Kibbe’s Essence Types & Home Decor
In 1987, stylist David Kibbe introduced the world to 5 style essences in his book titled Metamorphosis: Discover Your Image Identity and Dazzle as Only You Can. Though the premise of the book revolved around dressing for different body shapes, Kibbe defined each style essence by focusing on components like colors, prints, structure, textures and aesthetics. The five variations proposed by Kibbe at the time included Classic, Dramatic, Gamine, Natural and Romantic essences. Later, this system developed further to include two more essences known as Angelic and Ingenue and this ideology is still widely used to identify dressing styles of individuals.
Today, the Style essence theory has evolved into a lifestyle movement, not confined to just dressing principles for different body shapes but also other lifestyle preferences that are aesthetically driven. Kibbe’s style essence theory effortlessly translates to the spectrum of home decor and interior design, forming the basis of this guide by VLiving.
Kibbe attributes traits such as elegance, formality and timelessness to the classic essence, alluding to a sense of ancestry and conservatism. At its heart is a mostly neutral color palette which can stand the test of time and can surpass any trend. The aesthetic is known for incorporating symmetrical clean lines and avoiding elements that may appear either too sharp and angular or too soft and rounded. High-quality materials further accentuate the look and eliminate the need for any ornamental or exaggerated details in order to make for an understated yet luxurious appearance. In home decor, this translates to a space which does not require constant upgrades or a ‘makeover’. Pieces deemed perpetually ageless, especially those borrowed from styles like Coastal English, Modern Minimal and Mid Century Modern can be combined together to create a balanced and classic-looking space.
On the other hand, an alternative approach to classic essence which allows for incorporation of aristocratic elements with European roots, broadens the scope for realism and achievability. Parisian and Gustavian inspired pieces crafted in neutral color pallets may be great additions to a classic space, bringing the right amount of vintage charm needed to retain the timeless appeal and understated opulence of a classic home.
As its name gives away, the dramatic essence represents boldness and creativity. The style is associated with possessing a keen sense of self-expression and celebrates unapologetic theatrics, placing importance on individuality and dignity above all else. In his breakdown of the dramatic essence, Kibbe characterizes it through elements like sharp and exaggerated angles and bold color schemes which may often include contrasting hues. Asymmetrical drapes and oversized prints bring out this style’s excessive and maximalist characteristics. Shiny textures and glamorous finishes featuring tints of gold and silver are also commonplace throughout the visual embodiment of dramatic essence.
Known for its emphasis on ornamentation and bold geometric patterns, furnishings inspired by the Art Deco movement could certainly be classified as ‘dramatic’. Its vibrant use of bold and even kitschy colors combined with stylised floral patterns, obvious curves and sleek lines are an identical callback to Kibbe’s beliefs about the dramatic essence. When incorporated into the home in moderation, the style can add glamor and a luxurious edge to the space without seeming dated or ostentatious.
Kibbe describes the Gamine or Flamboyant essence as a union of yin and yang energy. Therefore spaces which embody the perfect balance of traditionally feminine or homely aspects with relatively masculine and industrial finishes may be described as Gamine. This style channels whimsical playfulness whereby tradition or formal structures are punctuated by unexpected details, forming a contrast in every aspect. A home infused with Gamine elements may be characterised as unconventional, androgynous and even bohemian, taking inspiration from a spectrum art movements.
Furnishings and decor rooted in mid century design may be added to the home in order to give it a Gamine face lift. Pieces from this time feature both structural and sculptural aspects so that neither functionality nor visual appeal are compromised. A subdued color palette, unique to mid century design balances somber neutrals like terracotta brown and charcoal gray with muted red and mustard yellow which are brighter by contrast.
A style with focus on Venusian themes like vitality, maturity and sensuality, the Romantic Essence is a celebration of all things feminine. Kibbe recognises key elements like rich colors, graceful shapes and luxurious finishes, as part of the Romantic ensemble. The essence can be adapted to home decor by experimenting with a variety of furnishing pieces having roots in Rococo French and Parisian Chic art styles. Both art movements feature picturesque details and exuberant visuals, serving as a testament to the creators’ keen sense of beauty and creativity. In home decor, this translates to use of either jewel or pastel color palettes, French Baroque prints, detailed frames and soft hues of gold.
Kibbe associates the Natural Style Essence with wilderness, nature and the outdoors. The style channels a sense of ease and effortlessness, with equal emphasis on both function and relaxation. It may be said that the basis of this essence is not to ‘put on any airs’, but rather to be down to earth and to be comfortable.
This style may be adapted to a home by incorporating pieces which are sturdy and functional. Earthy aspects like stone and terracotta along with materials like cotton, linen and wool may be used to integrate natural textures into the space. Farmhouse inspired furnishings are fitting for a natural essence home, owing to the style’s heavy emphasis on wood and raw or rugged finishes. On the other hand Scandinavian inspired pieces can offer a modern adaptation of the natural essence as these items may feature sleek hardware made with industrial materials while still using fabrics which lend a relaxed and natural appearance.
Although added by John Kitchener to Kibbie’s system, the Angelic Essence has come to gather its own due legitimacy over time. This essence is associated with otherworldliness, the cosmos and mystical beings. Think fairies, Greek goddesses, mermaids and angels. The style places emphasis on etherealism, as a means to offer escape from the everyday ordinarily. In other words, a home influenced by the angelic essence may quite literally be one’s personal doorway to heaven or an opportunity to ‘live in the clouds’, leaving ample room for individual takes and interpretations of the style.
Kitchener describes the Ingenue essence as being youthful, delicate and childlike. The style is associated with innocence and nostalgia, resulting in a sepia tinted interpretation of home decor. The mood is light pastels, floral prints, lace trims, pretty bows, wicker baskets and petite fittings which have a vintage or dated look to evoke nostalgia. Many describe the essence as being reminiscent of a ‘young princess living in the woods’, indicating to the utopian childhood themes often seen in disney movies.
To give the home an ‘Ingenue’ touch, one may borrow items having roots in cottage core design which can feature shabby chic furniture, crochet doilies and DIY art. Elements such as floral chintz and lace may also be added to the mix for their timeless and joy inducing effect.