Do you ever feel overwhelmed with where to start when designing a room? I’m here to help! If you want to decorate your home or give a room a refresh, here are the first four steps I usually take to get started. I am a believer in the value of creating a home that is meaningful and tells the story of the people who live there. So rather than just using a standard decorating formula with universal designer’s rules or following current trends for what’s in or out, I prefer to consider what will be meaningful, classic and make sense for our unique home and family. By keeping decisions as simple as possible, we can create a home we love without spending a fortune, too!
Here are a few ways I begin that help me to organize my thoughts, needs and style preferences so I can move forward with a plan! I hope my suggestions will inspire you as you get started with your own home.
1. Assess the Space
First I look at the space I have. It might seem obvious to start with the space you have, but honestly many people (including ME!) are tempted to begin by looking at other people’s homes. While getting ideas is fun and will be inspiring, making decisions based on other people’s homes can also lead us astray before we even begin. When I take time to evaluate my own space (rather than just wander around the internet looking for inspiration elsewhere) I make a lot more progress on decisions that actually make sense for our home. And, my results are far more rewarding and meaningful!
To get started, I always ask myself questions. What do I like about my home or room? What do I not like? Do I like the current colors, the arrangement of the room, the furniture? Most importantly, how does it feel to be in this space? Consider the current mood of the room. Do I like to be in there? What I would like to change about it? What are the architectural elements of the space and limitations that I need to work with? Are there any cluttered spots that need to be addressed? Are there certain corners or particular angles that don’t feel inspiring? Do we feel comfortable spending time in this room or why not? What is the purpose of this space? Are there any initial design ideas that have already to mind? I don’t have to solve it all right then and there…I just use this time to observe what’s working and what isn’t so I’m able to move forward with more confidence. Write down observations in a notebook if you’d like!
2. Gather Inspiration
Next it’s time to gather inspiration! I start looking for anything and everything that inspires me. I’m not looking for specific ideas or products or furniture for my home yet, so I don’t worry too much yet about the cost or practicality of the idea or the why behind my inspiration…I’ll get to that next! If an image, idea or art or piece of furniture speaks to me in any way, I save it. If I am looking at design books I flag ideas with little sticky notes (I shared my favorite home design books HERE). If I’m looking at online inspiration, I will pin favorites to a Pinterest board, or if I’m on Instagram I use the little flag button on the bottom right to save them to a folder. You can look at my Pinterest boards and instagram for ideas to inspire you, too!
3. Observe and Find Takeaway Tips
Now that I have some inspiration saved, I can begin to analyze my saved photos and take note of specific elements I like (if you’re new to using inspiration photos, you can learn more of I do it in my series on Takeaway Tips, see all here!). Sometimes I find I will save an inspiration photo but don’t really know why I was drawn to it. Maybe I saved a photo of a kitchen that looks nothing like the style of my home. That could lead to overthinking decisions, frustration or even costly design mistakes. Through observation of your design inspiration, you might note that it is a bright white kitchen with colorful cookbooks on built-in shelves. The takeaway from a fancy home might be that you feel inspired by bright white spaces with pops of color on open shelves. And the application to your own home might be that you already have a classic white kitchen, you just need the shelves to accessorize with pops of color. Or that by painting your kitchen white, you’d feel the freedom to add accessories in colors you love.
4. Look for the Patterns
Next I look for patterns in the inspiration photos I chose. It could be literal patterns (like stripes or plaid!) but I’m mostly looking for color schemes, furniture elements or room styles that I seemed to choose repetitively. Did I save lots of photos with moody dark walls? Do I seem to love the look of a room full of antiques? Do I like the streamlined look of built-ins? I also refer back to the takeaway tips, because that can help refine the specific elements I want to incorporate. I might have saved several photos of white rooms, but once I look for patterns I realize what I really was inspired by was the architecture of white paneling, or maybe I really like the way vintage wood furniture looks against the white walls, for example.
Also I find it helpful to ask myself honestly if any of the patterns are mostly driven by current trends, rather than what I actually like for my own home. I might save a lot of moody earthy toned rooms, but it’s helpful to remind myself that while I might love them in photos that doesn’t mean they will be the right choice for my home. It’s OK to discover that you love a certain look in photos and yet not choose it for your home.
After completing those four steps….I start to feel much more equipped to begin making the specific plans and design decisions for my own space!
In my next post I’ll share some of the inspiration photos I’ve started to gather as I brainstorm ideas for my new kitchen remodel!
I’ll also give you an update on my bedroom and plans for that for “A Lovely January”. If you missed the details about that challenge, you can catch up and join us here.
More inspiration on The Inspired Room:
Find decor advice in my books The Inspired Room, Simple Decorating, and But Where Do I Put the Couch + Answers to 100 Other Home Decorating Questions.
Check out my “How to Decorate” page to find decor inspiration room by room.
You can also follow my new Instagram @theinspiredroomstyle for style advice and our thoughtfully curated selection of timeless furniture and charming accessories!