When building a home, there are so many design decisions to make that it can be overwhelming. And even for those of us who love designing, it’s hard to know where to start, especially when you have an entire new house to decorate. So, in the next two episodes, we’ll go over a few tips that should give you some general design direction, including where to start.
Now, if you don’t enjoy decorating, or you have no interest in choosing furniture and accessories for your home, you probably want to consider hiring an interior designer. To help you decide whether working with a designer is the way to go, take a listen to episode 132 called “Should I Hire An Interior Designer?”
Even if you decide you want to work with a designer, this episode/post will still be helpful to you because you’ll still have to answer the designer’s questions about what you like and dislike. And although the designer could make all your final decisions for your home’s interior, you’ll still need to articulate how you want your house to look and live, to guide the designers selections.
The earlier we start thinking about our home’s interior design, furniture placement, and style, the better. Soon after, and preferably, during the creation your floor plan, you should be thinking about your interior design. The reason you want to put thought into your home’s interior decor so early is because certain design decisions can effect the framing, plumbing, mechanical and electrical plans for the house. For example, floating shelves need more structural support than regular shelves or built-ins do. And where you place tvs, lamps and accent lighting will obviously have a bearing on your electrical plan. Do you want a wall-mounted bathroom faucet? Well, it’s helpful for the plumber to know that before the framing is complete to make sure he has the necessary access for pipes.
For those of us taking on all the design decisions ourselves, where do we start? Should we choose furniture, paint, flooring, rugs, or window treatments first? Or should we begin with a color scheme or style? What is the jumping off point that will allow us to to decorate our homes without getting overwhelmed? In a way that will help alleviate analysis paralysis and decision fatigue.
Analysis paralysis occurs when you don’t have a decision-making system and you overanalyze everything and make decisions very slowly, or not at all.
Decision fatigue is when you have to make too many decisions in a short period of time because you haven’t given yourself enough time to think through your options. You’re under the gun to make decisions quickly and you get tired of making so many choices. That fatigue might cause you to take on an “I don’t care anymore” or “whatever” kind of attitude. Decisions made when you’re in that state of mind are usually not great decisions and your choices get worse and worse with each subsequent decision. You could end up spending money on items that you really don’t like, or that aren’t really practical for your lifestyle.
So my hope is to delineate some design rules that we can all use to make our design decisions in an easier and more logical way. Now, keep in mind, I am not a trained designer, so take these tips with a grain of salt. And realize that even different trained designers have different rules and different starting points for decor.
That let's me know that there is no one right way to decorate a room. There are many ways and rules that work. For example, I've heard some designers say to start with the rug in the room because that’s the foundation. And that could work, but what if you’re not really into rugs or what if you won’t have a rug in a particular room. Other designers say to start with a wall color, an art piece or the largest piece of furniture in the room. Any of these methods could be effective. And if one of those rules helps you to start your design, use it.
I’m hoping to add some practical and easy-to-understand pointers from and for someone without formal design training or experience. As with all advice and opinions, I advise you to eat the meat and throw out the bones. Keep the information that resonates with you and toss the rest.
Here is the first part of our list of design tips that will help you figure out what to do and where to start: In our next episode, we’ll add to the list
INTERIOR DESIGN: WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO START
1. Function first. It doesn’t matter how pretty a room is, if it doesn’t function the way you need it to, you won’t spend much time in that room. And the time you do spend there, won’t be as enjoyable as it could. Think about all the things you want to do in each room of the house before you decide on the decor. Take it one room at a time. Make a mental or written list of all the activities you plan to do in the space. Knowing the function of room, the activities you’ll do, will guide your selections of what to put in the room, from flooring to furniture to lighting and accessories.
In your living room, for example, do you want to watch tv, take Sunday afternoon naps, play board games or cards, play with your kids, read in a quiet corner, eat take out dinners on the couch, and/or have casual parties with friends and family? What you want to do in the space will help you determine what size, amount and placement of seating you’ll need. Plus, the number and types of tables you should buy, and how much storage and lighting should be included in the space. Will you need a larger table or ottoman where you can play games? Does that ottoman need to be upholstered, or should the table have rounded corners because small kids will also be playing in the space? Should the sofa in that room be darker in color or stain-resistant because you like to eat pizza every other weekend there?
And what about the kitchen? These days, the kitchen is not just about cooking and eating. Do you need space in the kitchen for your kids to do homework, or for your spouse to work on a lap top? If so, maybe you need to make sure your barstools or kitchen chairs are comfortable, and not just pretty. Is red wine one your favorite drinks? If the answer is yes, consider choosing a stain-resistant, man-made quartz as opposed to a more easily stained marble countertop.
If you think about the function of each room first, it may even help you narrow down, or eliminate some color palettes. You probably don’t want all white furniture in a living room if you eat on the couch regularly. So function first. Everyone should be able to figure out the function for a room. Before you choose items for a particular room ask yourself “Will this piece work for the activities and functions that will occur in the room?”
2. Focal point. After function, think of a focal point. A focal point is a tangible, favorite feature you want to add to the room. It’s a statement feature. You might currently own it, or you may need to buy it. Maybe it’s a focal point vent hood or backsplash tile that you saw on Pinterest, or a colorful range you have fallen in love with for your kitchen. Start with that, then add cabinetry, stools and a countertop that compliment the focal point.
In a bedroom, maybe you’ve found a bed, or comforter, or drapes that you just don’t want to live without. In that case, add a rug, bed linens and bedside tables that go well with that focal point. And remember, things don’t have to match, the just have to go— go together, coordinate.
A focal point could also be a favorite color scheme, paint color or wallpaper. Have you always wanted a blush pink guest bedroom? Or a black and white graphic wallpaper for your powder room? That color and wallpaper can serve as your jumping off point for decor. A favorite piece of furniture or art from your current house could also be a focal point in your new house.
I recognize something as a focal point for myself when I’m shopping or scrolling and it stops my in my tracks, when it makes me gasp or say "wow." Or when it makes me do a double-take because I think it’s so pretty, or interesting, or unique. When that happens, I put whatever it is on my short list of focal points.
No matter what your focal point is, make it the star of your room and allow other items to take a secondary, supporting role. You want one, at most 2-3, focal points in a room (in a smaller room, try to stick with one focal point). More than that will be visually chaotic. Whatever you choose, make your focal point be something that will get and keep your attention, make you smile, or make you say “Dang that’s pretty!”. Non-focal point items in the room can also be beautiful, but they shouldn’t be attention stealers, or wow factors that compete with your focal points. Instead, let your supporting pieces should be beautifully understated so you focal points shine.
3. Feeling. What if you don’t have, or can’t find a focal point, or favorite thing for a few rooms in the house? If you just can’t find a focal point that will give you design direction, think of the feeling or characteristic that you want the room to evoke. How do you want to feel when you spend time in the room and what do you want your guests to feel or say about the room? You might also ask yourself what feelings you associate with the activities or functions that will occur in the room?
In a bedroom or bathroom, you might want to feel calm and relaxed. In a home office, maybe alert and focused is how you want to feel. You might want your kids’ room to be happy, or a powder room to be surprising and dramatic. Do you want your living room to feel luxurious, inspiring or casual?
Some other feelings or characteristics you might consider are:
Open and Airy
After you decide what feeling you want, start searching for the colors, furniture pieces, accessories and artwork that give the feeling you want to evoke. When you are thinking about buying a piece for a particular room where you want to feel relaxed, for example, look at the piece and ask, “Will this piece help the room to feel and look relaxing?”
4. Sophistication. This is a word that many designers suggest we use for every room of the house, no matter how it functions, or what focal points and feelings we want for our rooms. Sophistication makes our homes look more expensive and more well thought out. Before we choose pieces or colors for a room, we should ask ourselves, "Is this sophisticated?" Sophisticated is defined as having a good knowledge of culture and fashion. It means cultured, polished, mature and refined. Resist the urge to be too theme-y which can come off as unsophisticated. A room with farmhouse theme should have farmhouse moments, a few special pieces, or a subtle color scheme that go with the theme. But every item in the room shouldn’t look like it came from FarmhouseDecor.com (I just made that up, BTW).
To be clear, a space can be casual and sophisticated, or fun and sophisticated, or homey and sophisticated. Sophistication doesn’t necessarily mean expensive or formal. It means refined and tasteful. Even a playful child’s room can be sophisticated and refined.
To summarize the first foundational design tips to decorate the interior of your home, for each room, start with the function. What do you want to do in the room? Then choose a focal point as the starring feature of the room. If you don’t have a focal point, or statement feature, consider starting with the feeling that you want the room to evoke and let that feeling guide your selections, decorating, and color palette. Search for a focal point that will give you the feeling you’re after. Then add supporting pieces that not only coordinate with the look of the focal point, but that coordinate with the feeling of the focal point.
Ideally, you want the function, focal point, and feeling to all work together. But If that’s too much for you to think about, simply start decorating the room based on either a focal point or a feeling. And make sure the features you select will allow you to easily do the activities you’ve planned for the space. Finally, ensure that whatever elements you choose, they’re sophisticated.
Well that’s all I have for you this week. I hope these tips help you organize your thoughts and start your interior design plans. Join me again in 2 weeks for more interior design tips. Until then stay safe and well.