Should you decorate according to your star sign?

Are Virgos really tidier than Aries, are Libras more prone to treasure-collecting than Pisces, and do Saggitarians make the best interior designers?

The ‘cocooning’ bedroom in Alexandra Tolstoy's London house

Paul Massey

Back in December, I came across a photograph of the office of the New York Review of Books, and was immediately drawn to the overflowing bookshelves and leaning towers of tomes precariously balanced on desks that were equally strewn with sheafs of paper – which I presume to be catalogues, press releases, and print-outs of semi-finished articles.  Evidently, those who work there spend their days reading and writing, which struck me as a fairly dreamy scenario, and one that isn’t that different to my own, both job-wise and desk-wise.  I shared the image on Instagram.  “Oh my goodness, that gives me the heebie-jeebies – I am such a faithful Virgo!” responded my fellow House & Garden writer, Charlotte McCaughan-Hawes, alluding to her star-sign’s reputation for perfectionism.  Clearly, Charlotte and I would struggle with a desk-share arrangement – but also, does astrology really affect our taste and style?  

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In polling the House & Garden Top 100, as well as other industry insiders, it transpires that most haven’t devoted significant thought to zodiacal signs when it comes to decorating either for themselves, or clients.  But if we acknowledge that we’re influenced by our mothers and our grandmothers, and potentially shaped by shuttling between homes every weekend or moving to a different posting every two years, “why shouldn’t your star sign impact style, method, and preference of decorating your home?” asks Henriette von Stockhausen of VSP Interiors, after she’s mulled on it for a while.  

The ideal Libra home? Bridie Hall's north London house

The internet, unsurprisingly, is awash with information – not all of it welcome; “I was horrified when googling my own star sign to find that Aries is only 8th in line in the creativity stakes,” says the irrefutably creative Emma Burns, joint Managing Director of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler.  Also easy to find are reports on each star sign’s decorating style, which can make for faintly perturbing reading.  I am a Libra, and according to one site, my home ‘should look like a charming bakery, a hidden French cove, or a decadent tea-room.  It will have many fine treasures like teacups, a collection of cat figurines, mementos from animals, and outlandish things like bowls made of Viking teeth.’  Well, it doesn’t.  Although Bridie Hall is also a Libra, and she does collect things that others may consider outlandish – death masks, for instance  – and Nicky Haslam (another Libra) has got plastic crows in his London flat that he’s sprayed white. However the rest of the supposed ‘Libran home’ description is most definitely moot – which is potentially a relief. (Does anybody really want to live in a ‘decadent tea-room’?) 

Natural textures and calming colours at Victoria Gray's Cotswold house

Simon Brown

Similarly Brandon Schubert, who is a Pisces, recoils at the web-ordained ‘romantic design scheme, with elements that invoke the spiritual. . . fluffy cushions, soft throws and mood lighting to help them enter their world of fantasy,’ before admitting that the bit that says ‘Pisceans will be big fans of scented candles and incense’ does fit, mentioning “there’s some Japanese incense that I’m very passionate about.”  Victoria Gray of Olivine Design is also a Pisces, and found a different web page, which does describe her style, “I love natural textiles and finishes, cosy calm colours, and my bedrooms tend to be warm, calm rooms,” she says. But then, says Brandon, “if you look for just about anything hard enough, you’ll find it.”  He’s got a point, for who doesn’t like scented candles?  And who hasn’t, even accidentally, acquired a collection of something? 

So perhaps it’s less these specific details that we should be looking into, but instead “the qualities of each star sign,” suggests Henriette, who is a Leo.  Bridie’s house is definitely indicative of that major Libran trait: the quest for balance.  “I have areas of stuff, and areas of nothing,” she explains – and balance is something I strive for, too, albeit slightly differently (there are no areas of nothing. I like the look of the New York Review of Books office because none of the desks are tidy so there’s symmetry of sorts. Bridie, on the hand, is horrified by it.)  Then, Francis Sultana is an Aquarius, a sign that tends to be “pretty unique in how they see the world and often quite spontaneous and rebellious which I think I can see in both my interiors and furniture.”  Certainly, he has created a look that is entirely his own.  And Emma Burns, referring back to Aries, points out that the decisiveness of those born under this constellation is an ideal attribute for a decorator (proving her point, the great David Hicks was also an Aries.) 

A London house by Capricorn Lucy Hammond Giles

Michael Sinclair

Both Lucy Hammond-Giles of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler and Olivia Outred are Capricorns, “overachievers, persistent, practical, and sensitive,” recites Olivia – making them “good at methodical things.”  Essentially, Capricorns have the characteristics “integral to creating an exceptional home.  We’re also blessed with pessimism, and that’s quite a good one too – asking ‘what could go wrong with this room or wall finish?’ is very useful in catching problems before they arise.  We’re born trouble shooters!”  Fascinatingly, there’s also a strong roll call of Sagittarian interior designers, from the contemporary – Ben Pentreath – to historicMadeleine CastaingElsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper and Billy Baldwin.  They’re said to have a predisposition to expansiveness, adventure and an inbuilt belief that anything is possible – more idiosyncrasies that seem to suit this business, and it’s associated artistry.  Edward Bulmer is a Taurus, “sociable but stubborn; I believe this underpins my seeking perfection on design projects and also not wanting fossil fuels in all their guises to spell the end of humanity!” And Lulu Lytle of Soane is Cancer; “we’re certainly home lovers,” she says.  She’s joined under that constellation by Alidad, the late Syrie Maugham, and Alexandra Tolstoy, who re-emphasises Lulu’s statement: “wherever I’ve lived, from my childhood bedroom to a Krushchev-era flat in Tashkent to our rental home in Battersea, I’ve obsessively made it a home, and a cocooning one.”  

It would seem that really might be a relationship between our stars and our style, after all – and there can be useful takeaways.  Alice Leigh explains that she consciously shakes up her “typical Virgo acute attention to detail . . . because I believe that a proper home should be a bit rough around the edges so I throw in some curve balls to rough it up a bit and lessen the matchy matchy.”   Then, knowing somebody’s star sign might help with present-buying (Pisceans are currently in the spotlight.) Although, says Tess Newall (another Leo), who has done a course called ‘Astrology for Artists’, “it’s actually all about the rising sign, which is determined by the exact time of your birth.”  Conceivably, there’s further investigation to do.  I’ll be at my New York Review of Books-resembling desk, behind towering piles of zodiacal charts.