Choosing Your Starting Point

The thought of starting a decorating project is exciting or scary, depending on your experience, your budget, your taste, or your time.

If you’ve never done any decorating at all, you might feel that you don’t know how or where to start. If this is old hat to you, you might not know where to end. But when all is said and done, you want a new look and want to get started.

There’s very little question about what element to choose last, but there are lots of things you can select first. Because paint is a very inexpensive part of the project and because paint is available in an almost infinite variety of colors, you should hold off buying the paint until you have other things identified.

But just what should you do first? Should you buy a whole roomful of furniture or choose a rug that you love? Have you chosen an elegant wallpaper or luxurious fabric that you want to use? Here’s a mouthful of advice on how can jumpstart a fresh home decorating project:

•    Put a Plan on Paper

As with any business plan, you should draw up a written statement for your project. Identify your style and then select a color scheme around your theme. Will you choose a garden style or a sleek contemporary decorating scheme? Reduce your decorating plans for a room into words. Put it in writing and stick to it.

•    What’s Your Style?

Do you like formal or casual? Do you love French Country style or do you long to live in a cottage style home? Spend some time to identify the style elements you love, and make plans to bring them into your space. Use this theme idea to help you create a color scheme, choose furnishings, and add accessories that support the underlying “mission statement” for the room.

•    Start With What You Have

Not everyone (in fact, very few people) can start with a fresh, empty room and begin decorating. Most of us already have some pieces of furniture or the home has carpeting, tile floors or countertops, or architectural features that you’re not ready to discard. If there are things you like, focus on them and make them important. If there are things you don’t like but cannot change, find ways to camouflage or downplay them in your newly decorated space.

•    Do You Have Decorative Pieces?

If you have a collection of beautiful crystal, silver vases, delicate china, or rustic birdhouses, these can be the start of a decorating plan. Based on the color schemes, decorative themes, or formality of your collection, you can use them to identify the start of your decorating project. The degree of formality, colors, and themes of these items can provide a great starting point for decorating.

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•    Start with Art

Often the art you choose to live with reflects what you like. If you choose beautiful landscape oil paintings, you’ll probably like a traditional or formal interior. But you might want to plan your interior around a more contemporary design. So whether you prefer black and white photographs, abstract art prints, or landscape oil paintings, artwork can be the baseline for other decorating decisions. Consider the themes, colors, and motifs in the artwork that can be repeated throughout the room.

•    Do You Have a Favorite Color?

I have a friend who loves anything blue. Of course, then it is only natural that her home would be predominantly blue, too. If you have a favorite color, use it to guide your color scheme in patterns, on upholstery, and in the accessories. Perhaps you adore chocolate brown, love denim blue, or are wild for black and white. Coordinate your entire home by painting your color on the walls in one room; use it in the fabric in another room, and in the accessories in yet another space.

•    Choose a Fabric With Colors You Like

Possibly the most common way of beginning a decorating project is to select a fabric with colors, a pattern, and interesting texture you like. Use the colors in the fabric to identify colors you’ll use on the walls, on other pieces of furniture, and in accessories you choose.

•    Choose an Interesting Pattern

You can choose a pattern for wallpaper, carpeting, tile. It can be scrolling, geometric, bold or subtle. Use it as the foundation for the other elements in your home and carry the pattern into lamps, fabrics, and accessories.

•    Start With an Area Rug

With a patterned area rug you can keep other elements simple, focusing on the rug instead of fabrics or walls. But if you want to use the rug as a starting point for everything else, pick colors from the pattern and use them throughout the room on walls, fabrics, furniture, and accessories.

You really can start wherever you want and work it all together into a plan. But it really does help if you start with a plan, an inspiration piece, and a color scheme.

Find your sources of inspiration and work your way through your decorating project. You’ll be happy you spent the time to plan.

Organizing The Decorating Project

One thing that can help you stay sane when carrying out a home decorating project is an ordered list of progress. This document will not only have your “to do” list of tasks to accomplish, but also the correct order for completion. Estimated installation dates for the major elements of the room should become a part of the schedule as more elements of the plan are finalized.

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Each project will be different, and each list will have its own set of details, but creating such a list will help avoid removing the newly installed window treatments so the room can be painted, or figuring out how and when to fix the floor tiles.

Ordering a home decorating project is most harmonious when it follows this basic schedule:


The planning process is perhaps the most important and can take the most time. But planning ahead will save time, money, and hassles.

This stage includes measuring your room and thinking about the functional needs as well as style preferences. Next, begin to lay out desired room arrangements, browse product possibilities, and consider fabric, paint, and window treatment options. Keep floor plans, paint chips, and fabric samples with you when you shop. It can help to place these in a decorating file that will organize your ideas.

Remember too that any structural changes and some electrical changes may require a building permit, licensed contractors, and/or building inspections. Inquire with a reputable architect, contractor, local/state government building office, or house inspection department about the requirements, timing, and cost considerations for these factors.

The planning stage also includes making final decisions, finalizing furniture layouts, and creating exact specifications for carpet color, a general idea of paint color and paint finish, window coverings, light fixtures, and other details.

OK so you’ve decided on the furniture, chosen the colors, and placed the orders. Now what?

Once your delivery and installation schedules are set you’ll be able to pencil out a chronological list of details that need to be completed prior to each stage of the project. This is the list that will help avoid missteps and hassles incurred by progressing haphazardly.


• Rip It Out
Empty the room and remove old window coverings, hardware, and light fixtures. Take out old carpet and remove any other items that won’t be staying such as wall paneling, tainted ceilings, and so on.

• Build It Up
Complete all interior construction, such as built-in bookcases, replacing a window or door, etc. This is also the stage to add wall paneling or other special wall treatments other than paint or wallpaper. Install recessed lighting, additional outlets, switches, as well as any receptacles for ceiling fans, and so on. If possible, delay the actual fixture installation until painting is complete.

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• Moldings
Install decorative moldings (crown, base, wall, window, or door).


• Wall Treatments
Once moldings are in place, paint walls and trim. In the alternative, install wallpapers or borders, paint murals, faux paint, or add other finish treatments.

• Flooring
The installation of flooring is sometimes completed before painting , since sometimes floor moldings need to be relocated on the wall to accommodate added depth of new floor coverings. If you decide to install flooring before painting, be sure to adequately protect your new flooring from accidental paint spatters as well as from scratches and dents.

After demolition, construction and finishing the shell move on to the details of your project.


• Lighting

Install the finish light fixtures, ceiling fans, chandeliers, etc. This is best done when wall and ceiling finishes have dried completely to avoid damaging these surfaces.

• Window Treatments
Install blinds or shades nearest the glass first, then work outward to the draperies, valances, and cornices.

• Hardware
Install cabinet handles, door knobs, window hardware, etc. after the paint has dried thoroughly.


• Area Rugs
Bring in and place area rugs.

• Furniture
Set largest furniture pieces in the room. Next, move in the TV, computer equipment, or sound system. Finally, bring in and place smaller tables, lamps, and accent furniture around the room.

• Large Accents
Bring in very large accessories, plants, and sculptures. Place these before moving in smaller accessory pieces.

• Pictures and Accessories
Hang artwork and mirrors in relation to the wall spaces as well as nearby furniture. Fill bookshelves with books and accessories, place urns on the mantle and magazines on the table.

• Touch up Paint
Flooring installation and other work has likely left a few scratches and dings on the walls. Repair any dents and touch up the paint.

• Fine Tune
Make fine tuning adjustments to furniture placement, accessories and artwork after living in the space for a while. But most of all enjoy the completion of your project!

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