Decorating Tips

5 Steps to Decorate Any Room Like a Pro

Do you have one room in your home or apartment that really needs help?  Whether it’s your living room, bedroom or kitchen the process is the same.  These are the five steps to decorate or makeover any room and you’re supposed to do them in this order.  Don’t cheat and start with step five first.

You will notice the biggest change if you try to start with a clean slate.   This means taking down all the art, rolling up the rug and going back to ground zero.  It’s easier to see the room with fresh eyes when you do this. 

Step 1 – Arrange the furniture

You may already like the way your furniture is arranged, or maybe you just put the couch/bed where the last person had it.  If that’s the case, get some furniture sliders and move the largest piece around to make sure it’s in a position that feels the best. 

The biggest piece in a bedroom is the bed, in a living room it’s the couch. Once you have that piece in place that looks right, then you move around the smaller pieces.  In a living room, move all of the smaller seating once you have the couch in a good place.

Step 2 – Choose an inspiration piece

This could be something you already own or something you want to buy.   It’s something that will define the look of the room and the colors in the room.                           

An inspiration piece can be a rug, a curtain or a piece of art.  It could even be a quilt you love, but it needs to be something that will make a statement in a room. 

Let’s look at a few examples.

Art as inpsiration – You could be really inspired by a large travel poster, a large abstract painting or photograph.  If you want to use art to drive the look of a room I recommend that you use a piece of art that is large enough to be noticed.  Don’t choose a small photo as your inspiration, unless you plan to blow it up larger and use it in step 5.

This large art piece in a dining room inspires the black and white color pallet.

Art as Inspiration

Drapes as inspiration – If you have a fabric you really love and you want to get a lot of it into your room, this might be your inspiration.  Drapes are large enough that they can really dictate the feel of a room.  If they drapes aren’t your inspiration, I recommend using something more neutral on the windows.

The drapes in this room are bold enough that they could be the inspiration.

10 Bedroom decorating tips

Rug as inspiration – I love rugs, so often this is the thing that drives what my room will look like.  A vintage rug with lots of color can be the item that defines the room.  The good news is that there are tons of places to buy rugs and they can be pretty inexpensive.  See my rug buying guide here

Statement furniture as inspiration – This could be a sofa that you love that has a really bold, unusual print (although I don’t recommend this).  It could also be a large chest or hutch that has a really unique look.  Do you have one piece of furniture that you LOVE?

In my bedroom I had an old armoire that I’ve been dragging around for years.  It had these giant mirrored doors that I swapped out for fabric and this became my inspiration for the room.

What if you don’t have an inspiration piece?  Don’t stress about it.  If there is really no one thing you love in the room skip this step for now. Read this article about how to choose a color pallet

Step 3 – Choose the main textural elements

Primary textures include rugs and  large fabrics elements like drapes, or in a bedroom the bedspread or quilt. 

Rugs are the first and most important textural element.   It is easier to find a rug first and then drapes to coordinate. I think it’s harder to start with drapes and then find a rug. You need to choose a rug that is large enough where all the furniture can rest on it. 

If you need help choosing the right size rug, read the rug size guide.  Don’t be tempted to buy a rug that is 5×8 for your living room.  If you already have a rug this size that you love, buy a natural fiber rug to go underneath it.  Large rugs can really make a room feel cozy and pulled together.

If drapes are not the inspiration for your room, it can be easier to find something neutral (and inexpensive).  If you need help choosing drapes and shades, check out this guide to choosing drapes. Be sure to choose drapes that are large enough and hang them above and outside the window.  This makes your windows look larger. 

Step 4 – Choose lighting

A well lit room will have three different sources of light, not counting the sun.  Most rooms come with some type of overhead lighting, that’s one.  The other two light sources can be a combination of lamps, sconces, pendants or even a chandelier. 

If you are in a space that you don’t own, floor lamps and table lamps are the easiest types of lighting to add and they aren’t super expensive.    

Step 5 – Choose art and accessories

Once you have all the furniture, drapes, rugs and lights in place then it’s time for the real fun, art and accessories.  It’s best to wait until the end because each step impacts what size art you buy and where you put it. 

Accessories are the one thing that everyone is drawn to buy right away, but they are really the last thing that should go into a room.  This is where your inspiration piece should come into play. Let it be your guide for the color of accessories you choose. This will give your room that cohesive, pulled together look.

For example, let’s say your inspiration piece is a rug like the one below. This gives you the colors to pull for the accessories, red and blue. When you buy throw pillows, blankets or picture frames look for these colors. Read this article for more information about how an inspiration piece can help you refine your color choices.

Read This Before You Begin

Caution! You are not living inside HGTV.  This process probably won’t happen in a day or even a week. 

If you want to makeover a room, you’ll find more reward in building the look you want over a few weeks or months vs. dashing out and buying everything at Target in one day.  If you take your time you can also end up spending less because you will have a better idea of what you need. 

Try these 5 steps in one room and see what a difference it can make for you.

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