original vintage pieces. Again this depends on what you found about yourself in your style quiz and moving forward. The thing is you can tune these choices so specifically yourself. And one of the things I’m going to show at the style guide clinic is the way that style is separate, in a lot of ways, from floorplan changes. I’m going to look at one small space a bathroom, and it’s actually going to be my mid-century ranch shared bathroom with a bathtub, toilet, and vanity. Mine was also redone in the 90s.


And I’m going to look at how if I had the time, I would redo it in one of three ways in a purely vintage revival preservationist style, putting it back the way it was. Or maybe a little cooler than it was but how it could have been done in 1952. How I can do it in a more fusion style, making some fun, jaunty angle mid mod choices. Maybe things that wouldn’t have been done in 1952, but please me and match with the overall tone of the house.


And then a more modern, contemporary update, that still is appropriate for a bathroom in a mid-century house. I’m going to do each of those without changing a thing about the layout tubs gonna stay the same, I won’t even change it. Maybe for the maybe for the modern mid-century update, you’ll find out if you come to the clinic.


And then I’m going to talk about how these finished choices can be layered over each other how you can do a sort of a level one little bit of an update, or you can go through and overhaul the room, but each thing is going to have three different effects. And those don’t come from again, picking every single element of that bathroom, even a small bathroom that starts to become overwhelming.


I’m going to start by the style guide process, I’m gonna make three individual Pinterest inspiration boards, make three Canvas style guide sheets that are distinct from each other. And then I’m going to apply those to three sketches where I’ll talk about how the different materials will apply to the parts of the room.


You can do this for a bathroom in your house and follow along literally one to one, or you can follow the exact same steps and apply them to making a style guide for your kitchen.

Or a style guide for the entire house or a style guide for your front hall closet.

You can tune this up or down in scale, and it will work the same way. This process of rather than picking products setting a style is so powerful.


If instead, you know before you start ordering samples that you’re going to be going with a sort of a Frank Lloyd Wright and organic modern approach to your bathroom. And so all of the tile is either going to be white or terracotta. You can still order white or terracotta tile from just about any tile company that exists. But you focused your options. And you can start to roll things in and out in terms of price or patina, or sourcing or environmentally friendliness or other things like that, that focus your options until you’re choosing between two or three things rather than the entirety of the internet.


As I was just talking about at the head of this episode about the power of batching, you could individually select every item in your remodel and some people do. But this is why they go nuts when they plan a remodel. This is how people end up with samples, from 12 different companies, with 12 different color ranges of all the different tile that’s out there.


And again, I just want you to remember that you have batched before. You may batch for work. You might outline a series of tasks at the start of the week. Then focus on the first step of them on Monday and the second step on Tuesday.


For anyone who is involved in social media, I hope to God you batch some of your content that way. But even in your daily life, if you have never heard the word batching before you have done it because like I said, the easiest most universal example I can think of is doing the dishes.

You don’t get up from the sofa at the end of an evening with one empty soup bowl and spoon. Take them to the kitchen, wash them, dry them, put them all in the cabine. And then come back and ask the person who was sitting next to you for their bowl. That’s crazy.


If you’re anything like me and can be a little lazy about housework, you do the dishes once or twice a day.

You might do the dishes only once on the weekend. And let a few bowls pile up in the sink until you realize you’re about to run out of bowls.

These things can happen but then the process of swishing them out, drying them out stacking them neatly in the rack, all of the bowls stack together works a lot better than a bowl, a plate, a knife and a fork and then a bowl of plate, a knife and a fork.


When you want to roll up your sleeves, put on a podcast, grab all the spoons, knives and forks and do them then the bowls. That’s the most efficient way to do it. And if you have a dishwasher, this doesn’t precisely apply to you, but you get the point. Taking the time to do things in stages and working on when they’re ready just makes sense. Actually, as I think about it, a dishwasher is the ultimate batcher. You load everything in there as needed. And then you run it all at once. And then you take everything out at once and put it away again.


There you go. Your dishwasher is a style guide system. I just came up with that life. You’re welcome. All right. So in microcosm, if I can’t get you to come to the clinic, here are some of the steps you need to take.


First you identify your style, take the style quiz that I have available for you for free. And by the way, send me an email or a DM on Instagram. Let me know what your result on the style quiz was. I love to take this survey.


Then identify where you fall on the timeline. And you can do this with just thinking about it. You look through Pinterest boards and see what inspires you. You can look at other examples on the internet. It’s handy to give your style a name, it doesn’t necessarily have to be fully explanatory to someone else. It could be a catchy term that just makes you and your partner smile. But having a sense of what your style is called, that’s really important.


Then once you know that that’s when you can efficiently seek out inspiration. You can find the other Instagram accounts that really speak to you. Or you can go looking for inspiration that you know, isn’t perfectly attuned to your style, but collected confidently.


So if you’re thinking about bathroom vanities, you don’t necessarily have to look for bathroom vanity examples that look exactly like what you would want. You can think about aesthetically different styles that have different functions. Or you can limit yourself to I know I don’t want anything that doesn’t seem inappropriate in a 1960s house. So I’m just going to look at Vintage advertising for bathrooms. And that’s how I’m going to get my inspiration.


Once you know your style, you can focus your search process. You can then boil it down. You can take your inspiration apart. And, as we talked about in a recent episode, this might be looking at the materials, the stain color, and woodgrain, or the specific metal, or it might be looking at micro ideas. The way towels hang on a towel rack. The way a rack might be integrated into a bathroom or as a separate object. Or in other parts of your house, it might be looking at different examples of built in benches in kitchens or eat-in spaces.


You can try them across styles and look at different layouts. You can focus on one style, the way that you micro-focus your research allows you to get really specific, rather than getting hung up on trying to do everything like someone else whose house was published in atomic Ranch. Y

ou can figure out what are the elements of that house that really apply to yours that really seem translatable that really are possible to steal without copying.


Once you’ve got things boiled down to the elements, the layout sections, the parts of a room. You can boil them down even further and think about this is where you save your decision making stress. What are the materials that will go into your house? What wood species, what stain colors, what types of metal are in or out?


And you can make some exceptions to a style guide, you could always find a particular light fixture that’s made out of a powder coated yellow, rather than either brass or bronze or gold or whatever you’ve chosen, that’s fine. As long as it again plays nicely with.

And the easiest way to check that for yourself is put it into the grid that you’ve made for all the materials. You’ll see that none of them are sticking out like a sore thumb. They all are playing nicely together. They’re all complementing, blending or, or popping as you desire them to.


Finally, you’ll start to test those products. And this goes beyond what we can do in terms of a clinic because it means that you’re starting to order samples from the internet.

But you’re not ordering every sample from everywhere on the internet, because that is how you just end up with a bunch of shoe boxes of dusty samples, you’ve never brave been brave enough to act on in your basement or in your garage. You’re ordering samples once you know what you want to see samples of. Once you focus your choice.


And then you’re starting to line up your products, figure out what the prices will be. Make a buying guide for yourself. This is where you go into spreadsheets. And I’ll be talking about that a little bit at the clinic too. Not that we’ll be getting into it directly, but sharing some templates that you can use as you go forward in you’re planning, to keep yourself straight.


In the end, this becomes a cheat sheet to your whole remodel. And I’m going to be showing you one way to do this by starting small with one small room. I’m going to start with a bathroom.

And if you start with a style guide for one little part of your house, you don’t do that process over again from scratch for every part of your house. This is the homework, your own homework that you can cheat off as you go forward.


So the style guide for one bathroom in your house could be identical to the style guide for another or it could be similar. If you have an owner’s bathroom, you might be making slightly different choices than you will for a bathroom that will primarily be used by kids and guests or kids or guests.


If you have a bathroom you’re setting up as a place for your mother in law to live or as the recurring space for one guest, you might take their taste into account while you put it together. And that might mean that the metal is all the same. But the tile color is going to be different. 

The finishes are maybe a little more impervious for a kid’s bathroom. Maybe you’re gonna think about a foot friendly, heated cork floor in your bathroom. But you want tile on the floor in a bathroom where kids are going to be splashing out of the tub for the next five years. Until they learn not to splash out of the tub so much. I don’t know maybe teenagers do that again?


You’ll make your own choices based on your own needs. Here’s the point though. Once you’ve got the visual guide for one room, you can grow it. You’ll have some of the decisions made and instead of starting over from scratch, you’ll simply approve them or adapt them as you grow it beyond the whole house. This is fun. It’s play. This is hypothetical until you start to lock it down.


And that can help it feel so lightweight. It’s never about oh my god, I saw something on Instagram. I went looked at that product that they named in their comment. And I realized that product is $5,000. That is a $5,000 light fixture oh my god, I can’t have nice things. Now I feel like I’ll never start my remodel. Or even that product is out of stock and I can’t have it.


Instead, we’re thinking about what is the vibe of the room? What is the look of the room? How the look room to come together? And then you can go back out expanding from there. Think about what are five different sources for light fixtures that fit the tone of a really vintage-y light fixture . (In the case of a really vintage bathroom) it’s probably going to be stainless steel.


Mid-century bathrooms weren’t fancy, they didn’t have matte gold fixtures in them. They were stainless steel. So you’ll be looking for the fun vintage form stainless steel light fixtures from a couple of different places. Then you can look at the whole internet again. But everything comes back to your style guide, and everything feels easier and simpler.


I want to share with you before I wrap up this really delightful thing that happened within the ready to remodel homeowner Facebook group recently. Maria (Hi, Maria!) commented to say that she is starting on a second room or starting on another room, another micro project in her house. And she’s got her master plan set but she’s kind of going through her projects and doing them one room at a time to contain that amount of drywall dust.


And she said to get started on this room was so easy, because she has already made all of the style guide decisions so that her remodel plans are now rinse and repeat. She knows what lumberyard to order the new trim from. She knows where to go to get the light fixtures. She’s already got her plan for how she’s going to replace the flooring that had been done in a bad remodel in a previous era. And she can just make a few simple decisions for each room. While leaning on her own work from the past to make it all feel fun and doable.


This is my goal. This is what I want to have happen. It makes me so happy. So just to reprise, the style guide system is intended to, and will both simplify your process helping you feel more confident helping you feel playful with it, while it’s light and ready and early, and then lock it down and feel confident about it in a very efficient manner.


And it will also create a really clean, consistent look for your house. Just as if you had hired me an architect or an interior designer to come through and make every decision for you from a professional point of view. You’ll have that effect because you’ve made every decision with a designer’s eye and to your own taste. 

The result is a satisfactory system that saves you time, saves you stress, saves you money and results in a remodel you’ll love more. And that will be more perfectly suited to your personal mid-century remodeling style.


So we’re about to wrap up our series on style guides. Next time I’m going to talk to you about nooks, I think. How to make micro spaces work in your house because I’ve got a lot of new thoughts on that since we last chatted about that on the podcast.

But here’s the thing. I really just want you to come to the style guide clinic this weekend. This is honestly I’m a little worried I’m giving away too much. But I don’t care.


My mission is to save every ranch in America from bad remodels. And I want to save yours. And I want to save you from not liking the results of your remodel and from the indecision of just not getting started.

So that’s it my friend, this is my pitch for you to consider using the style guide system to simplify every choice in your remodel. I want to see you at the clinic this weekend.


Next week, we’re going to be talking about something completely different. I want to remind you about the power of micro-spaces. I talked about using the nook concept to improve your home way back in a pandemic and we’re going to be reprising that.


And I’ll give you some new thoughts on how you can use both in your remodeling plans. And just in the way you arrange your home right now.

Without moving a single wall or calling a single contractor how you can make your housework better for you using the concept of micro spaces rather than just a simple room.


Meanwhile, you’ll find the show notes for everything we’ve just talked about and a transcript of this episode plus an outline of this concept of the style guide system at mid mod Dutchman buzz.com/ 1204.

And one more time I want to see with the style guide clinic this Saturday. It’s going to be amazing. Have a great week, guys. I’ll see you to talk about micro-spaces next Thursday.