As an avid reader of your blog, here is a burning question I could not find.
We just bought a brand new built home. Where do I start? Window coverings? Area rugs? Furniture? The entire home has hardwood floors.
Is there some sort of decorating plan or template I can follow?
Happily, we are planning to get some new up-to-date furniture. So, much will need to be replaced.
Thanks, in advance,
hehehe… It’s not easy, is it?
Sorry for the sardonic chuckle, but people ask me all of the time for decorating advice. So often, I get long-winded descriptions which cause my brain to short-circuit.
Designers are visual people; if we can’t see what you are talking about, it is impossible to give advice, much less come up with a decorating plan.
Here are a couple of posts that do discuss the importance of having a plan
But, what you need is a 12-step program.
Oops. No, not that kind of 12-step program. I meant a 12-step DECORATING PLAN– A plan that will ensure that you get the best results possible.
While there’s a lot of great information in those two posts, it’s not everything. So here is where I’m breaking down in sequence, everything you need to do so that you will be less likely to end up with a scary mishmash.
The first three steps need to be done in close connection with each other. And this is because much of it is interrelated.
Decorating Plan Step #1
Assessment of your home.
This is an exceedingly important step because the style of your home, where it’s located, and the other homes in your area might dictate some of your design decisions.
But, it is also the time to look at the “givens.”
Givens are things that don’t move like tile, floors, mouldings (or lack of). And it might go as far as the layout of the rooms and, of course, kitchens and baths.
However, some of this ties into the budget. If money is tight, then you will need to look for creative ways to make your new home’s decor work for the look you want. You might want to check out Decorating Advice for Folks Who Are Plumb Broke.
If money is more plentiful, then part of the assessment will be deciding if things that aren’t working need to be changed somehow.
Givens may also apply to things that you MUST work with, such as your grandmother’s secretary.
This brings us to:
Decorating Plan Step #2 –
Discovery of your personal decorating style.
Personal decorating style is a vast topic with lots of sub-topics. It is also related to the style of your home– Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If you are lucky, you will already have a strong sense of your unique style. But, if not, now is the time to nail that one down.
If you need help, I recommend going to Pinterest and creating a secret board where you can pin away everything you love. Make notes in the place provided for a description. If you need to share this board with anyone, there is a place that you can provide for that.
This is a vital step because you can’t bake a cake if you don’t know what kind of cake you’d like to bake. One doesn’t just start throwing ingredients together and hope for the best. Right? Only the most experienced and talented chef could attempt something like that.
I have a lot of pins and boards on Pinterest. Please follow me and feel free to pin your private and group boards anything you like from my boards. You can also pin anything on this website that has a pin it button. (unless it’s clearly ugly and your board is to be used as a reminder of what NOT to do.)
But another way to find one’s style is to look at the work of other designers. I have done many, many posts featuring many talented interior designers. This links to some of them.
Decorating Plan Step #3
Planning for your living needs
There are dozens of things you might need to incorporate into your design plan, but here are a few to get you thinking.
- If money is tight, are there certain rooms that must be more or less finished?
- Do you entertain a lot? Inside? Outside?
- Do you need a place for the kids to play? I know a family whose two boys share a room, and another bedroom is their play area. Or maybe you need a designated homework area where you can keep an eye on them. (said an experienced mother who did not have this!) ;]
- Is the home working as laid out? Sometimes it actually makes sense to switch a designated space. For example, maybe you don’t need the formal dining room, but you need a home office far more, or a den or even a guest room. Or the area that’s supposed to be the dining room would work better as the family room and vice-versa.
- Is something missing? For instance, a coat closet, broom closet, or mud/laundry room? How/where will you create the necessary space(s).
Decorating Plan Step #4
Figuring out your budget
Prospective clients hate being asked this question. But it’s imperative to take a good, long realistic look at this number. And if you have not yet purchased a home, not to get yourself mortgaged up the arse to a point where you can’t afford so much as a new table lamp.
There’s nothing worse than a big expensive home with crappy, cheap furniture.
How to figure out your budget?
A very good way is to go to a website like Wayfair that has pretty much everything except custom window treatments. Go pretend shopping. Put everything you want in your cart. Allow for shipping AND delivery if it doesn’t show up right away.
What if it’s still an insurmountable number?
- Decide your priorities.
- Start with the basics: sofa, two club chairs, end tables, lamps. Now, you can use the room. Hint: Always take care of the big things first. It’s tempting to do the little things, but that’s a trap that might not work out so well for the long term.
Decorating Plan Step #5 – Color preferences
This is not choosing wall colors. Ideally, that actually happens much further through the process. Although, you can certainly be thinking about them. But through your inspiration photos, you should begin to see a pattern of colors you like.
Carry at least one color through all of the rooms on the main living level.
If you need help with colors and color palettes, dozens of them are in the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.
This is a two-part guide with nearly 500 pages and a game-changer. (there are dozens of glowing reviews on the page that explains the paint palettes)
***I’m going to take a break for a sec. If everyone who’s planning on working with an interior designer or decorator did just these first five steps, you would be able to:
one) figure out if the designer is right for you. (and vice versa)
Two) make the entire design process easier and more fulfilling for both of you.
Decorating Plan Step #6
This is planning for the pieces that will be going in your rooms and working out the flow. Head over here for more info about how to go about doing this.
Now, and only now, are you ready to get into the thick of it.
Decorating Plan Step #7
Jumping off point. We have talked about this numerous times. It could be:
- a room you saw that you’re using for inspiration and direction.
- furniture that you’ve inherited
Speaking of furniture that you’ve inherited. This is my philosophy. Keep what you truly love. If you don’t love it, give it to charity or sell it. It’s okay. Granny quite possibly did the same thing with her grandmother’s furniture that she didn’t want.
OR, is there a way to use this piece of furniture to make something that you DO love? Could it be painted, perhaps? Or how about a slipcover or new upholstery. There’s an entire post about this.
Okay. Finally. We’re ready, or rather, *you’re* ready to have some fun!
Do you see that you must do these seven steps in your decorating plan BEFORE you even step foot inside a furniture store? Sure, you can look for ideas, but you are not to purchase so much as a napkin ring without a solid plan.
Decorating Plan Step #8
Sourcing the furniture selections for your new home and keeping in mind these important points.
- Where to shop. Well, that’s what the hot sales pages are all about! And the widgets in the posts with home furnishings related to the point of the post. Those are scattered throughout this blog starting in about May 2017.
- I very much recommend that you get a copy of Laurel’s Rolodex with over 500 sources. Some are only to-the-trade. But all except the very highest end products can be purchased somewhere. If you are a designer, you absolutely NEED this guide. Don’t believe me; then you can read the reviews on the page.
- The scale of each item, in relation to the room and each other. For instance. Are the heights of the chairs and sofa within an inch or two of each other? Certain chairs can be taller than a sofa if they are far into the room or such as wing chairs flanking a fireplace wall.
- Are the heights of the tables good for the size of the furniture and scale of the room? Double, no, wait. Triple check all measurements.
- Can the furniture fit through the door? Don’t laugh. It happens.
- If it’s going up or downstairs, you need to be exceedingly mindful of the piece that can make it up or down. The same goes for any very tight corners. If necessary, is there another way to access the space? Some companies will take furniture apart and then install, once it’s in place.
- Sourcing also includes things like window treatments and rugs. But, if money is a problem, I would stick with the basic things that you need.
- In addition, sourcing includes a selection of wall colors and/or wallpaper.
***SUPER IMPORTANT*** especially when purchasing online. Try to get samples of the fabric and/or finishes. If that’s not possible, then try contacting the manufacturer. They usually have customer service reps who will be happy to assist you with this kind of information. While they may not have that information readily available, a good rep will get back to you within a day or two.
However, some companies like Serena and Lily, for instance, are dead-on with the colors. I’ve ordered from them numerous times and every time I got exactly what I expected. Oh, if only everyone had photography that good. BTW, just a coincidence, but all S&L lighting is on sale this weekend.
Decorating Plan Step #9
Making a mood board with all of your furniture, window treatments, floor covering, fabric swatches, paint colors.
Oh, stop kvetching that you don’t know how to do this. If you have a power-point or keynote, you can easily make a mood board.
- Save all of your images in a folder on your desktop.
- Open up the images one at a time.
- Right-click the image select “copy.”
- Then, go to your board hit right-click “paste” onto your keynote or power-point board.
- Drag the corners of the image to resize, and then drag your image to where you want it on the page.
(hint: If you’re ever struggling with anything technical, 99 times out of 100, there is a youtube video explaining exactly how to do what you want to do. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten myself out of a nasty pickle and was saved by some good soul on youtube!)
Back to your mood board.
Do this with every image. It’s fun, and you’ll feel so great when you’ve finished, and the room looks amazing. If it doesn’t look amazing, assess what might be missing.
You can also make another secret board on Pinterest and put all of the final images there. It’s not quite as good, but almost.
Here is when it would be helpful to consult with a professional pair of eyes. I guarantee you that a good professional will immediately see the problem and give you the best options to correct it.
Most designers who do this service work with a two-hour minimum. And while it’s best to work with a local designer, it is possible to do long-distance with an experienced decorator.
Note: If you are a decorator and provide E-design services, you can say so in the comments, and then please link to your design services page where it asks for your URL to your website. Note. Please do not link to houzz. All links to houzz from this website will be deleted. If you don’t already know, the link explains why.
Decorating Step #10
Edit. Ruthlessly. If in doubt, leave it out.
- This might mean more trips to stores either online or in person.
- Please note that measurements both in stores and online can be incorrect. If in doubt and the measurements are tight, please call the manufacturer or vendor.
- It might mean reselecting. (or waiting) Welcome to my (old) world.
- Revise the mood board that you’ve saved.
Are you still struggling with some areas? Then, contact a designer again. Quite frankly, I think you should be working with one the entire time, but I realize that sometimes it’s impossible to find the right one. It is better to do it yourself than torture yourself with someone who is inflicting pain because it’s not a good fit. (read here to find out what can happen if it’s not a good fit)
How are you doing? Are you THRILLED with everything you’ve selected? In days past, I would hold all of my client’s samples up and stare at them for days. If something doesn’t feel quite right, it usually isn’t.
Ahh… that’s better. Now you’re coming into the home stretch. However, the home stretch could last for weeks, if not months (and months)
Decorating Step #11
- Start with the items with the longest lead times, such as custom pieces or any out-of-stock items. Please be careful with the latter. Try to find out WHEN the item(s) is expected to be back in stock. If they have no idea, I recommend reselecting; unless you’re the gambling type or MUST have that piece. Still, it’s risky.
Be relentlessly OCD. Pretend that the person on the other end of the order line just arrived from a planet in a distant galaxy. Never assume anything.
SPELL EVERYTHING OUT WITH TECHNICOLOR ACCURACY.
- And include swatches or a clear photo of the material on any custom orders.
- Make sure that workrooms and manufacturers understand which way the fabric is to go.
- Send anything delicate for upholstery out to be knit-backed for dozens of truly nightmarish things that can go wrong with fabrics, click here. (most of these happened to me!
Decorating Step #12
- Arrange for deliveries.
- Wait for the truck that never shows up after you spent three hours rearranging your schedule.
- Call the delivery company to find out what happened.
- Get the spiel that “the truck broke down.” (that’s code for the guys decided to take off early to go to the tavern)
- Hope to heaven that nothing comes in damaged; because if it is, you’re going to have to work to prove that it happened and happened before it landed in your home.Good luck with all of that!
Now, coinky-dinky, I got this email THIS afternoon and am including it because it’s related. My answers are embedded in the email– like this these two sentences.
I love your blog, taste, and intelligence – and I am one of the pickiest people on earth.
Good, you should be, and thank you! :]
I’m writing with a blog suggestion:
There is a recent surge in online design services, and it is hard to know if they can truly help. Or, if they can, which kind of service to choose.
I have a crazy/busy life; two young kids and a senior-level, demanding job. And, when we recently moved to a new, larger apartment, I became overwhelmed by the process of trying to decorate it.
We have a tight budget but expensive taste, and there is way too much choice in the market; plus, when I would order things that look nice online, they often arrive looking very different…
And, making returns amidst a crazy work/kid schedule puts me over the edge.
Although I don’t really have much of a budget for a designer, I know it is necessary if I was ever to have a living room.
Hold on a sec. What makes you think that?
And, as I don’t know where to find an affordable designer, I turned to an online service that matches the user with one.
They matched me with a designer about six weeks ago but didn’t love her online portfolio.
Everything is sleek, contemporary, and grey with a pop of color.
I know that’s the style right now, but it’s not my style. Her look just doesn’t resonate with me. To put it in perspective, I love almost everything you post (but I hadn’t discovered your blog yet).
The service (Homepolish, if you must know!)
No, I don’t need to know, but thank you for telling me, just the same. :]
They insisted that she’d be right for me, so I agreed to it and paid a large up-front fee, and we got started.
Insisted, eh? You know, I took a look at their website. They have a few “different” styles, and ya know what? They ALL look the freakin’ same. This reminds me of Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, no fries, chips, no Coke, Pepsi. (yes, it links to one of the old skits with John Belushi! HILARIOUS!)
Now, weeks later, it has been so challenging. She is super nice and has kids too, but I don’t like most of the items she suggests; I’ve shared a detailed Pinterest board with her, so my style is clear – it seems to me she should understand it.
We’ve met/shopped several times, but it doesn’t seem to help – she had picked out only two sofas to try. I didn’t like either, as they were boxy/modern slope arm, and she’s now recommended only a couple more, but they continue to look like those other two (I prefer curvy lines and had suggested English Roll Arm, but she hasn’t shown me a single one).
You are speaking French, and she is speaking Mandarin. She only knows what she knows.
I think she is frustrated by my limited budget but isn’t her job to help me source the right thing within that budget?
Yes, it should be, as long as the budget is realistic. Apparently, the furniture you seek, stylistically, is not within her capabilities at this time.
And she keeps suggesting things from Restoration Hardware (her favorite), Crate and Barrel, and West Elm. But, the very reason I reached out to Homepolish is that I had already looked at those places and not found what I wanted, so the presumption is that I need designer expertise and resources.
The process has also been ad-hoc and incohesive – I would have thought there would be some sort of structure and plan, but beyond the budget, we laid out upfront, there isn’t one. So now Homepolish has sent me an email.
To ask why I haven’t yet bought more than a pair of RH blackout curtains (which were so heavy they broke the brackets on my kids’ curtain rods), as they can sense something ain’t right.
noshitshirley! But the fact that they are emailing to find out why you haven’t bought anything else is disturbing to me. IF they contact, it should be to inquire, “how’s everything going with Pinky Beige? Isn’t she fabulous?” And then you can tell them the truth instead of being put in an awkward position.
Sorry to ramble. It’s just that I’m dying for my home to be a home instead of a storage unit, and I have so little time in the day-to-day to deal with this. I’m not sure if this problem is the concept of an online service in general or specifically the Homepolish-recommended designer…but regardless, it made me crystallize the problem so many of us face that you might be able to help us with –
I guess the suggestion for the blog post is this: how can someone on some kind of a budget (doesn’t have to be crazy tight) best get design help through an online service in each of two ways:
1) using the services that match you to a live, in-person designer who can go to your home (the post could outline what to think about, what to ask for, how to ensure you get a good match, and what to expect in the process)
There is always going to be an extra charge for this. Any time you involve an extra party, you pay.
2) using the online design services that don’t go into your actual home but rather use visualization software to help you model your space with different designer-selected furniture and decor (again, the post could explain what to look for, what to ask, and how to optimize the process), and maybe also 3) any other kind of online interior design service that I’m not thinking of.
Does this make sense?
Discovering your blog was a breath of fresh air for me, as your taste is lovely and your writing is so fresh, fun, and smart, and the topics (and sale posts) are so relevant. Thank you for doing it!
Thanks so much, Dorothy. I very much appreciate your kind words!
But, here’s how I feel about these companies who are providing e-design to the masses.
If one’s idea of a gourmet meal is Chef Boyardee Ravioli out of a can, they will LOVE online design. Or rather E-design, it’s usually called.
However, there are two kinds of e-design.
Through a company like the one above, which apparently means:
cheeseburger-no fries-chips-no coke-Pepsi-design
How it works is they have a limited number of furnishings, and now that they’ve assessed that you have “cheeseburger taste” (not!), they simply plug in the minute variations based on your questionnaire.
If you dare say that you want a grilled cheese, then you will get a call inquiring why you’re not cooperating, it appears.
To be clear, some of my colleagues do E-design, and it is far more personal. Plus, you aren’t giving a cut to a big company.
Most of these designers are very talented, and their selection of home furnishings far vaster.
What I hear from you the most is a lack of time. And in your case, it’s true. Working full-time and then coming home to take care of little kids must leave you exhausted.
But look at all of the expense, time, and energy you have expended on something that’s been a huge disappointment?
However, please don’t be down on yourself. I’m the girl who spent $7,000 building a custom shop several years, and the entire thing went down the drain. We learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. Somebody else said that, but it’s true.
So, I’m not going to suggest that you do everything yourself. However, I think you could use a designer as a consultant and follow the 12 step interior design plan.
Phew. This is officially the longest post ever. So, no pics today. But I think this is a post to refer back to repeatedly, and it’s one that others will like to see. Therefore, if you have Pinterest boards, please pin the graphic below to one of them.
And also, I never mention this (but should), but if you like the post, then please share it on Facebook and Twitter (links below the post)