With endless design choices it can be ultimately intimidating to stare at the walls of an empty room. Should you wallpaper or paint? Put what color where? Go with curtains or blinds? Dark colors or light? You might be tempted to just go out and start shopping.
But, consider this.
Most of us would never just show up at an airport, get a ticket and take off on vacation. First, we'd sit down, do some research, get advice, consider the possibilities and our budget, choose a destination, and have a PLAN -- all before buying anything. Only then would we purchase our airline tickets, pack a suitcase, and go to the airport.
So it is with decorating. Just showing up at a furniture or paint store, where you will be presented with thousands of samples, is asking for frustration and may lead to a less-than-desirable outcome.
Start slowly. Figure out what you really want. Then what you really need. But before you buy furnishings for your home, you need a little INSPIRATION. Inspiration gives you a vision, a roadmap, for your project.
Here are some of the ways you can search for inspiration for your rooms:
Put Yourself into Model Rooms
Visit some model homes, take home tours, or go to decorator showhouses put on by local charitable organizations. These showhouses feature the work of talented interior designers and showcase their style and sense of design. Quality furniture stores are another possibility, but do not go to buy just yet.
Stand in each room for a few minutes and question yourself. Don't look at individual pieces so much. Consider the basics (walls, floor, ceiling) and ask yourself: “How does this room make me feel? Are the colors too light or too dark for me? Is it too formal? Do I like white carpeting, or would I rather have something darker and more anchored? Is that stripe wallpaper crisp or just annoying? Is the furniture warm, dark, white, or colored? What do I like (or dislike) about it?”
Design Shows on TV
Television is a wonderful resource for home decorators. Try a few shows to see which ones you like. Tape some to view later. Visit websites such as HGTV for project information. Continue to use the "model home" approach by mentally stepping into each room. Do you like it? What are the elements that "work" best? Be critical, but do it in a way that will refine and define your own taste.
Museums, Auctions, Antiques
If you are interested in period or antique furniture, you might want to visit the decorative arts departments in area museums. Other possibilities would be auction houses, antique stores, and antique shows. Again, you may want to hold off buying anything, but finding out about beautiful items will increase your appreciation for them and educate you in the value of such pieces.
You can put yourself into the pictures by reading to define your style and develop your decorating eye. Browse your local or online bookstore or library for books and magazines on homes and decorating. Read them for inspiration. Read decorating books and magazines to expand your knowledge of the design process and learn about some of the materials and choices available to you. Keep your notes and favorite photos in a file or a decorating notebook.
Interior Design Magazines
Teach yourself more about design by looking through magazines. Subscribe to popular favorites such as Traditional Home Magazine, Country Living Magazine, and Better Homes and Gardens or find others that appeal to your sense of style.
If you don't have any design magazines, try visiting your library or go to a large bookstore and see which ones appeal to you. Begin to look critically, then rip out photos you like. Make nototations on the picture. Even if you don't like everything in a photo, you can note what you do like. If the photos are small, tape them on pieces of white or black paper and put them in a notebook, file, or portfolio that you can refer to whenever you're looking for inspiration.
The Power of a Theme
For the home decorator, a theme is one of the easiest ways to decorate. Having a theme will automatically include elements to consider, just as it will automatically exclude the things that won't work. This makes your job easier.
What is a theme? Basically it's the MAIN IDEA of your room. It could be bunnies for a baby room, a car theme for a boy’s room, sunflowers for a laundry room, old world library for a den, pears for a kitchen, sun and stars for a bathroom. The list is endless and your theme can be as colorful and creative as your own personality.
Themes are a great way to jump start creativity and they will often inspire a very personal and fun room. Consider what hobbies, dreams, locations, interests, collections, or design elements could be used as themes in your home.
Use the terrific resources available on the Internet. This website has hundreds of terrific links to online decorating magazines, furniture manufacturers, advice on choosing colors, where to see wallpaper samples, or find the names of fabric stores near you. Keep notes of things you like and print out photos that appeal to you. Keep them in your clippings file.
The starting point for many successful decorating projects is a wonderful piece of fabric. Visit a home fabric center such as Calico Corners and get cuttings of everything that appeals to you. In the store, be sure to stand back from a sample fabric at least ten feet, so you can get an overall sense of the design and color.
Fabric, and wallpaper, can look completely different close up and far away.
Also, if you have a theme in mind, selecting fabrics will be much easier. For example, if you've decided on a "fishing lodge" family room then you don't have to look at the pastels, damask, shiny, or sheer fabrics. But you CAN look at hunter greens, navy blues, plaids, ducks, fish, and textures.
Get samples of any companion fabrics (stripes, checks, plaids, or plains) that may be possibilities for accents and trims. Then, take your samples home, and spread them out. Tape them up on a wall where you can see them everyday for at least a week. What are your favorites? If one or two stand out, buy a length of each and drape it over a chair or wrap it around a pillow. See if you still like it in a week.
This is the file you've started with your magazine clippings (see this article on organizing a decorating file). Add your favorite fabric samples and paint chips taped to some paper or white cardboard. Put in carpet, tile, and wallpaper samples. Keep looking at these items and how they relate to each other, then eliminate what isn't working.
Work with a Designer
An interior designer is a wonderful resource. Use a designer's services for the entire project, or find one who will come to your home and consult with you for an hourly or daily fee. To do some research on this topic, see the helpful resources on the hiring a designer page.
Be sure you prepare ahead of time by writing down questions, and have your decorating file available with the photos of things you like. (If you have a large number of photos, either sort them, or just pick out the ones that apply to your current project.) Give the designer copies of your blueprints or room floorplan so they can give you a sketch of potential furniture arrangements. Ask questions, listen and make notes.
In the meantime start your file of clippings. Read books and magazines and enjoy the process. Your decorating will begin to take shape so the things you purchase will be "just right".
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