I think if there’s one thing I hear a lot in terms of how I decorate my home, it’s that I’m “brave” to make such bold choices – in terms of colour, in terms of patterns or in terms of finishes. Well, I’ll be honest – I don’t really think it’s bravery at all. I mean, people who face their worst fears and decide to conquer them – THAT’S brave – this is just decorating. It’s just a learned confidence and I promise it’s nothing to do with being brave.
However, I do know a lot of people who are just paralysed with fear when it comes to getting it wrong. They think whatever choices they make for their décor is somehow permanent and they will then have to live with whatever their perceived mistakes are for the rest of their lives. And so they end up doing nothing and living with rooms that never really work. Well, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Okay, yes, it might be costly to impulse buy that huge sprawling L-shaped sofa when you live in a little two up two down Victorian when you can’t fit it through the doorway. But with a little bit of knowledge, you will learn to make better choices, to listen to your gut, to understand your style and realise that nothing is really so permanent that it can’t be ‘undone’ somehow.
Here’s the thing – I didn’t start off with the intention of making pretty bold choices in my interior. I just realised in time that I wanted my rooms to have a bit of boldness and that I liked colour and that I loved the glint of brass and a mix of patterns in a space. But this house has been my project for the last 4 years and in that time, I’ve gained more confidence in decorating the space around what I love and not around what I thought other people might like or appreciate.
I mean, it’s Wayne and I that live here and have to live with my choices, no one else. And yes, you can argue that I put my house on the internet for all to see but it’s more a happy accident that some of you crazy peeps seem to think it’s okay too. I suppose if everyone hated it, I might reconsider some of my choices but even then, I still decorate for us and not necessarily for anyone’s approval.
So how do you gain confidence in your decorating?
You must – I repeat YOU MUST – start with some sort of a plan. I won’t even consider tackling decorating choices until I have a pretty good feel for the following things:
1. How much light does a room get and what quality of light does it get?
This will effect the colour choices you make. If you live in the North like I do, the light is very blue which will make a room look cooler. If you live in California in the good ol’ US of A, the light is much more yellow and warm. If you live in Norway, the light is quite crisp and white. If your room is south-facing, a bright white will look dirty so stick with warmer colours. If your room doesn’t get much light, why not embrace that and go dark? Work with the light you have instead of trying to fight it.
2. What are the dimensions of the room including doors, windows, wall heights and where any electrical outlets/permanent light fixtures are?
This is purely practical but entirely necessary. There’s no point in putting a console table on a wall with a plan to have lamp bases flanking each side if there is no where to plug them in. There’s no point in considering that king size bed if you won’t then have enough space to also include your vintage chest of drawers. Measure out where each item will go in a space and then keep those measurements with you any time you are shopping. It will save a world of hurt. I’ve used Floorplanner in the past but if you do a search for floor plan software, you’ll find loads of free software and apps that could work for you. Saying that, there’s nothing at all wrong with just sketching something out on paper the old fashioned way.
3. What’s the room going to be used for? What functions does the room need to serve?
You will probably need a television in your living room if that’s what you like to do in the evenings. Have kids? You’re going to need storage, end of. If you like to cook and entertain, make sure your kitchen allows you to do so effortlessly by keeping items you use often within easy reach. While it’s great for things to be pretty, you aren’t going to be living in a magazine. Things will get messy, life will be lived. Plan for life to happen in the room you’re decorating.
4. How many people will be likely to use the room at any given time?
If you always host Christmas dinner and like to have friends around for cocktails then make sure you have enough seating (don’t forget that benches and pouffes can be used for seating in a pinch). I read somewhere that you should have as much seating in your living room as you have in your dining room. So if your dining table seats 6, then be sure to have seating for 6 in the living room. It’s not a hard and fast rule but it’s not a bad way of looking at it.
5. What’s my budget?
Well, duh. No point in looking at that £3000 sideboard if that’s your entire budget blown on a single piece. Be sure to consider not just furnishings but things like paint, flooring, lighting and any tradesman you may have to pay too. And then keep a small amount back for finishing a space with things like cushions, window treatments and accessories which is what makes a room look truly ‘finished’.
6. What’s my style?
This is the fun part. Understanding what makes your pulse race that little bit faster, knowing what you want and are happy with living with. Yes, I can totally appreciate Scandinavian minimalism (I know, right?!) and yes, I can really love a neutrally decorated space (I swear it’s true) but for me, the rooms that really speak to me are the ones that are a little more risk-taking.
Have a look at your Pinterest boards. In fact, create a separate board for any particular room you are tackling and then ONLY pin the things you absolutely ADORE (it’s fine to love that French Country kitchen but if you can’t see yourself living with it every day, don’t pin it on that board). I promise you’ll start to see patterns emerging – are there colours that come up again and again? Is there a certain style you are naturally drawn to? Is there a designer who’s work you adore? Is there a design era you keep pinning over and over? Note your style start to emerge because this is going to make it easier to make those all important decorating choices.
So now that you have the basics for tackling your decorating project, I want you to do something for me.
You are going to breathe deeply and you are going to repeat these two mantras:
Now practice saying those things to yourself repeatedly and by the time they are burned into your brain, we’ll continue with Part II coming soon.