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Nine Pro Tips to Help You Nail Design Decisions

These insider tips from design professionals will have you styling your room with confidence.

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to achieving a stylish, practical and coordinated look in your home. Designers who make the process look effortless tend to have years of experience and a few tricks up their sleeve. Follow these insider tips to help you make design decisions with confidence.

Establish your vision. Designers often get to know their clients before they start a renovation project, finding out as much as they can about their clients’ lifestyles, likes and dislikes, and goals and dreams for the home. So it is a good idea to do the same when decorating your own space.

Track how you use your home over the course of a week, paying attention to what’s working and what’s not. Are you constantly searching for your car keys in the morning? Do you have to move your table every time you sit down to dinner? If you plan solutions for these issues, you’ll dramatically improve your day-to-day life.

Be willing to let go of the way things are currently set out, and design a home that focuses on present priorities while leaving room for future growth. You may not be able to have everything you want, but you can often get exactly what you need from a thoughtfully designed home.

Measure before you buy. Always check the dimensions of your room before you commit to buying something. It is disappointing when you find that your new furniture is too large or small. Designers will draw each piece of furniture on a layout of the room to make sure everything fits together before ordering.

Plan your furniture layout using the 3-foot rule, allowing at least 3 feet of space between pieces, for an easy flow.

Don’t get hung up on aesthetics. We want our homes to look great, but it is more important to ensure that everything functions. Focus on the less glamorous, practical elements first when you are planning your renovation.

Consider those everyday necessities, such as coat and shoe storage, laundry areas, and linen closets for stashing towels and sheets. They sound mundane, but without proper planning for these spaces, your beautifully designed home may soon look quite chaotic.

Coordinate your finishes. When you are selecting small elements like switch plates, door handles and faucets, it is wise to keep them in the same finish. For example, if you decide to buy chrome switch plates, don’t go for brass door handles.

The same goes for wood — try not to mix shades. For instance, if you have an oak floor, it may be a good idea to choose furniture made of oak or a wood with similar tones. Also try to coordinate the floor tiles and countertops in your kitchen; again, they don’t have to match exactly, but the hues should complement one another.

Match your electrical locations to your furniture layout. If possible, work out where your furniture will go before you plan the placement of your radiator, electrical outlets and lighting. Think carefully about how you are going to use everything. For example, consider where you may need to put lamps and then position outlets nearby. Or plan where your sofa is going to go to avoid the problem of furniture being pushed up against radiators.

Try not to rush decisions. Rushing to have everything finished quickly can often lead to hasty purchases you may regret. You could end up spending too much money on an item you later dislike but feel you can’t ditch because of how much it cost.

Sometimes it isn’t possible to find the perfect mirror for your hall or the right lamp for your living room, but it is far better to wait until you stumble upon it than to simply buy something to fill the gap.

Think about the big picture. Designers don’t make decisions without a plan. Prioritize what work needs to be done and, if the budget won’t allow everything to be done in one go, carry out the project in stages.

When establishing a plan of work, it is important to think about the future. It can be easy to design your home in a way that works for young children, for example, but you may soon find yourself with a houseful of teenagers and an open-plan layout that doesn’t work so well.

Stick to three colors. When picking your color scheme, try to keep your palette to a mix of three shades. The secret to getting it right is in layering. Start with a neutral backdrop and build on color carefully by adding bolder hues through accessories and art.

Your wall colors should form your backdrop. It is also a good idea to stick to neutral shades for larger items, such as sofas and curtains, which are more costly to replace. Introduce your second color with larger accents, such as armchairs or occasional pieces. Then use your third color to bring the scheme to life with more vibrant accessories — think pillows, throws, artworks and rugs.

Have a color reference. It can be hard to remember the exact shade of your walls or sofa when you are out shopping for furniture or accessories. A great idea is to compile a collection of swatches to take around with you for reference.

Gather paint samples and fabric swatches and keep them together in plastic sleeves, which can easily be carried with you when you are shopping. Have a sleeve for each room and add to it as you go along. By doing this, you will be able to match things perfectly and pull together a design that coordinates beautifully.


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