When done right, design seems simple. But there's more to a cohesive design than meets the eye. To help you achieve the room that you'll enjoy for years to come – and one that will function the way you want it to – check out these design tips. Just remember, whether you're a strict adherer to style "rules", or prefer a loose interpretation of what style means to you, as long as you love it, it isn't wrong.
If you're further along in your project get more detailed advice by visiting our Trends or Style Gallery.
Where to Start
Discover your personal style
The best ideas are just waiting to be copied, cut, torn and dragged into your manila or electronic folder. So as you begin to plan your project and form the room's design type, read magazines and online design resources to help inspire your creative side and find elements you like. Attend builder open houses, visit specialty or antique stores, and survey interior decorating displays as much as possible. This will help you learn what styles, accents, colors and textures appeal to you most.
See it to believe it
Once you've begun to collect a mental catalog of things you do and don't like, sketch it out. It doesn't have to be perfect (a back of an envelope or napkin will do). You can nit-pick later. If you're the over-achiever type, take your sketch and some painter's tape a step further and outline your layout ideas in your existing physical space. It might take several attempts, but seeing truly is believing when it comes to home design.
Where's your focus
Every room has a focal point – a place where your eye goes first and often. It might be as obvious as an amazing view (you know, the one that made you fall in love with the place), or it might be subtler like your grandma's heirloom table or architectural nook in the room. Whatever it is, identify where in your room you want people to look first, and create a design and layout that complements the desired focal point.
It's no good if you can't use it
As your design gets further and further along, it's tempting to focus only on style and forget how you will use the room. Draw out your room or go there with those who will share the space and imagine using it daily. Will certain elements impede natural movements or normal use? If so, consider ways to move those portable items while keeping the integrity of the room or, if early enough, try moving permanent items like walls, plumbing or electrical outlets that power large appliances.
Write it down
Try writing out your room's style, and be descriptive as possible – getting as detailed as possible.
Swatches are your friend
Coordinate counters, paint, flooring and other materials as much as possible to get a sense of how they will look next to each other.
Use and repeat
Repetition isn't bad when done smartly. Try repeating when using shapes, patterns and colors.
Unify in a way that makes sense
Depending on your style, design unity may be achieved in different ways. Use trim, color, wood tone, motifs, flooring, or fabrics to add continuity.
Quality is everything
Quality materials prolong the life of your new room, so budget accordingly and buy the best quality materials possible – it will make for a better buy in the long run.