How We Design a Room

how we design a room

Happy Monday! What amazing weather for October, right?

I thought it would be fun to talk today about how we come up with our plans for a room. We have friends who say they just don’t even know where to start when it comes to decorating or designing their houses, which is so common and something we really struggled with, too, before we found a process that works for us. I thought maybe writing about our process might be helpful for some of you, too.

I’m not a trained designer, but I just love the process and have the benefit of having learned a ton through trial and error. We made so many mistakes in our first house — um, pretty much everything we did for the first couple of years! But I’m so thankful for those mistakes because I feel like they really taught us a lot about what works for us and what does not. Now we have a much better process from start to finish. We still make mistakes and we still change our minds, but that’s actually part of the fun!

Every time we redo a room now, we start with a design plan. I think of this as our roadmap to a cohesive, well-intentioned room because it is so so so easy for me to get overwhelmed with a thousand ideas (which, let’s be honest, still happens when I have a plan… but less so.). When I make a design plan, I can be much more intentional when I’m at Target and want to buy every pretty thing, because I can reference the plan — either in my head or if I’ve posted it to the blog — and say, well this pillow is awesome but it’s not quite right for this room, which saves me from wasting money on a pillow that I might love but will end up in the donation pile six months later when I realize it’s never going to look quite right in this space.

how we design a room

I could probably talk about this for DAYS but here’s a quick version of our process:

  1. Think about how you want a room to FEEL. To me this is the absolute most important thing. Do you want it to be cozy, calm, cheerful, energetic? How will you use the space and how do you want to feel when you’re in it? We would want a different feeling in our kitchen than our bedroom, for example.
  2. Pick a cohesive color palette. One of the lessons we learned in our old house was the importance of a cohesive color plan for the whole house. We started out doing ALL THE COLORS, so we had a mint green room, a red room, a pink room, etc. etc. etc. and it ended up feeling capital C crazy. When we realized our mistake, we sat down and really thought seriously about cohesion and how rooms flowed together to create a much more calm, livable plan, and we are being super strict about it in our new house. It’s so nice to create an overall plan of three or four main colors that you can then tweak and adjust in each room. The easiest way to do this is to pretty much go with the colors you love most. If you’re only so-so about yellow, maybe don’t plan on doing your entire house in yellow. But if you’re me, for example, and you find that every single thing you ever want to buy for your house is turquoise and pink, well, it’s a pretty safe bet to make those your primary color choices. Heavy doses of neutrals are also key. I prefer to have a neutral grey couch and colorful pillows that are way easier to change up.
  3. Use Pinterest to find and collect inspiration. I like to create a secret Pinterest board where I can start pinning everything I like. At the very beginning I don’t pay attention to anything specific but just pin everything that inspires me for the room I have in mind. My inspiration could include a color combo, a room with a similar layout, some products I like, a room that has the same feeling I want my room to have. Sometimes I come across things naturally and a lot of the time I use the search bar in Pinterest as well as the “related pins” function to look at other similar images. I use that a ton. Then after a few days/weeks of pinning, I step back and look at what I’ve pinned to find a common theme. I’ll often find that even when I think I have no idea what I want to do with a space, my pins will all sort of go together and I’ll have an ah-ha moment. Sometimes I’ll start pinning a bunch of one thing and then change my mind over time. I go through and delete the things that I’ve changed my mind about or that don’t go, and then I eventually end up with a cohesive board.
  4. Stop, discuss, collaborate and agree. With me and Andy we like to say that he makes things and I make things pretty. I come up with all the pretty ideas and he executes them. But we mostly don’t do anything without discussing and agreeing. Sometimes I will show him my pin board and he’ll say, ok, what specifically do you like here? That is really helpful. Then we discuss our options, what will really work for our space, what fits into our budget, what DIY projects we could realistically handle, what things we will need to actually purchase, and what things will go where.
  5. Create a moodboard. Once we’ve brainstormed all our ideas, narrowed them down, agreed on certain elements, I create a moodboard. That’s what I share on the blog that you see, basically a boiled down version of my pin board that narrows down some of the big ideas and the color palette. This is so helpful to have when you start to shop so you don’t end up with a bunch of random stuff that doesn’t really work.
  6. Measure measure measure. We like to actually walk a space before we make any big decisions… if the couch were right here and it was this big, how would that feel, how easy would it be to walk around it, would we have space for a chair, would you be able to see out the window or watch the baby or whatever it is you want to do in the space? When we designed our kitchen, we literally filled a pot with water and stood at the place where our sink would be and walked to the place where our stove would be to determine if that distance was going to be too far for me with a heavy pot.
  7. Decorate slowly. This is haaaard for me. I always want to just be DONE. But forcing yourself to be slow is just so much better for the overall design. The last thing you want to do is walk into one store and buy a complete collection. That’s how your room will have no character, no personality, no depth, and it’ll just look like a showroom. Sure, it’ll probably all match, but it’s sooooo boring. Plus, your room will forever look like “Fall Collection 2016,” dating it immediately. The key is to decorate in layers, combine new with old, mix and match different genres, and find the right pieces that fit your space, over time. Plus, if you just bought a whole collection in one fell swoop, you miss out on all the fun of shopping!
  8. Change is good! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Some people are so afraid of making a mistake or changing their minds that they are paralyzed with fear and end up doing NOTHING. But sometimes a mistake is the only way to find out what you really want — and that’s the best part! If you paint a room the wrong color, that is the easiest thing in the world to fix. Paint is one of the easiest changes you can make to a room! Besides, if you decorate once and never change your mind, well, you’re living in a time capsule.

Ok, I know this was pretty long, but I hope it was helpful. I thought about breaking this down into a series of more in-depth posts, so let me know if you would like to know more about any part of our process!! I love talking about this stuff (if you can’t tell, ha).

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