Start by asking yourself how you want to feel when you're in the room, and how you want to use it. These questions might seem obvious, but they're essential. Answer them, and think of your response as the mission statement for your room.
Set the background tone. The deep blue paint on these walls makes a great backdrop for the fabrics and woods of this furniture. The ceiling paint, a light hue with yellow undertones, mirrors the beech wood and gives the room a warm glow.
Place flooring so it helps divide the room into different functions. In the home shown here, a large rug defines the sitting area, while a smaller, bright-color carpet accents the dining niche under the bay window.
Use subtle elements to tie the spaces back together. The rugs overlap, like the floor of a desert tent. The coffee table and sofa fabric feature colors of the same intensity. The blue dining table and alternating blue doors on the storage cabinet exemplify how colors repeat around the room. These cues unify the space even though it's clearly defined for different functions.
Repeat the main lines. One approach to decorating is to feature an element that keeps repeating. Don't be afraid to take a plunge with an item you really like.
In many of the artwork displays, straight lines follow straight lines. The artwork over the cabinets, for example, is hung from a standard curtain rod, and the frames are suspended from loops of bead chain. Again, parallel lines follow parallel lines.
Souvenirs are a great source of accessories. The residents of this apartment have candlesticks from Amsterdam, coffeepots from the Middle East, and masks from all over the world.
The masks line the bay window ledge and are displayed in a museum manner on CD boxes. Some masks stand on their own, a couple had to be helped with tacky wax, and one kept falling over until it was tied to a can of soup. Don't be afraid of cheap tricks like that; do whatever works to get the look you want.
Avoid a cluttered look. When a room doesn't have much architectural detail, one trick to make it feel luxurious is to use more things -- more furniture, more accessories. However, that can be a runaway train.
To keep things from becoming overwhelming, try to line things up, like the metal frames that wind up the steps. Filled with black-and-white postcards, a repeated element such as this adds dramatic impact.
Editing is very important. After your room is the way you think you want it, step back a bit, take a break, and then edit and rearrange until things feel right. Above all, don't be afraid to take a risk, trust your instinct, and have fun.