Decorating 101 - Interior Design Basics

How to Get Started Decorating

A well-decorated living room
Hoxton/Tom Merton / Getty Images

Learn the basics of home decorating, including design principles, decorating styles, and answers to decorating challenges.

What Is Interior Design Compared with Interior Decorating?

Interior design and interior decorating are often mistaken for being the same thing, but the terms are not completely interchangeable. Interior design is a profession that requires specific schooling and formal training including space planning, furniture design, and architecture.

An interior decorator does not have that formal training and focuses on the aesthetics and the surface appearance of a space. Who you would hire depends on whether you have any structural work or space planning to be done or you need someone to plan the decor only. See more about the differences between interior design and interior decorating.

Elements of Decor

Your first step should be to select a style for your home interior. This will promote the design principle of unity and harmony, thinking of the entire home with a unifying theme. It can be as simple as choosing casual instead of formal, traditional instead of contemporary. From there, you can refine it to a more specific style, such as French country, Tuscan, modern Victorian, or shabby chic.

Balance is another principle, distributing the visual weight in a room. You can do it symmetrically, as is common in traditional interiors, or with asymmetrical balance as seen in casual interiors.

Within each room, there should be a focal point. In a living room, it could be the fireplace or a piece of art. It sets itself apart by scale, color, or texture.

Contrast and variety add visual interest to a room. Keep rhythm in mind with repeating elements of the same color, texture, or pattern, and a progression of sizes or colors.

Color

Choosing a color palette is an essential part of interior design. While you could have a different style and color scheme in each room, often you will want to tie the whole dwelling together. You'll want to consider the right colors for a small room as well as the right colors and patterns for a large room.

Patterns

Mixing patterns in home decor is one of the more advanced parts of interior design.   Patterns don't have to match, but they need to complement and coordinate with each other. This is done by considering color, size, and scale. Learn pattern-mixing rules so you can do it right.

Tips to Get Started Right with Your Decor

Decorating do's and don'ts can be fun to browse so you avoid common mistakes for each room and get started down the right path.

Now you are ready to concentrate on the room or rooms you need to decorate. From the entry to the family room and the kitchen to the home office, you'll find decorating help for every room in your home. Explore the basics of setting up a room and the finishing touches to make your space a reflection of your personality and good taste.

Furnishings are a key part of decorating, but they can also be and investment and a large part of the budget.

See tips for buying furniture on a budget. You need to know for which items you should save or splurge.