How to Decorate a Room From Start to Finish

Pink and white kitchen and dining area
James Balston/ArcaidImages/Getty

Decorating a room from scratch can seem like an overwhelming task, but like anything else that seems hard to do, an organized, step-by-step approach will make it seem easy. If you want to know how to decorate a room the best thing to do is to break it down into manageable pieces.

Get Inspired

Before jumping headfirst into a design plan it's important to look for inspiration. Go through decorating magazines, browse Pinterest, and look at the world around you. Sometimes inspiration can be found in things like pieces of artwork, lovely product packaging, or fabrics. Keep an open mind and collect any items of inspiration that you can.

Determine the Room's Purpose

If you don't know how the room will be used it will make it very tough to decorate. A room that is used primarily for relaxing and watching TV will be very different from one that's meant for formal entertaining. Think about everyone in your household and determine how they're most likely to use the room. It will make it much easier when it comes time to work out a floor plan and buy furniture.

Figure Out Your Style

This is something a lot of people have trouble with, but don't panic. You don't need to settle on one style and stick to it forever. It's more about looking at all the things you like (go back to your inspiration items for this) and figuring out what characteristics they have in common. Then give the overall look a name (it doesn't need to make sense to anyone but you). Once you start shopping it will help you filter out things that don't fit your style.

Do an Inventory of What You Already Have

Go through your house an do an inventory of what you already have. Sometimes moving something from one room to another can give it new life, as can a new coat of paint or upholstery job. See if there's anything you already have that can work in the new space.

Create a Floor Plan

Pull out some graph paper and make a sketch of how you'd like to arrange the furniture. It doesn't have to be perfect but it will certainly help you figure out the space and what will fit. Keep the 10 Rules for Arranging Furniture in mind when doing so. At this point, you'll be glad you already determined the purpose of the space as it will have an important impact on how the pieces are arranged.


Now that you know what you need it's time to do some research about where to get the things you need and what kind of prices you'll be looking at. Go to local stores, look online, and ask friends and colleagues for recommendations. Don't buy anything until you've done plenty of looking.

Set a Budget

Before you buy a single piece make sure you've set a budget. Decorating can be expensive and when you're out shopping it's incredibly easy to get caught up in the excitement and spend too much. Figure out approximately what you want to spend on each piece (make sure it's realistic based on your research) and remember that if you go over budget on one piece you'll have to steal the money from another piece.

Decide What You Need First

If you're ordering anything custom remember that there will be a wait time for manufacturing and shipping. Determine what items you need first and then order and shop accordingly. For instance, you don't want to get a bunch of throw pillows if you still have to wait a few months for a sofa. Or you don't want to be putting down a large area rug after you've already filled the room with furniture. In this case, a schedule will be handy.

Go Shopping

Once you've done all the prep work it's time to go shopping. Remember not to rush this step. Take your time to find the right items and be cautious of your budget.