Design Lesson

Industry insiders share tips for decorating a room from scratch

Industry insiders share tips for decorating a room from scratch

Image: Ashley Cap | Story: Living Room Design: Graphic Elegance

Design Lesson

Industry insiders share tips for decorating a room from scratch

Whether you view a blank slate as a blessing or a curse, here's how to painlessly create a space that encompasses all that you love. 

Decorating a room from scratch: On the one hand, it may feel like a dream come true (what better way to create your dream space than starting with an empty canvas?), but on the other hand, the prospect may feel overwhelming. If the idea of furnishing, accessorizing and styling a completely blank space has left you with all sorts of questions, read on.
 
We checked in with two experts — Tiffany Pratt, interior designer and host of HGTV's Home to Win and Buy It, Fix It, Sell It and designer Holly Baker, host of Vacation Rental Potential — to get their tried-and-true advice to help you decorate the room of your design dreams.
 
Tip 1: Find inspiration.
“I always tell people to jump on Pinterest and create a board of things that they love,” says Pratt. “I instruct people to pin things that make them happy and that they love." Don't limit yourself to only interior-based images — Pratt advises pulling pictures of vacations, colours, art and even food you like. "Getting to know the true heart of a client and what inspires them is the first step in creating a world for them that will feel truly theirs.” Instagram is another great source for inspiration. Baker suggests searching and following hashtags for endless amounts of ideas. "Not only are the images often brand new (not the same recycled images that tend to circulate on other design sites), but when they are posted directly from a user, I enjoy searching their profile to see what else they have shared," she says. "It’s also easy to ask directly where things you may like in the space came from.”
 
Tip 2: Start with a plan.
A blank slate can be both exciting and intimidating, so you need to have a plan. “The first thing I do is decide how the space is going to be used and then come up with a rough layout in my head or on paper.” She suggests asking yourself a series of questions, like: Is there a need for traffic flow? What is the main use of the space? Is there a focal point that should be featured? “From there, I decide on the type of style that I want to go for and make a short shopping list for critical pieces,” she says.
 
Tip 3: Let go of your design plan and focus on how you want the room to feel.
When faced with a blank room, you may find yourself trying to decide on the style you’d like to achieve, but both Pratt and Baker caution against this. “I believe in keeping a good design tension between elements throughout a space, but I don't support deciding on one style ahead of time,” says Tiffany. “It's all about feelings! It doesn’t need to make sense or be decided on." Some of the best designs can be unplanned—it's the beloved furnishings and final touches that make the rooms work.  
 
Tip 4: Take colour very seriously. 
If you're familiar with Pratt and her work, it's no surprise the designer believes colour is deeply personal and deserves some serious attention. “The home needs to reflect the person," says Pratt, "and the colour palette needs to be carefully chosen so that this scheme can be announced through the home in a language that feels cozy to the homeowners.” 
 
Tip 5: Be smart with your purchases.
Decorating a room from scratch doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour. By reimagining items you already own and searching for unique second-hand pieces, you can inject life into your space without spending too much. “Some of my favourite transformations are working with existing pieces in a room and either incorporating them in a new way or giving them a little makeover,” says Baker. Kijiji is a great place for cool finds on a budget, and a go-to source for Pratt, who loves shopping at places other than the typical big-box stores. "Magical things will present themselves at prices and in styles you never expected,” says Pratt.
 
Tip 6: Take your time to finish it.
Remember that the evolution of your room won't happen overnight, so take time to fill it with items you truly love. “Good design is something that happens in discovery and trial and error,” says Pratt. “The whole process can be beautiful and unfold slowly as you grow and tastes change, meld and develop."
 
Tip 7: Don't get caught up with what you see on showroom floors. 
You don't want your home to look like page 5 of the West Elm catalogue (even though we're sure it's stunning!). "Think about how to make your space your own," says Pratt, "and only buy elements in each store so that you can make your home look like an expression of you." If you're feeling overwhelmed, go back to your inspiration board to get back on track. "Think of where you've been and what you've seen in your life that you have found spectacular," says Pratt. "Think of fun ways to bring that magic into your everyday life."
 

 

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Design Lesson

Industry insiders share tips for decorating a room from scratch