Rule #1. Pick one inspiration piece.
When you don’t know where to start with a room, pick one thing that you really love and make it your jumping off point.
It can be a vase, a painting, a pillow. It can even be a wall color.
In my bedroom, I started with the wall color. Hale Navy. To be honest I would start every room with Hale Navy… I started to say, but… and tried to think of a reason to not paint every room Hale Navy and guess what? I can’t think of one.
An entirely Navy Blue walled house? I think I could pull it off.
Anyway, I digress.
My point is, pick one thing that really speaks to you and go from there.
Rule #2. Have a plan and a budget.
Well this is boring. Shouldn’t I be talking about texture or pattern mixing and matching or something?
We’ll get to that. But, first, you have to have a plan and budget.
Without a plan a couple of things are going to happen. You are going to have a hard time coming up with a cohesive room because what you’ll do is buy one thing, then something else and another and then you’ll kind of forget what the first thing was like so the next thing you buy isn’t really related exactly.
It’s like anything else in life. Without a plan you end up with something kind of incoherent.
The other thing that happens is if you don’t make a plan, you will not take action. Decorating is kind of a privilege. You gotta feed people, clothe them, and all the rest of the things you spend time and money on before you start contemplating how many throw pillows to put on your bed.
I’m not saying it’s for the privileged. I’m saying I know you have a million things to take care of that cost time and money that have precedence over decorating.
So if you don’t make a plan it is very easy to never get to it. And it’s 100% ok if you never get to it.
Unless it’s really important to you. It is to me. And so when the money and the time are available to me, it’s how I choose to spend both.
Speaking of money. You need a budget. Not just so that you don’t spend more money than you have.
One of the really important things about having a budget is that it will help you narrow down your choices. Picking exactly what you want out of the (literally) millions of options can be overwhelming.
I like to have an overall budget for the project and then an idea of what I want to pay for each item. Sometimes I pull the budget out of thin air and sometimes I have a finite amount based on finances.
And I find it fun to set a low budget and see what I can do with it.
Rule #3. Know design rules but break them when it is necessary for your real life.
I have never strived to make a room that is perfect Instagram.
I strive to make a room that is perfect for my real life.
That means I don’t have any floor length curtains in my house. Because my cat who is no longer with us, would pee on them. I don’t what kind of cat gymnastics he could do, but he did it.
Always start with what is going to work for you and your family first, and design second.
How many times have you heard the TV should not be a centerpiece of a room? How many real life family rooms have you been in where the TV is not the centerpiece?
You can find ways to make it work. But you can’t work with the crick you will have in your neck because you didn’t put the TV in the spot that made the most sense and now you are constantly looking left.
Rule #4. Don’t settle.
This goes back to the budget thing a bit. Having a budget is good because you know how much you are willing to spend. If you find something that you really love but it’s outside of your price range for that particular piece, you can work with the numbers on some of the other pieces so that you can hopefully afford it.
And that is important. If you’re choosing between two things and they are both within budget and you like the more expensive one better, but oh gee, it would be nice to save a few bucks on this wouldn’t it?
Don’t do that. This is your home. Spend as much as you are able to to make it comfortable, functional and beautiful.
If there’s something that you really, really have your heart set on and nothing else will do. Wait. Save. Buy it as soon as you can afford it.
Everytime I compromise because of price or because I didn’t want to wait for shipping or I thought it was a little too “out there”, I’ve regretted it.
Rule #5. Indulge your weirdness.
For your own home, you should not consider anyone else’s opinion except for the people you live with.
You can ask other people’s opinion if you are having trouble deciding, but you shouldn’t make decisions based on what other people might think.
If you want something that seems a little weird like a rainbow watercolor floral wallpaper mural in your dining room, you should try it.
If you want a giant tapestry of a Shetland cow in your living room then you should go for it.
Sometimes no one else will like it (looking at you Shetland cow) and other times someone will say, “I could sit in this dining room all day”.
I don’t want to play up the positive response because it feels pretty awesome when someone appreciates what you’ve done, which conversely then, it should mean it feels pretty bad when someone doesn’t like what you’ve done.
But that doesn’t happen though! No one. I mean NO.ONE likes my giant Shetland cow. And I love that no one loves it.
I don’t know why but I almost love it more that no one loves it.