Decorating: Where to Begin
How to decorate your home, from start to finish
Getting the keys to a new place is exhilarating: a new beginning awaits! Your canvas is in front of you, beckoning you to create. Then comes the plunge: the expansive white walls and an endless array of choices to make. But fear not. Whether you’ve moved to a new home or plan to redecorate your current one, here are five simple steps to help!
1. Discover your style
At the beginning of the process, let your imagination lead. Don’t worry about practicality – that comes later. What’s your ideal? If you had an unlimited budget, what would you do? I start by gathering images that inspire me. You can create a collection of your favorites on a bulletin board, refrigerator, or in a journal.
I like to peruse interior design magazines like House Beautiful and Elle Décor, but your images don’t have to be about design. You can begin with a picture of your favorite painting, flower, or vacation spot: anything that evokes the feeling you want to have when you’re in your home. Once you’ve collected images, define what you see. Jot down a few words alongside them. Is your style traditional? modern? bohemian, rustic, or industrial? Does it evoke a certain era or country? Find guiding words to help keep your vision clear through the process.
2. Choose a Color Scheme
There are several ways to pick colors. I prefer to start with my image collage. If certain colors recur, or if there’s a hue I respond strongly to, I venture to the paint store with that in mind. Or, you may already have furniture that helps determine your choices. If you’re using a rug, some decorators recommend starting there. This is also time to decide how much you want individual rooms to speak to each other. Having lived in small(ish) apartments for the past six years, I like to have the same colors loosely repeat in each room. To me, this creates continuity and calm. However, if you prefer more contrast between rooms, go for it! Do what makes you happy. You can find other subtle ways to connect room to room. For wall paint, narrow your choices to two or three colors, test them on the wall, and after a few days see which emerges as your favorite.
List what you have and what you need. This includes furniture and décor. Think of your lifestyle and determine the demands of each room. What will make your life simpler and more enjoyable? For example, if you’re a cocktail aficionado, consider having a bar cart in your kitchen or dining room so you don’t have to constantly shuttle bottles into and out of a cupboard. Do you always misplaces your keys, wallet, or glasses? You’ll want to create a spot in your entryway where all these things go when you get in the door. For things you need, you don’t have to buy them new. One of my favorite consignment stores in New York is Housing Works, which has amazing treasures. My furniture is a mix of finds from Housing Works, Craigslist, and Pottery Barn sales; another few pieces are inherited from family. You can also check out eBay and Overstock.com for bargains, and websites like Etsy for unique, hand-crafted pieces.
4. Know your ABC’s
Some interior designers like to designate furniture as A, B, or C. A goes to the largest or most visually demanding piece in the room. For example, in a bedroom, the A piece is the bed, B might go to your dresser, and C to the nightstands. Figuring out the hierarchy determines how to arrange your furniture and shape visual focus. In my bedroom, which is full of light blues and greens, I used to have a pink armchair. It stole all the focus in the room and competed for attention with my A piece, the bed. I moved the chair to my kitchen nook, and my bedroom immediately became more serene and cohesive. Adam’s Interior Decorating has a good definition of this system (and incorporates more than just furniture in its explanation)
5. Create moments
Now that you’ve got your color scheme and furniture layout, start with your A piece and decorate around it. Loosely separating rooms into distinct areas gives the eye places to rest. Fight visual sprawl by giving each section of a room it’s own “moment”:
Corners can be sad, shadowy places in a room. I decorated this corner with a few of my favorite things and it has become such a happy little spot in my apartment. The pretty side table; the Monet prints; the tidy stack of decorating magazines… heaven!
I had some empty space in my kitchen – room enough for a little table and my much-loved pink armchair! It’s the perfect place to have tea in the morning or to put cookbooks when I’m making something. The wall shelves display some of my grandmother’s teacup collection. Why hide these treasures in cabinets when they bring such joy to the eye of the beholder?
My desk is in my living room, so I gave it it’s own moment to separate “workspace” from the seating area and the dining area. (These New York City living rooms work hard!) The large print and bubble lamp help establish it as a mini-room inside a room. This little office contains everything I need to get down to business: laptop, writing utensils, cards and stamps, address books, and notepads.