INTERIOR DESIGN FOR BEGINNERS
Designing your space can be incredibly exciting, but also intimidating. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged when the vision in your head doesn’t seem to be materializing. That’s why it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want and a plan for making it happen. You should also know what you want to spend on the project, and keep in mind that decorating your home on a budget is possible. Inexpensive home decor doesn’t mean low quality, it just means that you need to get creative to find affordable decorating ideas that work for your space and your budget.
FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT
Before you get started, answer these questions to figure out a plan for how to decorate:
Where am I hoping to make changes?
Identify the spaces you want to address, and list them in order from the highest priority to the lowest priority.
What am I trying to accomplish?
Create a vision for your space through sketches and inspiration images.
Why do I want to design (or redesign) this space?
It’s important to understand your motivation for starting the project. Identify what is not working and why it needs to change.
How involved do I want to be?
Decide whether you’re more of a DIY enthusiast or if you would prefer a surprise reveal, in which case you should hire an interior designer.
Who do I need to help me execute the project?
If you need to hire an interior designer or other professionals, like contractors or electricians, do your research. Always hire people who make you feel comfortable and share your vision.
When do you hope to start and complete your project?
Create an ideal schedule for your project to keep you organized and on track, and be prepared to adapt as needed.
FIND YOUR STYLE
Once you’ve determined your goals, involvement, and team for the project, choose a decorating style. If you don’t already have a strong sense of what you want, start exploring design blogs and magazines to figure out what you gravitate towards. Create home inspiration boards on Pinterest and start pinning anything and everything you like or don’t like. (If you decide to hire an interior decorator, it might be helpful to create a board for them of looks that you want to avoid.) After you’ve been pinning for a while, you’ll probably start to notice some patterns and similarities, which means that your personal style preferences are emerging.
You have to know the space you’re working with before you can make informed decisions about furniture and artwork, so take about 30 minutes to measure the room–including the size of the doors. That way you won’t be heartbroken when your dream sofa doesn’t fit through the doorway, or frustrated when your new furniture looks like it belongs in a dollhouse.
It might be tempting to buy all your furniture in one trip, but a more affordable strategy is to just buy a few things at a time. By living in the space, you’ll get a sense of what you need, like a side table next to the sofa for your drink. This is also a good way to spread out the cost of furnishing the room. Also, there’s nothing wrong with having an empty wall or floor space. You don’t need to cover every square inch of your room with furniture or art.
During the day, evaluate the amount of natural light the room gets and figure out where you need to brighten things up. Make sure to layer your lighting so that the room is lit from various levels and sources, like floor lamps, table lamps, and wall sconces. If your space doesn’t get enough natural light, mirrors maximize the light you do have. Also, be sure to buy the correct wattage bulbs–it may sound obvious, but it’s a common mistake.
If you have a lot of room color ideas swirling around in your head but you’re not sure which to choose, consider whether you want a warm or cool palette. Next, introduce new hues in the form of commitment-free items like throw pillows, blankets, and other accessories. You might regret a bold living room paint color like lime green, but if you change your mind about a lime green pillow? That’s a much easier problem to solve. You don’t need to prove something about your style or personality by saturating every surface with color. On the contrary, thoughtfully-chosen pops of color make a bigger impact.
One of the biggest mistakes beginners make with furniture is not understanding the importance of a statement piece. Instead, people tend to be too safe with their choices, and as a result, nothing stands out and the room looks bland.
You don’t need to go matchy matchy with your furniture. So, just because a company sells sofas and chairs from the same line, resist the urge to buy the entire set. It’s more visually interesting to have a variety of different, though complementary, profiles. If you’re unsure about mixing styles, look for a common thread between two pieces, like a similar style or silhouette.
Adding an area rug is an easy way to add color or texture. Make sure to get one large enough to define the space. As a rule of thumb, make sure the area rug extends either six inches under your sofa or starts six inches in front of it, and six inches away from the wall.
If you’re choosing a rug for a high-traffic area, choose something durable, like a low-pile wool or sisal. For low-traffic areas, you can choose more luxe options, like sheepskin, or delicate bamboo silk.
Art is another opportunity to reflect your personality, so take your time choosing it, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Figure out what styles inspire you, and how much you’re willing or able to invest in art at the moment. If you have a limited budget, there are plenty of options, like art shows, street vendors, and websites where you can purchase prints from more well-known artists, or original pieces from up-and-coming talents. Also, keep in mind that art isn’t just framed photos or canvases–it can be objects, too, like plates or macrame wall hangings. Art also doesn’t have to match the colors of the room. In fact, it’s more striking when it pops against neutral or contrasting colors.
Next, decide whether you want to hang one big piece or a gallery wall. Pay attention to scale when choosing and hanging art. For example, if you have high ceilings, a large vertical piece will draw the eye up. Hang pieces at a height where you can easily look at and enjoy them–you shouldn’t have to crane your neck to see your art.
Pillows, throw blankets, books, and decorative objects are the final layers you add to a room to unify the space. This is an opportunity to personalize the room with items that reflect your style and interests, like a coffee table book of work by your favorite designer, or a vase you bought while traveling.
Edit your objects. It still needs to be a functional living space, so don’t crowd every surface with accessories. Make sure there’s space to put down your phone or a beverage.
Let go of the idea that a room needs to feel completely “done.” One of the fun things about decorating is that your space is always evolving. If an item doesn’t bring you joy, don’t force it into your design. Take things slowly, and enjoy the process.