I might as well start out by sharing my shamey-est secret. I have lived in my “new” home for three years, and there are still rooms that are not fully decorated.
Of course, I have an active Pinterest account. Of course, I have been to craft stores and Home Depot more than once. Of course, I know how to buy adorable and inexpensive home furnishings on Craigslist, Amazon Prime and Overstock at the click of a button.
But still. These rooms aren’t finished. And I cover up my secret shame by simply closing the door whenever company arrives.
This is not a healthy way to live. I need to get my butt in gear and put the finishing touches on all areas of my house, instead of limiting my entertaining to the “acceptable” common rooms. The thing is, interior decorating seems hard from the outside looking in — otherwise, why would there be roughly 1 billion DIY design shows devoted to the topic?
If you too are intimidated by home decor, you’ve come to the right place. You’re among friends here. And I have a special welcome gift for you: I consulted with a few industry-leading design experts to get the 411 on the bare-bones basics of decorating a house. These tips are not hard. These tips are totally doable. Now we don’t have any more excuses for putting off our home decor projects for another day:
1. Get rid of clutter
This is the first and most important rule to live by in interior design. You want each room in your house to be clean, balanced and easy on the eye — meaning, piles of crap on end tables and bookshelves just will not do. Green living lifestyle expert and interior designer Jen Boulden advises, “Pretend that you are selling your home and are getting ready for an open house. What things would you stash away? Well, besides framed photos, sell them, donate them or trade them! (Craigslist, Goodwill and Yerdle are great resources for those three things, correspondingly.)”
2. Hang some art
— Nicky Spaulding Art (@Nickyspaulding) June 23, 2015
There’s something about bare walls that makes you feel kind of dead inside. If you want your guests, and even your family, to feel at home, it all starts with strategically hanging art to make your abode look less broke-ass-college-dorm and more grownup-dwelling-place. Michele Taylor of Michele Taylor Interiors explains how to use a wall hanging for more than just filling space, “A common mistake I see all the time is when homeowners (or renters) hang generic ‘wall art’ to fill wall space. This is a huge missed opportunity! It can be as simple as a child’s drawing, a treasured photo or memento, a print that you love or you can hunt for an antique oil painting or a one-of-a-kind piece by a contemporary artist. The opportunities are endless! What is most important is that you feel a personal connection to what’s hanging on your walls.”
3. Learn to accessorize
— Mobilart Décor (@MobilartD) July 14, 2014
Short on money? Short on time? Don’t really care about interior design that much anyway? Here is the easy, cheater shortcut that can give you all the glory of an artfully designed room without much of the legwork involved. Choose the right accessories and put them in the right places.
“The hottest trend in Los Angeles right now, from the most lavish Beverly Hills estates to the humblest studio apartment, is using hardcover books not only for reading, but for accessorizing. Arranging them by color on a shelf makes for interesting wall art. Stack them on a ‘book spine’ so it looks as if they’re piled high with no support, and you have a fascinating sculpture. And placing coffee table books on a narrow shelf with the cover out gives a gallery effect — black and white covers against a red wall can be especially striking. And the beauty of this is that you can find these fabulous accessories for pennies at used book stores and yard sales,” says Lisa Johnson Mandell, HGTV’s West Coast LA Correspondent and founder of celebrity real estate website At Home In Hollywood.
Tenecia Harris of sweet t design studio, whose work has been featured on the TODAY show, HGTV and the Travel Channel, adds, “When accessorizing, opt for throw pillows that are cover/insert combos. The covers can be washed to keep them fresh, and when you’re ready to switch things up (seasonally, holidays, I-changed-my-mind), they can be easily swapped out and stored.”
4. Paint one room
Just about any room will do — put on some cutesy coveralls, make it a party and slap on a few coats of paint. Painting a room works as a near-instant facelift, according to Darlene Gayler of Gayler Construction + Design Build, “Adding a fresh coat of paint to the exterior or interior transforms the space. A room, a wall, doors to cabinets, etc. Something as simple as a fresh coat will update a room. Or experiment — try stripes, checks or an accent wall. It is something homeowners can do themselves and can be very affordable, just the cost of paint (and your time).”
5. Buy one signature piece
— Catriona Hammett (@CatrionaHammett) March 4, 2015
The thought of decorating a room from top to bottom — and especially braving your local antique shop or home goods store — can be intimidating. I get it. But Air Wick’s interior designer Jeremiah Brent, known for his work with stylist Rachel Zoe, promises that room-by-room design can be easy when you focus on the bigger picture. Namely, when you focus on a few high-end pieces to serve as the focal point in each room. Brent says, “I’m a huge fan of black and white. It never goes out of style. Have a few pieces like this in your home that can go on any journey you take. The same goes with scent. You should pick a scent that never goes out of style for your home and tells your home’s story.”
6. Choose one signature color
— kenisahome (@kenisahome) June 10, 2015
This tip makes me extra happy because not only is it easy, but it can cohesively tie together all rooms in your house. Each color has a specific connotation, says Peter Boyce, interior designer for Bedroom Storage Maker. For example, “Red, seen as a bold and powerful color, can sometimes mean danger as well. The Victorians changed the devil’s coloring to red from green, giving it a further connotation of the forbidden. Surprisingly, more red teams in sports win than blue. Purple used to be very expensive to make, until Samuel Perkins stumbled on a chemical reaction that made purple very easy to create. Because it was historically so hard to find, it is seen as regal, expensive and also a little extravagant.”
Colors may have significance, but there are very few hard-and-fast color rules, other than Boyce’s top pet peeve: “Do not mix greens: Dark green and lime or light green and an earthy green clash.” Besides that, choose any signature color that speaks to you. A color scheme can be soothing, empowering, melancholic and more — as long as it makes you feel at home.