16 Expert Design Tips for Decorating a Room You'll Love Being In

Living room with wooden coffee table and white furniture
Photo: David A Land

With so many elements to consider and choices to make, decorating can be a challenge. There are a few strategies you can take that will simplify your decorating decisions and help make the process easier and more enjoyable. Follow these steps for help with how to decorate a room you'll love.

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Get Started

design and color mood board with textures
David Land

Before starting any decorating project, consider your preferences. Think about what patterns, colors, and styles grab your attention. For example, determine whether you tend to gravitate towards bright, bold colors or subtle, neutral tones. You might not be able to pinpoint exactly why you like something, but hang on to the idea if it catches your eye.

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Gather Inspiration

fabric swatches blue paint
Adam Albright

You can find decorating inspiration nearly anywhere, but honing in on a few key areas can help make gathering ideas easier. Look at your wardrobe, tear out pages of magazines, save images you find online, and take pictures of the scenery around you. You can also collect paint chips, fabric swatches, and other samples that stand out to you. Then, lay it out and start identifying common themes and characteristics in the items you've gathered.

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Plan Around Existing Elements

living room pink couch cream armchairs
Laurey Glenn

Plan your decorating scheme around these existing components if you're redecorating a room with a few foundational elements, such as significant furniture pieces or stand-out architectural features. Seek out new decor that will mix well and add a fresh perspective. Incorporating older features into your design plan, rather than ignoring them, will help you create a more cohesive result.

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Plan Your Investments

living room with colorful decor
Annie Schlechter

When planning a more extensive decorating makeover, ask yourself where you're willing to invest some money. If your sofa needs upgrading, for example, shop around for a new one and then decorate the room around the piece. A major element such as a sofa, dining room table, or area rug often sets the tone for your room's style and can be the reference point for other decorating decisions.

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Make Lists and Take Measurements

Living room with wooden coffee table and white furniture
David A Land

Take stock of all the possible elements a room will need, including furniture, rugs, lighting, accessories, wall decor, window treatments, and paint. Identify the styles, colors, or materials you prefer for each element and what will work in your room. It's also a good idea to take measurements and make a rough sketch of the room to help you plan the space and decide what will fit when you're shopping.

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Brush Up on Decorating Basics

dining room with gray walls, white ceiling, and warm wooden table
Peter Molick

Before you begin designing a room, familiarize yourself with some of the basics of decorating, such as color theory, scale, texture, pattern mixing, and furniture arranging. For extra help, professional interior designers can be valuable resources that bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to your decorating project.

But if hiring a pro is outside the scope of your budget, consider working with a designer on a consultation basis, which will give you some guidance for a smaller price. Some home furnishings companies even offer free design consultations to help you get started.

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Choose a Color Scheme

bright colorful living room with large windows and plants
Justin Coit

Identifying a color scheme will help with decorating a room, including choosing furniture, accessories, and paint colors. Go into a design project with a few key colors in mind, but allow for some flexibility if needed. For example, you might find a blue rug with green accents that you love, but you had planned to use yellow as your accent hue. Because the rug will likely be a major component of the room, you might consider altering your original color palette idea.

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Select a Style

bright shabby chic farmhouse bedroom shiplap
Anthony Masterson

An initial idea of what style you want will make the project easier and help your final look flow better. But remember that you don't have to stick with just one. Mixing and matching styles can create a more interesting, layered look. So whether you prefer modern glam, rustic farmhouse, or another combination, knowing what styles you're going for will help you identify items to buy.

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Consider Function

high ceiling dining room with gray rug and wooden accents
Kim Cornelison

Think about how you'll use the room as you make decorating decisions. In a dining room, for example, consider whether you'll use the space primarily for entertaining or casual, everyday meals. It would help if you also determined what items you'll need to store in the room so you can incorporate storage into your decorating plans.

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Decorate with What You Have

art living room fireplace dog
David Lamd

Take stock of what you already have and decide what to keep and what to replace. Consider bringing in pieces from other areas of your home, such as an accent chair from your bedroom that would work better in the living room. Redecorate in a way that brings the relocated piece into the fold of its new home.

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Update Existing Decor

living room slipcovered sofa floral curtains window seat cushions
John Bessler

Repurposing or refreshing items you own can help minimize the budget for your decorating project. Slipcover an old sofa, reupholster a tattered chair, or paint a piece of furniture to give an old item a new look. Then layer in less expensive updates, such as throw pillows or lamps, for an all-around update.

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Know Where to Shop

wood dining table black chairs
David Tsay

While you're out and about, make a note of things you see in stores that you like (or bookmark pages when browsing online). That way, you'll know where to go when you're ready to make purchases. It's also a good idea to snap a few photos of your space beforehand for reference while shopping.

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Try New Decorating Trends

blue white modern bedroom color block wall paneling
Brie Williams

If you're looking for something new, don't be afraid to experiment with new decorating trends. Try a bold paint color you saw in a magazine, or track down a trendy light fixture you keep seeing on Instagram. A simple, relatively inexpensive update is often the best way to try out current trends because you can easily switch it up again if you decide it isn't for you.

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Putting It All Together

white living room with natural and blue coastal accents
Joyelle West

Decorating often slowly happens as you gather new items over time. With each purchase, think about how the item will fit into the room's overall look. Keep track of receipts and tags to make returns and exchanges if needed.

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Edit, Edit, Edit

kohlhepp house living room and kitchen with bookcase
Erin Kunkel

Don't be afraid to change things up and move or remove items as you decorate. Play around with different furniture arrangements and accessory placements until you find a look you like. If you're not sure whether a certain arrangement works, live with it for a few days before rearranging again if needed.

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Evolve Over Time

white living room
Brie Williams

Take your time to get your decor exactly how you want it. Letting your look change and evolve will create a room with personality and depth, rather than a space that looks like it was thrown together over a weekend. As you travel or visit new stores, you'll continue to find unique pieces and decorating ideas to implement. Over time, you'll become even more in tune with what you like and how to create a room you love.

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