Decorating a Room From Start To Finish


Words + Photos by: Claire Brody

The idea of decorating a room from start to finish might sound completely overwhelming.  While there's no "formula" to follow to achieve a magazine worthy living room, there are 6 simple steps you can follow in order to avoid mistakes.  These steps will also force you to be intentional in making design decisions and in turn will help you to achieve a decorated space that feels thoughtful and intentional to you.


So fear not!  You do not have to be a design professional to decorate a room from start to finish.  Follow these simple steps and you'll no longer see decorating as an overwhelming task.

Step 1: Needs/Goals

Identify the owners' needs and the space's goals.  Below are some questions to ask yourself.

  • How do you want the space to feel?
  • What are the emotional goals for the space?
  • Who will use the space?
  • How will the space be used?
  • What is practical for the space?
  • Form vs. function?

Step 2: Inspiration

Inspiration is found everywhere. Look for it!  Pull anything and everything that moves you and it doesn't have to be from Pinterest or magazines.  Think nail polish color, your husbands plaid shirt, children's art - there are truly no rules.  You can edit the inspiration "items" later when a common theme emerges.
It's a good idea to create an inspiration board and this can be digital or tangible.  To create a digital board, there are many online sites that give you the tools to do so.  For a tangible inspiration board, use magazine clippings, paint swatches, fabric samples, items from nature, anything!  The idea here is to create something that conveys the overall vibe of the room.

Digital Inspiration Board Example:


Step 3: Floor Plan

Space planning is what most “non-professionals” skip and also the reason for most design mistakes. Floor planning is essential because it allows you to create the best use of space and it ensures that all furniture pieces are a good fit.  To create a floor plan, you can hand sketch the room and furniture pieces on graph paper or you can use an online space planning website.  Because you haven't sourced items for the room yet, you are really just experimenting with different furniture shapes/dimensions here in order to determine the best layout for the room.

Step 4: Budget

After you decide which furniture pieces/types are best for the room, create a budget by working backwards. Make a list of all pieces needed for the room based on your floor plan and distribute your budget to each furniture piece.  It's nice to use an excel sheet for the budget to stay organized.  Remember, there is no “correct” budget. A living room can cost anywhere from $1,500 - $50,000.

TIP: Leave a 10% cushion in your budget for unexpected costs.

Step 5: Design

This is hands down the most rewarding phase of the process and because it's so exciting it can be easy to skip to this step before identifying goals, gathering inspiration, floor planning and budgeting. Don't do it!
"Designing" really means start sourcing!  Start shopping (online and in person) for the perfect pieces.  If it feels overwhelming, think about the room in layers. (Ex: Layer 1: Sofa, accent chairs, coffee table, TV credenza, area rug | Layer 2: Accent tables, lighting, window treatmentsLayer 3: Art, throw pillows, table decor).

Create a design (digital) board similar to your inspiration board.  Seeing all pieces together will help to visualize the space.

Digital Design Board Example:


Step 6: Execute

Before you purchase anything online, order fabric/color/material samples, and if possible, try to avoid ordering big ticket furniture items online unless you have seen/experienced them in person. Be sure to check on delivery date estimates and confirm that the dates work with your timeline.  One more thing: TRIPLE check floor plan measurements & furniture dimensions.

And there you have it - how to decorate a room from start to finish!  Please let me know how the process goes for you.  Everyone is different, so this process might need tweaking on your end, but hopefully it gave you a simple foundation to make your own.


Looking for more design inspo? Follow Claire on Instagram or head to her blog to see more of her beautiful design projects.