Ready to Redecorate? Here’s How to Get Started
Your soup-to-nuts guide to jump starting a full-on room refresh.
Recognizing that your room looks tired and dated isn’t that hard. Revamping it into the space of your dreams, on the other hand, can be surprisingly difficult. Considering all the choices out there, it’s no wonder so many of us have a hard time getting a redecorating project off the ground. From breaking up the work into small jobs to preparing and planning before you go shopping, here’s a step-by-step guide to get you going.
Get the lay of the land
Take an honest look at your finances and figure out how much you’re willing to spend on the redecoration. Leave yourself a little wiggle room in case you want to splurge on a must-have item later.
Then evaluate the areas you want to redo. Ask yourself how you live in the area now. Take the living room, for example. Do you often entertain there, or is it mostly a place where you relax and watch TV? Do you eat most of your meals there? Use part of it as a home office?
Next, think about how you want to use the redecorated space. What is it lacking now that can be addressed with a redesign? What pieces do you want to keep, and what are you dying to get rid of? Do you have pets or small children to consider?
Finally, take measurements of everything that’s staying, including dimensions of the room (including windows), furniture and decor. You’ll need that information when it’s time to start moving things around.
Figure out what you like
Not sure whether your tastes lean more toward midcentury or Arts and Crafts? Look at photos of interiors everywhere: on Pinterest, in the stacks of magazines in your doctor’s waiting room, in design magazines, and on blogs like Design Sponge and Apartment Therapy. Pull out any images that evoke the mood you want your room to have and look for any similarities in style, patterns and colors.
Now that you have a collection of pictures in hand, spread them out on the floor or pin them to a bulletin board to create your inspiration file. Also include any paint chips and fabric swatches that appeal to you. Take a picture with your smartphone so you can consult it when you start shopping. (While you may not replicate anything in your inspiration file, seeing pictures of what you love all grouped together will help inform decisions you make during your redesign.)
Next, pick a color palette. If the inspiration file doesn’t immediately broadcast the colors that speak to you, open up your closet door and see what shades you wear the most.
Now you’re ready to sketch out possible designs. Start by finding a home for your larger pieces, like the sofa, chair or television, since they’ll anchor the room. Then move on to smaller stuff: end tables, artwork, lamps and accent pieces. A word to the wise before you put pencil to paper: Try to draw pieces to scale — graph paper comes in very handy here. That will cut down on any surprises when you’re ready to start arranging the room (trust me on this one!).
Once you have a mock layout you’re happy with, make a list of everything you need to buy, including colors, fabrics, and dimensions. Keep in mind scale and proportion, two elements that, when done right, make a room feel perfectly balanced. Then hit the stores (and the internet)!
Mix up the types of stores you visit–high and low-end, and try a few places you’ve never explored. Buy key pieces at stores you know and trust, and for others, you can stretch your budget with the usual suspects — sales and coupons, Craigslist, and thrift stores.
Give yourself permission to change your mind
For me, the worst part of redecorating was feeling that every decision I made was permanent. So it took me three times as long to choose a paint color, a piece of art, even a throw pillow. My best advice? Allow yourself the room to make mistakes and change your course. Worst case: if you bring something home and end up hating it, it’s okay to take it back and try something else.