Discovering and Planning Your Decorating Destination

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” — Yogi Berra

Five and a half years ago, we moved from a one-bedroom apartment to a four-bedroom house with two living areas and two dining areas. After seven years of living in one-bedroom apartments, we were excited about the extra room to spread out (although we like each other, sometimes too much of a good thing is still too much of a good thing). However, that also meant we had a very empty house starting out. On top of that, we didn’t receive many hand-me-downs, which meant we were basically starting from scratch furnishing an entire house.

I don’t know about you, but an empty house doesn’t feel very homey to me.

I did what most people do when they get a house that’s empty: Go shopping to fill it with stuff.

Here’s how that process usually works:

  1. Arghh! My house is so empty it echoes! I’m tired of living in a house that feels so sterile!
  2. Shop for décor accessories and pictures at various stores.
  3. Bring home said décor and place in house.
  4. (Optional) Spread décor on floor and then try to think of where to put it.
  5. Place objects here, there, and everywhere.
  6. Get frustrated that nothing looks right.
  7. Return said objects to the store within the return policy time period.
  8. Repeat.

Shopping was the thrilling part, but it wasn’t getting me to where I wanted to be. I remember buying a beautiful painting at the store, only to get home and realize it made the room feel like a funeral parlor. Not the feeling I was going for.

I continued to study rooms I liked and decided to try a different approach. Instead of haphazardly buying things I love to fill a house, I decided to take a more focused and planned approach. Since the formals were basically completely empty, I started there. I was going to only focus on that room and ignore the rest of the house until that room was complete.

This is the new process I usually go through now when I’m decorating a new room:

Find Your Heart’s Desire

  1. Set your budget.
    A beautiful home is never worth the stress of debt.
  2. Think about the function of the room and the feel you want for the room.
    Is the primary function of the room for entertaining? For watching TV? If so, think about the placement of the TV and sitting area. What allows for comfortable viewing? Are you going for a relaxed feel? Do you want something light and energizing, or something cozy and inviting?
  3. Gather pictures of rooms you like that support the feel you want for the room.
    You can find pictures on the internet by searching and filtering for images, using Pinterest, and clipping pictures out of magazines. Don’t worry about finding pictures of the same room you want to decorate. Instead focus on pictures that catch your eye and support the feeling you are going for. I recommend gathering 8-12 pictures.
  4. For each picture, think about why you like that picture and write it down.
    Is it the colors? If so, what kind of colors are there? Are the colors subtle or are they bold and vibrant? Is there a lot of contrast between the dark and light colors or is the contrast more subtle? What about the style of the room?
  5. Review what you wrote down for each picture and find the themes that exist. Circle them.
    For example, is there a theme on the wall color? Do you like neutral furniture against vivid color on the walls? Or do you prefer pops of color against neutral walls? Are there any certain colors that exist with most of the pictures? Is there a theme on the style? Are the rooms mostly casual or formal? Is it farmhouse, modern, traditional, or something else? Are there lots of different textures?

Think Resourcefully

  1. Consider the furniture you want to keep.
    Does your existing furniture go with some of the themes you’ve identified?

    • For items that don’t go with the feeling/style you’re going for, decide if you will buy something new or if you can adjust what you have to work.
      • If you have furniture you want to keep but it doesn’t go, is there somewhere else in the house it can go? Could it take the place of less liked furniture?
      • If you don’t mind changing the item, consider if the size and style of the piece works, but the color is off. If that’s the case, consider refinishing. For seating, would a slipcover work? How much would it cost to reupholster it?
        Example: We had a dark wood side table that didn’t go with the light and bright theme for the formal living room. I refinished it with a different color, distressed it, and gave it new hardware to support the new style.
      • If you don’t have another room to put the item and you don’t want to refinish it, sell the item and use that money toward a new purchase.
        Tip: We’ve had good luck selling furniture with Craigslist.
  2. Go shopping in your house looking for items that you can use in a new way. For example, are you looking for a vase? Consider using empty jars or other containers.

Play with Possibilities

  1. Browse for items that support the look and feel you are going for.
    This step can be done alongside the next step to see if the item is a real contender. Refer to your notes on the themes you are going for as well as your budget and make sure items fit within those confines.
    Note: Shopping online can be a time-efficient way to shop.
  2. Figure out the furniture arrangement and wall arrangement.

Take Action

  1. Decide on the items you will purchase.
    Note: This step may take some time. Keep watch for some of the items you’re considering because sometimes stores discontinue items. This happened with our dining table. Luckily, we had decided on the dining room table, so when I heard the store was discontinuing the color, we snatched it. Also, if you’re looking for a deal, watch for sales and coupons for your item.
  2. Set up the room!
  3. Enjoy! You deserve it!

What is your process for decorating a room?


2 thoughts on “Discovering and Planning Your Decorating Destination

  1. Elvie Hortman says:

    Great questions; thought provoking. Your ideas and suggestions are inspiring and motivating. Thanks!


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