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How to Decorate a Room from Top to Bottom: A Step-By-Step Guide

You study the IKEA catalog, or Country Living, or Dwell, oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous rooms, sumptuous fabrics, and stunning décor. How do you get your own magazine-worthy space? With a complete makeover and a redesign from top to bottom! If you don’t know where to begin, don’t fret. Here are seven easy steps to decorating any room in your home.

Before you get started, try to empty the room completely. It’s much easier to decorate if you have a blank canvas upon which to spread your personality! If not, don’t worry; it will all come together in the end.


Function over form.

Start with the room’s purpose. If it’s the living room, what do you do most there? Netflix and chill? Host cocktail parties? For bedrooms, do you want to create a tranquil sleep sanctuary or a romantic hideaway? Do you have kids and/or pets? These will be important considerations when you’re choosing floor coverings and furniture and deciding how traffic will move through the room.

What’s your style?

Some people know exactly the kind of look and feel they want in their home. But if that’s not you, then you’ll need to do some digging for inspiration. Make a board on Pinterest or even a physical folder filled with fabric swatches, pictures of rooms and furniture you love, paint cards, and anything else you find inspirational. Some people will actually design a room around a painting or piece of furniture; if you own an abstract painting you love or you inherited Aunt Martha’s carved antique sideboard, you can plan the rest of your room around it.

Once you’ve created your design board, look for recurring elements across all of your samples. Are there lots of metallic finishes? Do you see shades of green in nearly every photo? Are furry textiles showing up over and over? The trends you spot will point you to the styles and colors that you really like.

Choose your colors.

Colors are so important to setting the mood for your room. Yellow indicates warmth and energy; white is fresh and light; grey is considered sophisticated; blue is considered calming; and red is stimulating (and some say it increases your appetite!).

Consider having one accent wall and the other walls matching, or go with one dramatic color throughout. And remember, you’re not limited to paint — wallpaper can make for a dramatic and eye-grabbing accent wall. Think about the rooms that lead off of this one, too, since you’ll see bits of them through doorways and around corners. A harmonious flow makes your space more comfortable and calming to live in.

Note: Some designers will recommend you pick your paint colors last, to complement the furniture and accessories you’ve chosen and so you can look at samples under the lighting you’ve selected.

Draw up a plan (or 10!).

Try a free online app like Magicplan, which lets you scan your room, import existing floor plans, or draw with your finger; Floorplanner, which has a huge library of furniture to choose from; or Plan Your Room, which doesn’t require registration and is super simple.

Of course, you can do it the old-fashioned way, too, either with graph paper and a tape measure or by simply taping the floor to represent where your furniture will go. This will also help you determine what to put on your shopping list, and what sizes your new room can accommodate.

Place your furniture.

If you're a list-maker, take inventory of items you already own that might go in the living room. You can steal pieces from other rooms, so don’t forget to write them down, too! Place the items you already have into your floor plan first before you start thinking of new things to buy. You may find you are ready to get rid of some old décor to make room for new!

When you do decide to go shopping, you’ll have your floor plan to help you determine what will fit in your space. If you’re starting from scratch, consider purchasing one larger piece, like a couch or coffee table, and making everything else fit around it. Remember, you don’t have to do everything at once: Take your time and purchase pieces you really love, and you’ll end up with a space that’s a joy to be in.

Light it up.

Not only are the fixtures themselves a décor element, but the light they provide also adds to the room’s ambience and feel. Having a mixture of lighting types works best for any room, as we tend to perform so many different activities throughout our homes. Be sure to include task lighting so you can see any jobs or chores you're doing and ambient lighting to set a mood.


Look for rugs and artwork to complement your new décor. It’s these little touches — candles, throw pillows, collectibles, whatever — that really reflect who you are and make the space truly your own.

Finding Inspiration.

Use one (or more) of these items as a jumping-off point to inform your color scheme and influence the patterns, prints, textiles, and other items with which you fill your room.

  • Your favorite color

  • A “statement” piece of furniture

  • Artwork

  • Your favorite rug

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