(interior by mario buatta, photo by gordon beall)
mri asks "What is a good way to decide which design elements are going to work for you? With all the design blogs and other media available on design it sometimes feels like there's too much information. I know a few people who tried to 'buy into' all the things that were touted online (i.e., mid-century modern is the ONLY way to go, no popcorn ceilings, concrete floors are desirable, paint everything white, etc.) and ended up being unhappy and uncomfortable. I am interested in design and usually have strong opinions (I use your "what don't I want" technique) but when I stare at the empty apartment I just can't decide. And I must be a mutant because although I am an artist, those inspiration boards and scrap books do nothing for me."
I'm going to give you a pretty simple answer. FYI, I look at home design very similar to the way I build my wardrobe. Never let trends dictate your taste. You should never 'buy into' anything. And never listen to someone who says that 'this' is the ONLY way to go.
No matter what you do, people will question it and/or have some opinion about it (have you seen some of the comments on my Apartment Therapy House Tours) but really, who cares? Learn to trust your eye and identify what you like. There is an infinite amount of things in the world, so your home should be a filled with a collection of YOUR favorite things.
The easiest way to design a space is to look at how you want to function in it. What do you have to store, and what do you want to do in your space; entertain, watch tv, play video games, read, do crafts, paint, exercise, cook. Look at your space through your desired lifestyle (how you want to live in it).
It's ok that an inspiration board doesn't work for you, nothing works for everyone. The question is, as an artist what is your creative process? And let me know if this helps!!