How To Decorate (For Dummies)

Most clients come to me stumped on how to finish their space. Occasionally, I’ll get clients who don’t even know where to begin. I thought it might be kind of interesting to really breakdown and simplify my process to share with you all.

I think design is intimidating because, much like art, there really isn’t a right or a wrong. It’s subjective, but also takes a bit of instinct and vision which can seem risky. For designers, the process is exhilarating because that vision is innate and over time, supported by experience and an education in Interior Design (hopefully).

Construction is a whole different animal, so for the sake of simplifying, let’s stick to furniture. And keep in mind, this is a totally watered down approach to keep it concise and applicable to as many as possible. I usually spend quite a bit of time talking to clients about their goals and needs for their space. I also measure each room to make sure selections will be the appropriate size.

Where to start?

Well, I almost always start with a rug selection. I find I gravitate towards patterned vintage rugs. Pulling a color palette and coordinating patterns from a rug works well to develop a room scheme. As a result, the rug being the basis of color and pattern in a room, grounds the space. Seeing as most of my clients are young families and/or have pets, a medium to darker toned rug usually fits their needs.

For my thoughts on wool rugs in general, be sure to read my love letter to vintage rugs.

The other major investment in your space would be your upholstered items. Whether that is a sofa, headboard or accent chair, I usually look to sourcing these new from reliable manufacturers. You can always reupholster thrifted or antique pieces, but this will generally cost you roughly the same as buying a new piece, if not more. So unless this particular piece was a killer deal or it holds sentimental value, I look for ‘new’ suggestion.

There are some pretty important things to consider when you start selecting upholstery pieces. A more sophisticated, timeless space might warrant a neutral upholstery choice. This has the added appeal of lending itself to working into future spaces more easily too. However, a colorful selection makes a very cool impact! So be sure to really pay attention to the spaces you’re most drawn to when you’re perusing Pinterest. These larger, upholstered pieces will take up the biggest amount of visual space on your ‘canvas’.

Designers often refer to credenzas, coffee tables, dressers and buffets as ‘casegoods’. When I am selecting casegoods, functionality plays a really big role. How is this piece being used, and who is using it? After that, there is quite a bit of intention wrapped into how I want to approach mixing styles. I think the best way to create a timeless space is to push yourself to not stick to one time period in terms of style. 

In most cases, I like to mix materials and styles within a vignette. Cohesion is created by repeating finishes on opposite sides of the space for balance. There are always exceptions obviously, but this is a very simplified formula.

Are you still with me? Good, because this last bit is important.

The last layer is SO crucial to creating a desirable space. There is a quote that often comes to mind for me – ‘the devil is in the details’. You can pick out all of the big pieces and still have a room fall flat. It’s the styling that really brings it home. Your accessories, side tables, art – all of that really speaks to your personality and the story you want to tell. It comes as no surprise that I think this is an area where thrifting can really add value. I think second-hand or antique pieces offer so much character and authenticity.

Ironically, this is often where people stop short. Design is truly meant to be fun, so don’t take it too seriously and don’t think too much about it! And if you need help, obviously I am just a phone call away. 🙂


Don’t forget you can check out my curated finds and shop recent rooms on my Like to Know it page here.



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