Hiring an interior designer can be a great investment into your home, but if you’re more of the DIY type, here are some great tips to design your home like a pro.
Keep the End in Mind
My dad always says “You can’t hit a target you don’t aim for. Ready, shoot, aim is a recipe for disaster.” The same can be said in the world of interior design, which is why keeping the end in mind is the first tip to designing your home like a pro. If you have no idea what look you’re attempting to achieve, you’re sure to end up with a jumbled mess on your hands (unless, of course, you have a fabulous eye, but this article is not for those rare gifted few).
The best way to find your end interior design goal is through visuals. This may include perusing various magazines, picking up cues from well-designed TV homes in your favorite shows, or exploring visual social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram. Start a folder, virtual or otherwise, and gather rooms that speak to you. If you can imagine yourself living in a space, stick it in your inspiration folder. I’m currently designing our new build home, and my Pinterest board serves as my visual inspiration for every decision I make.
The next step to finding your goal is to compare similarities in your inspiration photos. For example, while trying to design your bedroom, you may find you gravitate to black walls and bold pops of color. Perhaps beach-themed art prints keep popping up, and touches of bohemian influences. When you find those commonalities, make a list of them. Now you have a goal.
Find Your Jumping Off Point
Many people can select larger scale furniture pieces they love without the help of a designer, but things get a bit trickier when trying to finish off the room. This is when clarifying your goal becomes even more important. Often, this clarification comes through a jumping-off point or specific item of inspiration. This may take one of many forms: a photo in a shelter magazine, online visual platforms such as Pinterest, a piece of art you love, or an everyday object such as a scarf or printed dress.
I found the inspiration for this living room in the floral printed pillow on the settee. It encouraged the jewel tone color scheme and set the stage for other accessories choices in the space, such as the pink coffee table tray, aqua candle, and fuchsia lamp. I even selected books to stack based on the color scheme found in the floral pillow.
Selecting a color scheme you find in a piece of fabric, upholstery, or art print can be a safe way to experiment with color as well. You can already see how the colors work together and pull out a few of your favorites to incorporate.
A good rule of thumb is to pull complementary colors from the inspiration piece — “complimentary,” simply means they sit opposite each other on the color wheel. Use one color liberally and sprinkle other little accents of the second color throughout the space.
Keep a Cohesive Color Scheme
It’s very jarring when every room in a home has a different color on the walls or a different feel overall. You don’t need the same color on the walls of each room when trying to design your home like a pro, but the aesthetics of each individual space should have similarities to give the home a cohesive feel. In open-concept spaces, limit your choices to two wall colors to keep things from feeling too busy. Even though there is a lot going on in this open concept design, the same wall color, color scheme, and aesthetic are repeated in each space, connecting the rooms to each other visually.
One exception to this rule is in bedrooms, particularly kids’ rooms. In our last home, the entire place was decorated in jewel tones, except my son’s room, where we incorporated blues and earthier brown tones to give his space a rustic, boyish feel. However, with the exception of private spaces, you want the colors in your home to work well together and keep things flowing visually throughout the house.
Skip Matching Sets
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to decorate your home like a pro is purchasing a matching furniture set. Examples include bedroom furniture sets where the bed, dressers, and nightstands all match, or sofa set with a matching coffee table and two end tables. These matching sets may feel safe and foolproof, but in reality, they create a flat and lifeless look that leaves a lot to be desired from an interior design standpoint.
A better approach is to select pieces that speak to each other in some way, whether in color, texture, similar details, or furniture style. In other words, look for pieces that coordinate, but don’t match exactly. This creates a collected, curated look that doesn’t look like it came out of one furniture catalog.
Start with one piece you love. In a bedroom, I’d select the bed first, and upholstered beds are a great choice if you aren’t sure how to mix and match finishes. That style goes with almost any interior design aesthetic, the upholstery breaks up the lines and finish of whatever nightstands you choose, and bonus, they are super cozy and relaxing! In a living room, going with an upholstered sofa instead of leather gives you the same idea.
Layer in Textures and Patterns
Another tip to designing your home like a pro is to layer in various textures and/or patterns. If you are a neutral lover, this keeps the room from falling flat and feeling one dimensional. Let’s say you love a white bedroom, and you have a foundation of white linen bedding. Layering in a woven textured white cotton throw, a white fur covered bench, and whitewashed wood nightstands can create mild contrast without being visually jarring in a room of neutrals.
For color lovers like myself, you can bring in tons of color through textures and patterns, even if the foundation of the room is neutral. These add visual interest, can tie different sections of the room together with common colors, and give your eyes various resting places around the room.
The final step to finishing your decorated space is accessorizing. So many people get hung up on this step, but there are some simple rules you can follow to get that professionally decorated feel you crave. If you aren’t comfortable with this step, keep the accessories minimal, as with the buffet shown below, but don’t skip them altogether or the room will feel unfinished.
One of my favorite accessorizing tips to design your home like a pro is to use odd numbers. Groupings of three or five are much more visually pleasing than two or four. Another key is to remember scale. Choosing accessories and artwork that are too small will make the room feel too busy or make the items disappear completely. Visual symmetry is also important. Two sides of the space should carry similar visual weight, but they don’t need to be identical.
Other practical tips include the following:
- Use trays on coffee tables or other flat surfaces to group items and add visual interest.
- Vary heights of items so your eye doesn’t get stuck in a certain area.
- Stacks of books can help with this.
- Use a mix of materials — marble, brass objects, mirrored surfaces, metallic objects, and candles all play well together and help give a room that completed look that says it was designed by a pro (even if it wasn’t).
I hope these tips have helped, and if you’re interested in more interior design advice, check out this post on 8 Steps to Decorating a Room.
Also, if you’d like a little extra help in any of these areas, I have custom eDesign and consulting packages available. Check out my Services page here.
Kristen Luhring | eDesigner and Owner | Arie + Co.
Kristen is a total glamist and has been passionate about creative pursuits from an early age! She combines her love of writing, photography, and interior design into a decorating blog, and she loves helping clients find their signature glam style via eDesign.
Learn more about working with Kristen Luhring of Arie + Co. through her eDesign Tribe member profile!
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