Where To Start When Decorating A Room

How are these interior designers transforming entire homes in 24 hours? Really, how?

This is something I have always pondered as I watch interior design shows knowing full well it took me 4 months to design our apartment. Well, I finally figured out how to make a home look like it was designed by a professional and I’ll show you how.

And no, it won’t take a month if you follow my process.

Where to start when decorating a room

Your Step by Guide To Decorating Any Room

I am currently decorating my home, room by room (after a full house renovation) and I want to share with you my overall process for doing that. This is the list I wish I had when I first took on the challenge of designing our former apartment. 

Figuring out where to shop, what size would fit the space etc was very challenging but I have now refined my process and learnings into a step-by-step process that will hopefully help you create the best design for your own space. 

When decorating a room, the best way to start is by mapping out the size of the room and measuring it. When you know the size and dimensions of your room, you are better able to shop for the right size items. This also impacts where you shop and allows you to set a realistic budget for the entire project. You also want to take some before photos so that you can compare your final design. Here’s a step-by-step guide for what to do next:

Drew has some amazing tips

Step 1: Figure out your style of decorating

Not many people will tell you this but even if you know nothing about design or design styles, I bet you can pick out a photo of a space you are drawn to. That my friend is the crucial first step to designing your space like a professional. Trust me on that!

Whilst designing our current home, the designer asked me to fill out a form and this form had a list of design styles that almost made my head spin. She eventually said I had a mix of styles including modern minimal and mid-century. 

Truth is, I try not to bother too much with design styles. The most important thing is figuring out what you are drawn to and then reverse engineering those images to create the type of space you will be happy to live in. 

Where can you find inspiration images? The first obvious place would be Pinterest. Once you find an image you like, use the finder tool (magnifying glass on the bottom right) to help you find similar images.

Pinterest Finder Tool

You can also find interior design magazines and cut clippings from them. Go on Instagram and start by searching hashtags like #interiordesign, #homedecor, and save these images to a folder. You could even organise your inspiration images by room.

The more time you spend on certain images, the more the algorithm will show those styles of images to you.

Step 2: Set a realistic budget

I consider this next step really crucial as it determines what type or range of items you can buy. The budget pretty much brings you back to earth on how far you can dream…sorry. 

What I want you to do first is to have an idea of what you can afford to spend. Create a spreadsheet that looks something like this:

ItemBudgetActual Amount Spent

Now that you have a rough estimate of how much this will cost, you will check if this is a realistic sum. I’ll show you a very easy way to do that.

Let’s assume you have been saving all your inspiration images on Pinterest, click on the shopping tag and it will show you places to shop for the items in the image or items similar to it. This gives you an idea if the cost you put on your spreadsheet is realistic.

Pinterest Shopping Tool

You can also check places like eBay or Facebook Marketplace if you have plans to thrift the items.

Lastly, don’t forget to include costs for handymen and delivery fees.

Step 3: Create your floor plan

Toilet designed in Room Planner App
Toilet designed in Room Planner App

Now that you know what you want your space to look like and you know how much it will realistically cost, it’s time to create a floor plan. This is a really critical step (I know, every step is critical) because it helps you shop for the right size of items and properly visualise how the room will flow. 

If you didn’t start by measuring your room this would be a good time to do that. In a notebook, draw a rough sketch of where things should go. This does not have to be perfect.

Once you have that rough idea of where things will go, it’s best to use an online program to draw that floorplan to scale- scale is important when shopping. 

Here are some of my favourite free floor planners:

  1. Room Planner: I like that you can design on your phone, however, the free version is rather limiting
  2. Room Sketcher
  3. Planner5d

Step 4: Create a mood board

It’s time to put the images together to begin the process of visualising them. This is the time to really drill down on what you absolutely love.

Remember the images you saved in Step 1? Now that you have had a bit of separation and distance from your inspiration images, it’s time to delete images that do not bring you joy. If you used a physical magazine, separate the images you really like from the rest. 

Once you have only the images you could absolutely see yourself living in, place them on a board in a program like Canva or Photoshop.

To do that you want to do the following:

  • Download all the images onto your laptop.
  • Create a horizontal canvas that is about 2000 x 1200 px. If you have Photoshop or a Canva Pro account, you can remove the background of these images. Alternatively, you can use an app like Lunapic to erase the background and then upload it to Canva. 
  • Place the items on the canvas as if it were the actual room, so put things where they would typically go. Side tables by the side of the bed, bed in the centre of the canvas, etc.

This mood board is so critical to how materials and items tie together so take your time with this step. When you put all these pieces on a board, it helps you quickly see when something is out of place.

Step 5: Tape Your Room

My husband taping out where the rug will go in our son’s room.

I don’t hear a lot of people talk about this step but I think it’s so important. Let’s assume at this point that the items on your mood board have been nailed and you have selected the pieces you really love.

Take the extra step to go get the actual measurement of the pieces and tape the corresponding size in the actual room you are designing. Even go as far as taping the height of the item or furniture to really visualise how the room flows.

Once you tape everything, you can quickly see if the piece you have chosen is the wrong size or height. 

You may be thinking, ‘But isn’t that what we did with the floorplan?’ Yes, we did but this step is important if you couldn’t find the actual size of items in the floor planner app. Doing this additional step helps you really know for sure. 

Step 6: Find shopping links that match your budget

If you have done everything right, this part should be really easy. Shop each item on your list and if possible shop in physical stores too. I find that sometimes I can get an alternative to an item I want for much cheaper in a physical store. 

Don’t forget to use a plugin like Honey to get discounts or join the mailing list of some stores to get 10-20% off. Every little discount counts. 

In order to compare prices. I use the Google Shopping tab or the Pinterest shop tab.

Step 7: Arrange, Rearrange and Refresh

Once your items start arriving, (hopefully, you don’t have to deal with extremely long lead times), start placing them in your space. Don’t limit yourself to your floorplan, if you think something looks better in a different spot in the room, feel free to change it up. 

You can also make the decision to return items if you are feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse.

That’s it. That is honestly my seven-step process for tackling a design project. If you are wondering, does it really take this long? Well, design shows speed up what is actually a long process.

I hope you can also see why designers are paid a lot of money, it IS a lot of work but hopefully, your next design project will feel a lot easier.

The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Coming from someone who was as clueless as I was. I promise you’ll nail it.

What room are you going to tackle next?

Related Design Articles:

How To Turn A Living Room Into A Bedroom (6 Easy Steps)

Design The Perfect Baby Nursery That’s Functional and Beautiful

12 Quick Ways To Stop Being Lazy and Clean Your House


Hey you, I’m Torera

Hey there! I am Torera, a home care and cleaning enthusiast with a mission to make cleaning as fun and easy as possible for women like you. As someone who had to learn everything from scratch, I have the mindset of a beginner and know exactly how to take you from A to Z. Let us ditch the overwhelm and create a space that is clean, cozy, and totally you!