Six easy steps to decorate any room

I thought I would take a moment to discuss the way I approach creating a welcoming room. This approach works regardless of which room in your home you are working on. I believe that this information is the foundation of good interior design. Other designers may approach this process differently but this is what works for me and has made many pf my clients very happy.

1. Understand your goals and needs:
If you don’t understand how you will use the space then you can’t create a space that will support your needs. You may think you have ideas about what your space needs but it is imperative that you write it down! I always begin with the goals for the space. How will this room be used? What functions does it need to accommodate? How many people will usually occupy it?

For the project pictured here, the goal was to create a one-bedroom apartment for a single young professional. The functional goals were the ability to entertain and occasionally work from home.


Unable to update the cabinetry or paint the walls, I added colorful art and a new stainless steel work surface set up as a bar. The client loves to entertain so this functional addition was an important part of the design.


The open floor plan meant that the consistent use of color helped the spaces flow. Also, the neutral backdrop means that the accent color can easily be changed in the future.


















2. Formulate a plan:
Begin at the beginning. Measure the room including where all windows, doors and architectural features are located (like odd bump-outs or bulk heads). Draw the room to scale on graph paper. If you want to go hi-tech, there are many pieces of software that will let you draw a room. I prefer to use paper and pencil. I’m a little old-fashioned. Next measure any furniture that is definitely staying in the room. If you already bought your new sofa (and jumped ahead of the process), measure it so you can work it into a cohesive plan. Create paper cut-outs of these pieces of furniture that you need to keep. I draw them to scale on the same kind of graph paper, cut them out and label them with a name and the dimensions.

This next part is where art and science meet. Look at your goals and needs for the room and look at your room. How do you cram all of your needs into the space you have? Most of us have multi-functional rooms. I find that in general, choosing furniture that can perform multiple tasks helps as does creating activity zones. Do you need to watch tv and have a work space? Perhaps you can put a sofa table behind your sofa, add a chair and a lamp and create a work space. Is your dining room also your kids’ craft area? Add a closed cabinet that can act as a serving piece but stores crayons and art supplies. I also like adding bookshelves in dining rooms to create a library or study zone so that the dining room doesn’t sit empty and unused. Your individual solution will depend upon your unique needs and constraints.

The apartment (a rental) has an open living/dining area, small kitchen and average sized bedroom. We wanted to maintain a feeling of openness and keep the space from feeling too formal or serious. We created functional zones. There is a distinct living room, dining room and work space.


By using a glass-topped table, we are able to maintain the open feeling in this relatively small space.


3. Create a shopping list:
You’ve created your plan and drawn have taken into account your goals and needs as well as traffic flow. Now you know what is missing. Create a shopping list of all of the large pieces of furniture that are required to complete your project. Include dimensions and approximate budget. Before you spend any money…shop your house. Look in your basement, attic, garage and other rooms to see if you already own something that is underused and could be re-purposed. Finally, shop! Start out on-line so you get a sense of what things are available and at what prices. You may find the perfect pieces and buy them right away or you may prefer to take this knowledge and go visit some of your local furniture stores. Either way, always have a tape measure and your list of needed pieces and their dimensions.

We were fortunate that we were able to start with a clean slate. This means that I was able to choose pieces that are the right scale for the space. Knowing that this is likely to be a relatively short-term arrangement (2-4 years) I chose pieces that are flexible and can work in future homes.


We continued the accent color from the living space but added blue in the bedding and curtains. This gives the room added interest. The bedding was found at a local discount store as a complete set. This follows my rule of “shop everywhere”. It was perfect and priced well.


4. Shop everywhere:
I look for items in the strangest places. You can get good deals on the internet just be sure you read the descriptions very carefully and understand the return policy. Some smaller furniture retailers will let you order from catalogs if they don’t stock exactly what you want. Just ask. I also shop all of the major chains.Even the ones that you don’t think of selling furniture. I have found accessories at the drug store, furniture in thrift stores, vintage stores, Target, Wal-Mart, Sears…my point is to go into every possible store and keep an open mind (and your shopping list).

I sourced most of the items locally and looked everywhere. The curtain rods came from Wal-Mart, the curtains from JC Penney, the bedding from Marshalls, etc. Some f the larger pieces came from a large furniture chain that was going out of business. Shop everywhere and keep an open mind.

5. Put it all together and re-assess:
Sometimes I assemble a room all at once and sometimes I add a few pieces and take stock before moving forward. Either way, once all of your pieces are in the room, step back and assess if you are happy with the outcome. You can always return or exchange things or you may discover that you overlooked a spot that needs “just a little something”. Personally, I like to leave space in a room for it to evolve over time.


Since the space was deigned for a young professional, we included a small desk and comfortable chair so that there is a dedicated space for a lap top. This allows for another important function into the living area but the space still feels open. The chair can also be used at the dining table or near the couch if needed. (back of chair is seen in the left edge of the picture)


Although the space looks completely furnished, I still left areas where the client can continue to add pieces of furniture, art or collections so that the space will evolve and continue to reflect the personality of the person (or people) who live there.


6. Enjoy the process:

Don’t think of it as work, think of it as doing something to improve the quality of your life. Creating spaces that welcome you and make you feel nurtured can be life-altering. Your newly decorated spaces will help you relax, improve your family life, expand your social life and generally improve the quality of your daily life. Enjoy the process and hold onto your receipts and don’t worry about making mistakes.


If you would like help creating a welcome home, contact me at 443-812-6339 or