Decorating an entire room from scratch can be overwhelming and intimidating for anyone. This can be especially true if you don’t consider yourself “creative” or “good at it”. Believe it or not, anyone can create a beautiful space from scratch, simply by following a few easy steps. That brings me to a few simple tips I use for starting any room design makeover or decorating any room from scratch.
As we move further along with our beach cottage project, we are reaching a point where the construction is done and the decorating has begun. It’s been a challenge for me to tackle the entire house all at once and that feeling of overwhelm has been getting me thinking about how it can be hard enough to tackle a single room which brings me to a few easy to follow tips I use to decorate any room.
Always start with a room Audit
When we moved into our current home 11 years ago, I had all these grand plans for decor but as we lived in our home, I came to realize that the plans I had made were beautiful for our home, they didn’t really fit with how we lived in our home. This realization is where this first tip came from.
Whether moving into a brand new home or making over a room in a home you’ve lived in for years, take a little time to evaluate your current space. Ask yourself questions like why you feel you need or want to makeover the space? How do you use the space, does it have functional issues or is it simply cosmetic?
Getting an honest assessment of the good and bad of your current space beyond just how it looks, gives you actual problems to solve and begins to clue you in on how to decorate your space.
Now that you have a list (big or small) of things that you need to “fix” in your space, it’s time to start looking for inspiration. Whether you create a dedicated board on Pinterest or save images to your computer, tear them out of magazines or whatever works best for you, give yourself more than an hour to pour through ideas to gather inspiration.
For me personally, I like to take several days or even weeks to gather inspiration for a project. For example, when we designed out dining room, I knew the space would be small for a lot of furniture so I started researching “small dining room storage”, then another day I started researching “paint color ideas for small dining rooms” or “moody paint colors for dining rooms”.
Over time, I had a large collection of inspiration saved that covered all my needs based on my assessment. Once I was done gathering inspiration, I looked through my collection of saved images to pinpoint styles, colors, furniture, anything that seemed to come up again and again. That’s where I figured out my dining room “style”, ideas for the color palette, the built-ins instead of a hutch, etc.
A word about style: Not everyone knows what their design style is or what defines the various styles. While knowing and understanding your own personal style is key to successfully designing any space, it’s more about consistency in your style than putting a label on it.
Set a Realistic Budget
Now that you know what is wrong with your current space or what you need for your new space, it’s time to get real about the budget you have to work with. Obviously if you are looking at a kitchen makeover and you don’t have 15K – 20K to spend then new cabinets aren’t realistic but painting your existing cabinets or swapping out hardware might be just enough to refresh your space.
Knowing your budget before setting any plans, helps you stay on track and be realistic about you can actually do in your space.
Inventory what you Already Have
A friend of mine years ago bought a new house with her family and they bought all new furniture to fill the new house. I had never heard of that before and while I’m guessing many others do this, we can’t all afford to buy brand new everything for a new space.
If you are like me, and need to reuse things you have then take a little time evaluating what you already have and how, if at all, you can use it in your new space. Are there pieces that could be repurposed, painted, refinished, or altered in another way? Do you have a chair that could be recovered in new fabric to fit your new space? Do you already have decor items that you can use to decorate with?
This can actually be a fun part of the process.
Make a Plan
Whether you simply make a list, draw things in a floor plan or create a digital mood board, making a plan to guide you will make things much easier for you. I typically do all three. A list organized in the order things should be done, keeps me on track and i new wonder what i need to do next. A floor plan helps me organize everything from furniture to accessories and my mood board keeps me focused and keeps the vision for the space front and center.
Design around One Statement Piece
The easiest tip for any beginner decorator and seasoned designer alike is to find one statement piece and design a room around that piece. By statement piece i’m talking about a piece of art that will be hung on the wall or a rug that will anchor the space.
Finding that one, special statement piece then gives you a ready-made color palette to inspire and drive the rest of the room’s decor.
For example, when I gave our family room a makeover about two years ago, I knew I wanted to keep the palette neutral but have pops of color to keep it from feeling boring. Even though b and I were pretty sure what furniture we wanted, it was the rug that helped pull everything together. Our run was a mixture of creams, yellow, a couple shades of blue and gray and the pattern is a bit traditional but also kind of farmhouse-y.
That helped plan the rest of the room pretty easily. Our furniture style is a bit traditional but with a bit of a modern take, our turned legged end tables and coffee tables feel traditional but the wood finish is a bit more rustic farmhouse. The lantern light fixture has a traditional feel but with modern lines. Do you see how this one item (our rug) helped design the rest of the room?
If there is one thing I can say happens with nearly every project, it’s the need to alter the original plan in some way on the fly.
A good example of this is a design change we had to make on the fly at the beach house. Before any construction started, we measured the entire house and designed our new floor plans. In the kitchen we measured and carefully laid out the new kitchen footprint. On paper it all made perfect sense but when it came time to order the cabinetry, we taped out the kitchen onto the floor to make sure it “felt” right before we spent the money and we felt that even though there was technically enough space for code, it “felt” too cramped so we changed the size of the cabinets in the peninsula to give the kitchen a bit more breathing room.
That wasn’t a major design change visually, but we allowed ourselves the opportunity to change the plan so that the space felt right for us and how we plan to use it.
I’ll put it another way too. As a graphic designer for almost 20 years now, I can say with certainty that things i see in my mind rarely work out exactly the same way in person. I can remember early on in my graphic design career, meeting with clients about a logo design or other project, showing sketches or brainstorming ideas only to find that in the design process, those original ideas had to be modified to make sense in real life.
The same is true with decorating your home. You could take detailed measurements, buy all the paint swatches or pick the perfect piece of furniture and then find that once it’s in your space, it just doesn’t work. Or you realize that as you see your space come together, something looks too bland or too busy and you have to change course a bit. That’s what’s fun about design. Allow yourself to be flexible and enjoy the process!
The faux beams in our dining room were a last minute addition to the project. As we neared completion in our dining room, the ceiling felt too bare and the room felt really heavy at one end and bare at the other end. Adding the faux wood beams helped balance the room and add warmth, texture and character making it feel more a part of the rest of the house.
Create a Schedule
One of the things I get asked most often is how I find time to do home projects when I’m running a stationery company full time, blogging, traveling to DE and with B’s long work hours. My response is simply, I make schedules, plan things out and do what I can to stick to it.
When I start any new project, I am realistic about how much free time I have. I know that I’m not going to redesign a room or renovate a bathroom in a day so instead, I schedule out my list of tasks (see above) and then work on things little, by little. Doing a little bit each day eventually gets projects done.
Hopefully by following these very simple tips, you’ll feel more confident and excited about starting to decorate a room from scratch. I’d love to know what projects you have coming up. Leave a comment below and let me know!
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