So you’ve done all the (boring) dirty work and now you are ready to start your decorating project – congratulations! This is the fun part and doesn’t require so much of a calculated plan as an understanding of what you love and how to execute that in your home.
Yes, this is about decorating fearlessly and having the confidence to know whether something will work or not in your home. I’m not saying there won’t be trial and error – yes, even error – but this is part of the fun and part of the process. Failure is nothing to be afraid of really because in every failure, there is a lesson learned.
You’ve curated all your favourites on your Pinterest boards and you’ve noticed the patterns start to emerge. You’ll want to start choosing your furnishings and accessories that work within the style you know in your heart of hearts you love.
I find it easier to start with looking for “the magic piece” – the item that will start you off in a decorating direction. It was the addition of my colourful abstract paintings that changed the whole look of my dining room.
If you are starting with a blank slate, then the world is your oyster – start going through your Pinterest board (remember the one you created of the looks you adored? Yes, from that one) and consider some of the items you’ve pinned that got your heart beating slightly faster. See a wallpaper that you felt you had to use somewhere? A fabric that you love? A rug that called out to you? A piece of art you can’t live without?
If you aren’t starting with a blank slate, then consider what you already have. The oil painting passed down from your grandmother, the throw cushions from that boutique you bought on impulse, the bolt of fabric that you bought in the sales that’s still waiting for that ‘special project’.
From here, you can start to consider your colour scheme, pulling the colours from the favourite piece you’ve chosen. Check out my post on how to decorate with colour here.
Once some of your choices have been made, don’t start clicking that ‘buy’ button just yet. You really need to step back and start to visualise all the pieces of a puzzle as a whole.
I find it easier to curate some of my choices on a moodboard. I use Photoshop but really any photo-editing software will work. You can see how I did this with my bathroom remodel – I knew the pieces would work together as it was easier to visualise the final look when all the pieces were there in front of me.
This step allows you to take your visions and inspirations from something that’s abstract to something more tangible. All those pieces will create a whole room, the full realisation of your personal look and style.
At the same time, make sure the look is one YOU love. There’s no point in spending your hard-earned cash on things because you saw it on so-and-so’s blog or because it looks good in someone else’s space. It needs to be right for you and for the way you live.
Some more things to bear in mind in no particular order…
Trends: Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking trendy things. Hell, I love a good trend. But what you might consider is only giving way to trends in your accessories and inexpensive pieces. Like in fashion, you buy the best basics you can afford and then you can hit Primark or Top Shop for the trendy stuff to layer along with it. Decorating your home is no different really. I spent more on the bespoke sofa but saved on the cushions, most coming from H&M which have lots of trendy pieces at a bargain price. Zara Home is another one of my favourites.
Mixing Patterns: Mixing patterns is an art form and some are better than others (I still consider myself a novice but I’m getting better). However, to mix patterns, you want to consider two things: Colour and Scale. Ensure the colours used are harmonious and limit your palette to 3 colours (4 if you are feeling confident) and ensure the colours are picked up in other areas of the room. Mixing patterns is easier when you go for one large scale, one small scale, one medium scale as well as a number of plain fabrics to ground the space.
I will sometimes use Photoshop (any photo editing software will do though) to see how patterns relate to one another and if they work together but I will always get samples if I’m able – seeing them in person working together is often a better way to mix than taking risks by buying things that won’t actually work.
Grounding the Space: If you are big on colour and pattern, make sure you include some pieces that will ground the space and allow your eyes to rest. Plain pieces, while safe, need to be a part of your scheme to ensure that there is somewhere your eye can rest. Lots of pattern and colour can be overwhelming so I like to make sure every room scheme has some (unpainted) wood and/or plain fabrics to keep things from getting a bit too crazy.
Taking Risks: Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. Go with that dark paint colour if you really want to try it. You can always paint over a room if you hate it – okay yeah, it’s a bit time consuming but for less than £50, you can have a completely different look you love in less than half a day – I promise it’s worth the risk. Play with scale a bit as well. While the items you choose in your design should be proportionate to the space you have, one oversized piece of art, a large mirror, a larger-than-life pendant or an oversized lamp can mean the difference of a room looking a bit too safe and one that is a bit more fun.
Going a little OTT. Again, not that big of a deal. You can always scale it back if it’s too much but really the more layered a space is, the more interesting it is to be in. You don’t have to pile things on every single surface but don’t be afraid to create vignettes for fear of things looking too cluttered. Again, if it’s too much for you, just edit a little. On the other hand, realise that sometimes a single crazy/quirky piece can take a room from being a bit flat to fabulous. I think this is one of the reasons I do love an animal print – it just adds that bit of ‘crazy’ to a room to keep things from looking way too serious.
Keeping to Budget: By all means, keep an eye on your pennies but I always like to try to set a bit aside to make sure I have at least one ‘splurge’ item in a room. In my bedroom, it was the custom headboard; in our kitchen, it was the slate flooring; in my dressing room, it was the wallpaper; in our lounge, it was the custom velvet Chesterfield. Having one item in a room that you love and always makes you smile will elevate any other bargain buys you may make in your decorating. So don’t feel bad about splurging just a little bit on one larger item if you can swing it.
Finally…When it Goes Wrong: OMG what if after all this planning and contemplation, after you’ve created your moodboard, chosen your colour scheme and executed your ideas, something goes wrong? My first word of advice is to live with things for a little while before completely shelving an idea. Every time I’ve made a change in my home (and there have been a lot of changes), there’s always niggling doubt. Giving whatever the change is a couple of days allows you to give the room a little objectivity. If you still are convinced it’s not right, then you’ve still got options. Paint can be painted over, wallpaper can be removed. Keep your receipts! Things can be returned. If it can’t be returned, there’s always eBay or Craig’s List to recoup some of your costs. And then LEARN from it. Ok, so it wasn’t right – why not? Was it the colour? The scale? The texture? The pattern? Figure out what’s wrong FIRST and then decide what’s going to make it right. Don’t let a mistake happen without taking something from it.
So those are my tips for decorating fearlessly. It might not be exactly what a trained interior designer does, it might not be what other people do but it’s essentially what I try to do to create a home that’s uniquely me. It’s not scary, it’s not impossible – it’s just really about embracing what you love and having the courage to trust your instincts and plan accordingly. And have FUN with it dammit. Enjoy the process of expressing your individuality every step of the way.
Is there anything I’ve missed? Anything you do in your decorating that you think might help others? Anything I’ve mentioned that resonates with you? Do share your comments, I’d love to hear from you!