Interior design and home décor can be a big source of anxiety for homeowners. Many of our customers work with interior designers to help guide these choices. But there’s a fair amount of preparation that you’ll want to do even if you hire an interior designer. Those efforts can go a long way toward helping you make design and décor decisions yourself.
Knowing the measurements of any room you are trying to decorate is critical. But width and length are not enough—you live in a three-dimensional space, and you need to consider that, too. This is less about the height of the ceilings themselves, and more about the distance below and above a window, for instance. Or how wide and tall the fireplace is, and how deep the mantle. Proportion and scale are key to any design, and you can’t fit furniture, art, and other things into the space if you don’t know the measurements. It’s also a great idea to load these measurements into your phone, and keep a small tape measure with you. That way, if you’re out for brunch and happen to spot a great side table, you can check on the spot for how it would fit into your room.
Fortunately, there are more places than ever to look for inspiration, and you can do it without leaving the house. Some of these resources are the obvious online options: Houzz, Pinterest, Instagram, and other home/design-centric websites. These sites are obvious choices because they work—you can scroll a huge array of design choices and options, which can help you refine what you like and, perhaps even more importantly, what you don’t. Seeing things that you just cannot stand can help guide your vision as much as seeing things you love.
You can also think of memorable places you’ve visited for inspiration. Was there a hotel you stayed in you really liked? Maybe a restaurant or bar that had a great vibe to it. Even a friend’s house that you really liked. You don’t have to copy anyone, but think about the places that stick in your memory (for good reasons) and consider how they were designed and decorated.
After you have the measurements of the room, draw up a floor plan that gives you an overhead view. Even if you’re not working on design for an entire house, it’s great to have a full floor plan of the whole place, but at the very least you need to have a floor plan of the rooms you’re working on. This can be done with paper, pencil, and a ruler, or you can use software to help. Professional designers might use drafting software, like AutoCAD, but there are apps that can help you with this, like Magicplan, Floor Plan Creator, and RoomScan Pro.
Once you have the outline of the space, start experimenting with the placement of furniture, making sure that the footprint of each piece is scaled to match the size of the drawing. In this case, scale is crucial, both to your planning and to what you put in the room. Furniture that is too big for a space is just as much a problem as furniture that is too small for a space. When you’re starting to narrow down your selections, a roll of painter’s tape could be your biggest asset. Use it to mark off the footprint of the furniture you’re considering. That will really help you visualize how it will look in real life.
It can be all too easy to overlook this, but ask yourself: what do I want from this room? Are you a person who regularly hosts social gatherings? Or maybe you’re more of a lounge-and-watch-movies type. Both of those are things that could be done in a living room, and yet the ideal design for the two of them is very far apart. For most people, the answer to that question is probably “a little of both,” but thinking through how you want a room to function for you and your family is an important step in determining a design.
Think about the room’s focal point as well. That is, where in the room is your eye drawn as soon as you walk into it? Most of the time this is an architectural feature of the room: a window, a fireplace, a built-in, etc. But it could just be the largest wall or one that faces the doorway. No matter what the focal point is, start there and work out to the rest of the room as you make designs. It might be the place to hang a mirror or favorite piece of art, or a great place to put a couch that invites people in, makes them want to sit, stay, chat. Whatever it is, the focal point will give people an immediate feeling about the room’s purpose.
Time to put on your green eyeshade (ooooh, maybe a vintage banker’s desk lamp would be just the ticket for your home office) and be real about your budget. Design and décor do not depend on money—after all, money can’t buy a person more time or good taste. But most of us are working with some limit on our budget, so the best advice is to set a budget and stick to it. This will help you decide when to splurge on something you love, knowing that you might have to cut back (or value-engineer, if you will) on another aspect of your design.
No matter what direction you go with your design and home décor, you’re the one who lives there. You want your home and all its rooms to work for you. What you need from the room might change over time, but it should always be a space that serves to make you happy.
Finally, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is mirrors. You can’t go wrong with mirrors, big mirrors, one in every room. Position them to bounce light around the room. Make sure, though, they are not directly across from windows, because that’ll bounce the light right back out of the room.
If you want to get started on your own custom design/build, with or without an interior designer, contact Dotty Brothers at 218-568-6160, or find more information at dottybrothers.com.