How to Tackle Decorating a Room

Written by Kimberly Hughes

First of all, I’m so excited to be guest posting on Graham and Brown’s new blog!  Just as a little introduction, my partner and I bought our nice-but-in-need-of-love Edwardian semi 3 years ago.  Since then, we’ve been working on turning it into a home and I’ve been blogging about our experience of decorating and DIY on Swoon Worthy.

Now as much as I love picking paint colours, wallpaper and choosing accessories, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years, it’s that decorating a room needs to start with a plan.  The less of a plan you have, the more money you’ll waste and more frustration and regrets you’ll have.  I mean, decorating is supposed to be fun right?  So if you are currently facing an empty space or one that needs a complete overhaul, I’ve created this little list of things I’ve learned myself in decorating my own home to help you create a plan and ensure you’re decorating project is a success!

So let’s get started…

1. Assess the room first.   Just like in choosing clothing, you want to draw attention to the positives and play down any negatives.  Not a lot of light?  Big windows?  Beautiful floors? Ugly carpet?  Great architectural features?  No architectural features?  Think about how this effects your design and how you use the space.  Even with some negatives, your room can still look fantastic and a little DIY goes a long way!  Of course, unless you are a confident DIYer, consider calling in the professionals to make major changes to things like flooring, plastering or removing an artex ceiling.
Our kitchen lacked any architectural interest and the ceiling was lower than the rest of the house.  Removing the ceiling and adding cornising around boxed in open shelves added architectural interest to a rather plain space and was more in keeping with the rest of the house.

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

2. Think about how the room will be used.  Do you have a family or have a lot of books?  You will want to consider your storage requirements and how many people could comfortably be seated in the room.
Our living room was pleasant enough but when people came around, we realised we only really had seating for 4 which just wasn’t sufficient.  We replaced a small table with two small low mid-century chairs as well as a small ‘love seat’  - increasing our seating space from 4 to 7! 
Living Room Before

Living Room After
3. Start collecting inspiration to figure out your style.  A great way to do this is to start a Pinterest board which acts like a virtual pin board.  When you start collecting images of rooms you love, take note of any patterns that emerge.  Are you pinning lots of neutral rooms? Seeing a lot of industrial elements?  Perhaps you are drawn to pastels or strong brights?  Those repeat patterns are what makes your heart skip a beat and what you should probably incorporate in your design.  Also take note of the styles you like – whether it’s mid-century modern, traditional, French country or bohemian – because these will play a part in creating a cohesive design.

While I love so many different styles, it was electic, bohemian and glamorous styles I was most drawn to.  So even though I loved industrial style, I knew it wouldn’t work with the aesthetic I really desired.  I had to make a decision which way I wanted to go – not the easiest but once you see your Pinterest inspiration boards, it really does become easier to see what you love the most.  I realised that those rustic elements wouldn’t work in the space before I wasted my money, however much I liked it in other peoples’ homes.

Living Room Ideas on Pinterest
4. Take measurements. There’s no point in eyeing up a large sectional sofa if it won’t fit through the front door.  So make sure you take measurements of the entire space and put those measurements on paper!  Creating a floor plan of your room and the elements you have planned for the space before you begin to buy furniture avoids costly mistakes.

I wanted shelves to display shoes and jewellery in my dressing room but because I took measurements, I passed on lots of bookshelves that just wouldn’t have fit the space or my items perfectly.  It was only when I came across the Ikea Billy bookcases that I knew I’d found the right fit - saving me frustration and money!

Dressing Room

5. Choose your colour scheme. Now that you’ve addressed your room, considered your needs and collected your inspiration, time to get painting right?  Well, no, not yet.  In fact, so many people make the mistake of choosing their paint colours and decorating a room around it (and this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way!).  The better way to do this is to choose your textiles first!  Find fabric, wallpaper or a piece of art that speaks to you – and then pull your colours from this.  Remember to bring your chosen textiles with you when you shop for other things in the room.  Painting should be one of the last things you tackle and it should tie together your whole scheme.

My dining room had originally been painted grey.  It was only after I’d nearly finished decorating and added artwork that I realised a deep blue suited the room better! 

Dining Room

6. Consider your budget and draw up your list of priorities.  There’s no point in looking at an £800 sideboard if your budget for the dining room is £500.  So figure out what is absolutely essential, what you can splurge on and then make cutbacks on the things that aren’t as important or consider looking at eBay or second hand shops for great quality used goods that are close in style to the more expensive newer options.
Our budget for the bedroom had been nearly depleted because a custom headboard was our biggest priority.  DIYing a couple of inexpensive chests of drawers for bedside tables and finding our larger vintage chest of drawers on eBay, it meant we could splurge on the pieces that made the biggest impact.

7. Be patient and take your time!  I always say the best rooms are the ones that are created over time. Rushing out and buying something just because you want the room ‘done’ will never amount to a room you love.  Take time to search out those perfect pieces, the right accessories and the pieces that reflect you.
I hope these tips and my own experience in tackling decorating my home have given you some confidence to tackle your next decorating project with confidence!