interior design / tips

Decorating a Room from Scratch


Decorating a Space from Scratch


Last week I put a call out on Instagram requesting “design dilemmas” or concepts that give you trouble when it comes to decorating.  Angela was one of the first people to weigh in.

“Decorating a completely empty room… Where to start, what goes where? My biggest problem…”

To me, this is actually a decorating dream – starting completely fresh with no baggage (existing furniture or accessories that “have” to be incorporated)….. However, I can totally see how this might be TOO much freedom.  While a totally empty room is exciting, it also means LOTS of decisions have to be made.   I tried to get inside Angela’s brain (and anyone else experiencing this block) to come up with a few thoughts that I think they are probably having…

I have somewhat of a budget to spend on a brand new room, but I don’t want to blow it.  What if I buy the wrong color sofa or the wrong size area rug?? How can I be confident in my purchases?

How do I know that I’ll still like the room in 3-5 years?  How do I know that I’m not going with trendy pieces that will turn into the chevron of today?

I have so many ideas swirling in my head.  How do I choose one and go with it?

I thought long and hard about this process of starting from scratch and tried to gather some resources to help as well as break down my own process.  Here we go.

1. decide on your budget.

This should always come first.  Don’t even think about scouring Pinterest or flipping through design magazines if you don’t have an idea of what you feel comfortable spending.  Everyone has a different budget, and it’s important to do a little research about what the industry “average” is for the type of room you are decorating.  Again, this number most likely won’t be the exact number that you want to spend, but it will give you a realistic idea of what things cost.

Below I put together a graphic showing on average what a “low”, “middle” and “high” living room might cost.  The low pieces are sourced from IKEA and Target type retailers (very budget friendly).  The middle budget pieces come from West Elm, Pottery Barn and other middle of the range retailers, and the high would be mostly custom pieces as well as some high end vintage.  Keep in mind that the middle and especially the high end budget can extend much higher (or possibly a bit lower) than what the graphic shows.

How Much Does It Cost to Furnish a Room

2. consider how the space will be used.

Designing a Space from Scratch


Once you have established your budget, you can move on to how the space will be used.  Who lives in the space?  How often will it be used?  How do you want the room to feel?  Will people watch tv in the room?  Formal or casual or somewhere in between?  These questions are really helpful when deciding on which items to splurge on and which items to save.  Ex: If the space is a cozy reading nook, it might make sense to splurge on the accent chair used for reading…

3. create the Floor plan.

You don’t have to use a fancy program like AutoCad or Sketchup or anything else complicated to create a floor plan.  You also don’t have to be a professional to create a floor plan.  I HIGHLY recommend using something (a free, easy  program) to plug in your room dimensions, windows, doors, etc. so that you can play around with furniture dimensions.  I think one of the biggest mistakes made when decorating a room is choosing furniture pieces that are too large/ small or not proportionate to each other.  This can easily be avoided by creating a floor plan.

Free & Easy to Use Floor Planners:

Room Sketcher

Floor Planner


Things to consider when creating a floor plan:

  • Allow three feet of space for walkways.

  • Coffee tables should be placed 16 – 20 inches from seating.

  • Make sure that furniture pieces are similar in scale so that the room feels proportionate.

  • Keep the height difference between the sofa arm height and end table height under 2 inches.
  • Typically the front legs of all furniture pieces should be placed on the area rug.  For a more formal look, choose an area rug that allows all furniture legs on the area rug.
  • Allow approximately 12 – 18 inches between the edge of the area rug and the wall.

4. Gather inspiration. analyze. repeat.

Designing a space from scratch


After you have the logistics of the room down (budget, purpose, floor plan) you can move on to the inspiration process.  Create an Pinterest board dedicated to each room (not one board for the whole house), pin images intentionally and comment on each image with what you love and don’t love about the space.  After you have around 50 images pinned, you will start to notice trends.  There will be specific items/looks that you repeatedly pin and from there you can name the style of the room you hope to achieve.


Decorating a Room from Scratch


After you have the style and color palette established, you can move on to sourcing the pieces for the space.  Whether I plan for this to happen or not, I always start a space with ONE piece.  That piece can be a wallpaper pattern, an accent chair, a sofa, a rug, a color, anything.  Anything that you find and fall in love with.  It really helps to create a cohesive space when you reference each piece that you source to that first inspiration item.


Decorating a Room from Scratch


With each piece you choose, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does this piece compliment the original inspiration item/piece/element?
  • Does this piece compliment the overall style of the space?
  • Is this piece functional? If not, does it add personality to the space?

Asking yourself questions like this about each piece that you source helps to keep yourself in check.  It helps to keep each decision intentional – that’s the key for being happy with a space you create.  If you finish the project and realize that you purchased an item with no real thought behind it, that’s when you find yourself wanting to “change it up” faster than you had planned.

I also think it’s a great idea to create some kind of design board with all of the pieces you plan to purchase.  If you find something in a store (rather than online), take a photo of it in the store and use that photo in your design board.  A great program (free and user-friendly) that I like for design boards is Olioboard.  The board doesn’t have to be anything special or look like a graphic designer put it together – just place all of the images together to confirm that they all flow.  This board below was created with Olioboard.  I saved screenshots of the images to my desktop, uploaded them to Olioboard and placed the items together to confirm that everything felt “right”.  Creating a design board honestly just gives you the peace of mind you need before making huge purchases.

Decorating a Room from Scratch

design board created with Olioboard

Did I cover everything?  Any other tips for decorating a room from scratch?


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9 comments on “Decorating a Room from Scratch”

  1. Seriously awesome post. Sooo informative. I never knew those space planning sites existed. Thanks for taking the time to put this one together. I’ll be saving it in my favorite posts folder!

  2. Loved this post. We moved to our new house last fall and while our living room is starting to feel finished, I’m still scratching my head over our dining room and front room. I’ll definitely put these principles and programs you shared to use!

    I also just want to say to I really enjoy your blog. Your posts are always informational and interesting. My favorite home decor blogs are ones that feel personal and relatable while also inspirational. You have that combo down and it’s such a pleasure to read. Thank you!! Keep it up 🙂

    P.S. That first image is so dreamy. I want to move right in!

  3. Great Ideas – thanks for spelling things out in small chunks – new house with lots of options – overwhelming!

  4. About to move into our new home…blank palette. Your blog is giving me a place to start; especially love your approach of asking yourself questions before you make purchases. Thank you for being practical, but also encouraging us to really love our homes!

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