Here is an easy 5 step process to help you decorate a blank room when you’ve got no idea where to start!
How to Decorate without getting overwhelmed
I know that we’ve all stood in an empty room and silently cursed at it! What? Just me?
I know that if you’re staring at a space it can feel overwhelming to know where to start. What color to paint it, what furniture to buy, what accessories do I need?
So let’s talk about a plan!
Let me start by telling you that I’ve got lots of experience here. I’ve done things in the wrong order. I’ve purchased items that didn’t work in a space and I’ve stared at Pinterest wishing a designer would show up and make it all go away.
So I’m going to share all the things I’ve learned along the way to help you.
I’m also sharing this to help myself as I’m still in the process of a lot of design decisions on our new house.
So if you’ve recently moved like me, or are getting ready to move, or you’re just stuck then read on and let’s get decorating!
Steps to decorate a blank room
The first step is not paint!
Never ever paint before doing anything else!
I know it seems like covering the walls in a color will make everything seem better but you want to be sure it’s the right color. Even if it’s white. Paint will be the last thing you do.
Or at least close to the last choice you make.
Also note that this is my formula for decorating.
It’s not the only formula.
Is it the right formula? Well it works for me so that’s why I’m sharing it.
You may find other advice, lists and ways to decorate and that’s great. You need to figure out which way works best for you and I’m going to share what works best for me.
Step One – Define Your Space
I know this seems like a boring step in the design process but it’s also hugely important. I’m not sure hugely is an actual word but you get the idea that it’s important right?
It may seem simple to say a bedroom is a bedroom.
What if the bedroom is a nursery that also needs to double as a guest bedroom? Or the guest bedroom needs to function as an office?
In your living room/great room/family room, what will you actually be using it for? Is it the room that everyone sees when they walk in your front door? Is it mainly for watching tv? What about the rest of the people in your household?
How many people are using the room and what will they want/need to use it for?
Don’t forget about eating and drinking in a room, homework or work work, puzzles and board games or reading a book.
See what I mean?
All of these activities have different needs so you’ll want to make sure you know what those are before you start planning and buying.
When you’re ready to decorate a blank room, you need to be sure to define its purpose.
Defining a room’s purpose will help you determine what pieces you need in the space so that it will work the best for your family. This will save you time and frustration when you’re shopping because you’ll know exactly what furniture you need in a space.
Comfy chairs or beds. Storage. Surfaces – side tables, desks, etc. Lighting – which is so important!
Step one should be fairly quick and you can move onto step two!
You may also want to check out Styling a Guest Room.
Step Two – Gather Inspiration
You may already have all the inspiration that you need and that could be part of what’s overwhelming you.
That means that the second part of this step will also be to streamline your inspiration.
You’re going to want to make good friends with Pinterest!
If you’re not familiar with Pinterest I have a longer post that shares how to set it up and use it and you can find it by clicking How to Use Pinterest.
From here I’m going over the basics and assuming that you are familiar with Pinterest or that you’ve already got some inspiration saved.
Using Pinterest to Decorate a Blank Room
The first step in finding your inspiration will be to save it all on Pinterest. If you’ve already got a lot saved then go ahead and skip onto narrowing it down. If you’re still saving then read this section first.
Be sure that you are saving inspiration that moves you. Things that you find gorgeous, welcoming, amazing. Don’t save anything that doesn’t speak to you. Or anything that speaks “meh” to you!
Remember that inspiration doesn’t have to be a room – it can be nature, art, colors that make you feel good. Movies and tv shows. Your inspiration can be in the form of feelings and colors.
If you find something that you really love try searching for more of it to see what else you can find. If you click on a photo (in Pinterest) and scroll down it should show you similar styles and colors.
I once started with bathrooms with wallpaper, then bathrooms with blue wallpaper, abstract wallpaper ideas, etc.
You get the idea. If you can narrow down your search it becomes even more powerful and it will help your decision making.
I’d say to try to find at least 30 pins for inspiration but don’t go overboard. Make the high end be 100 and stop. Pinterest can be a rabbit hole that leads you from a kitchen photo to a recipe to a blog. You’re going to want to set aside some time to work on this, but you may (if you’re like me) also need to set a time limit.
Don’t spend too long because then you’ll start second guessing your ideas.
Part Two – Narrow Down Your Inspiration
Once you’ve saved all kinds of inspiration you’ll need to sort through it.
It’s usually easiest to create a blank board to narrow down your ideas and make a more cohesive plan.
Sometimes you can scroll your photos and see easily what you’ve chosen. It could be a color palette or it could be that you like everything symmetrical. Did you choose a lot of organic shapes or abstract art?
This is when you take apart the images that you’ve saved and pick items from them that you love. For a bedroom did you save a bunch of platform beds or a bunch of 4 poster beds? Did you choose mainly white walls or wallpaper?
If you’ve pinned a lot of different styles (I admit I love all the styles too!) then you’re going to have to go further in narrowing things down.
Ask yourself if you could live in that space? Or can you picture your family living in that space?
I certainly have some beautiful rooms from faraway places and castles. They are gorgeous and they’re inspirational, but I can’t actually picture living in them.
Maybe for a weekend or a vacation, but you understand what I mean.
By looking through inspiration photo’s you’ll be able to tackle the next couple of steps quicker!
Step Three – Define Your Feeling
Yes it’s a touchy feely situation.
Step three is all about defining how you want your room to feel.
There’s no right or wrong here, this is simply a matter of preference and will also help you narrow down design decisions.
Do you want your room to feel:
- calm or energizing
- soft or bold
- rustic or glamorous
- edgy or soothing
This will help you define the style that you want in your room and it will help keep you from picking up all those other items.
You know the ones I mean. That throw pillow with all those beautiful colors. That pillow that doesn’t match a thing in your house.
Remember, you can admire things without bringing them home with you!
You might like How to Define Your Style
Step Four – Choose Your Anchor
Your anchor, your lead, your inspiration piece.
You can call it what you’d like but this is your piece of inspiration. The piece that will help you choose the rest of your room decor.
Now don’t get nervous about this, this is the piece that’s going to help you form your decor plan. It’s the piece that ties all the other things together.
Or at least the piece that you use as your jumping board to get started.
This can be a rug, a piece of art or a piece of fabric.
Once you’ve chosen this piece it will help all your other decor fall into place.
When you’re scrolling Pinterest you can almost always spot the anchor/lead in the photo!
See that patterned pillow? That’s the lead fabric in this room and it’s how all the rest of the design was pulled together. Using the colors on this fabric.
That beautiful art over the sofa. That’s the piece that started the design process for this room!
Step Five – Pull it All Together
So now is the fun part!
You’ve decided how you want your room to function and feel. You’ve got lots of inspiration to draw from. You should have some patterns and a color palette to work with after step four.
It’s time to start putting together a plan.
Your lead piece is a great place to draw the rest of your colors from.
You can draw out a floor plan and sketch out measurements for your furnishings at this point. Or you can do that in an app.
I’m kind of old school, I like to draw out the measurements on paper, take a photo and store it in my phone and then start shopping.
Start with your biggest items first and move slowly into the details;
- Your permanent fixtures and finishes (flooring, lights, woodwork, etc.)
- Furniture (the big pieces like beds, sofas, dining furniture, etc.)
- Big accents (your rug, paint, curtains, smaller furniture)
- Pillows and Art (bedding)
- Small Details (decor, plants)
If you’re not planning to replace any of the permanent fixtures that’s one step to easily take off the list and move onto furnishings.
If you’re struggling with a specific piece of furniture go back to Pinterest and try to narrow it down. This works with furniture, patterns or colors. It can be an endless source of inspiration.
Bonus Tips to Decorate a Blank Room
Give yourself some grace. You may be nervous, you may feel stuck and that’s okay. It’s okay to start slowly and it’s okay to take your time. This isn’t a race so embrace the process and enjoy all the inspiration you can find.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. You may find a piece of art that you’re unsure about but it moves you. Take a chance. You may find that the pieces that you weren’t sure of are the ones that add a unique flavor to your home.
Perfection is an illusion. We’ve all seen the “perfect” room on Instagram or Pinterest. Or what we think is the perfect room but remember that we’re only seeing a small portion of a home and an even smaller piece of life. What’s perfect in your friends house won’t be perfect in yours. You define what fits perfectly in your space!
That’s all there is to it!
It doesn’t seem like so much when you actually break it down into bite size pieces. If you get stuck on one step then take a break from it. Take a breath and come back to it later.
Here’s a design board that I worked up for one of the bedrooms in our new home. You can see that the mural is the lead for all the decor in this room!
Here’s where we’re at with it. I still need a few finishing touches but I’m happy with how it’s coming together so far.
So how do you feel about this process? Do you think it helps break things down? Let me know in the comments below.