Interior Design From Scratch: Where to Begin


Let’s say you’ve just moved into your dream home. As you walk through the empty rooms, you can’t help but imagine your unlimited interior design possibilities.

You might find yourself asking: “Where do I even begin?”

Starting your interior design from scratch without an interior designer can be daunting, but don’t worry! Follow these 15 simple steps to achieve beautiful interior design from start to finish:

1. Set your budget.

Before you even begin to consider the particulars of your interior design, I suggest you set your overall budget (don’t worry about itemizing it yet). This will inform how you go about all of the following steps in this article. If you spend hours researching colors, textiles, or furnishings before you’ve identified your budget, those hours could be wasted. After all, online resources have advanced filtering features now. You can narrow down your search so that only items in your price range appear!

Pro Tip: It is highly recommended that you factor in your local tax and delivery fees. While some vendors do offer free delivery, it’s better to project the potential total cost and come in under than being surprised by costs you didn’t factor in from the start! When it comes to renovation work - always be sure to factor in labor AND materials.

(Functional Storage: Photo from California Closets)

2. List the room’s necessary functions.

Before you can begin selecting design elements for your room, you should list every essential function that the room will need to perform. This is an essential step in the interior design process. For example, does the room need to store your family’s record collection? Is it the room where you will apply your makeup? That will inform the decisions you make as you go along the rest of this list.

3. Pick a style, theme, or feel.

Okay, you know what your room needs to do. And you know how much you have to spend. Now you’re ready to start planning your interior design!

Ask yourself these questions to get started:

- How do you want to feel when you’re in this room?

- If you could describe your ideal design style in 3 words, what would they be?

- Do you want your design to have a theme, or motif, or color scheme that runs throughout?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you have a basis from which to begin piecing together your room’s design. For example, “I want this room to feel warm, spacious, and modern.” Or, “I’d like a chic, Parisian-inspired sitting room.”

4. Gather inspiration.

Once you know the general feel, or atmosphere, that you want your design to achieve, it’s time to do some research and gather inspiration. This is one of my favorite stages of designing! I suggest browsing on visual platforms like Pinterest or Houzz - even Instagram!

Check out how other people have designed their homes, and take notes on what you like and what you don’t. You might love the whole room, or only the light fixture/ wallpaper in the photo! Keep a collection of photos of designs or pieces that you love, so that you have something to refer back to.

(Monochromatic Interior Inspiration: Photo by YAM Studios)

5. Make a wish list, then prioritize.

Once you’re confident that you’ve gathered enough information to be able to visualize your ideal interior design, it’s time to make your wish list. Itemize every. single. item. that you want to purchase for the space. Don’t forget the functional items (people tend to forget about lighting)!

The next step is to take that list and prioritize it. Put all of the items on your wish list in order of necessity and preference. For example, your bathroom needs a new toilet. You really want a vanity. You’d like to have a magnifying mirror. And you could wait on updating the floor tile.

6. Measure, then plan a tentative layout.

Time to get practical. Measure your space - twice. Maybe even 3 times. Make sure you know exactly how much space you’re working with.

Pro Tip: when measuring that space between 2 walls for furniture, make sure you measure baseboard to baseboard. While you only lose a few inches, sometimes those inches make or break the possibility of an option being able to fit!

Then, draw up a couple options for a layout that incorporates all of the pieces that are high on your wishlist. After a few tries, you’ll start to realize that you’re drawn to putting particular pieces in particular places - like having your desk close to the window. Don’t fight that inclination. Instead, only look for desks that allow for that formation!

7. Find your first, central item.

Time to start shopping - this is where it gets good! (Remember, it’s time to shop, not necessarily time to buy.) Give yourself time to shop around so that you know you’ve found the best piece for your design and your budget.

I suggest looking for your central piece first - this will be a different item for every space and every person. In the master bedroom, you might choose to start with the bedding or a unique headboard, and let everything evolve from there. In the living room, you could start with a rug to serve as the room’s anchor. In a nursery, perhaps you begin with a mural or a wallpaper you love.

I can’t tell you what your first, central piece will be. But I can tell you that you want it to speak to you, and to your overall vision for the space.

(Textile Pairings: Photo from August Black on Instagram)

8. Pick your primary fabrics.

Once you’ve found your first piece, everything gets simpler. Now you have something to play off of when choosing every other color, texture, wood finish, and fixture in the space!

Pro Tip: I recommend choosing any fabric items first, because it is easier to match paint to fabric then it is to match fabric to paint.

9. Sample paint colors.

Once you’re happy with the fabrics you’ve sourced, it’s time to sample paint colors. Again, I recommend shopping around before taking the plunge. Choose more swatches than you think necessary, experimenting with several shades and tones of the same hue.

I would also recommend testing your favorite color on more than one wall, so you have the opportunity to see it in direct and indirect light! What looks grey in one room can look brown in another room with different lighting. Taking some time to view them in different lights throughout the day (and night) can be very informative and allows you to be more confident in your decision.

(Cohesive Colors: Photo from August Black)

10. Select all other textiles, flooring, and fixtures.

Once you’re happy with your central item(s), your fabrics, and your paints - you are free to continue shopping for everything else on your wishlist. Keep track by keeping bookmarks of anything you find online and photos of anything you find in store. Don’t worry about doubling up for now - better to have too many options than not enough! That way you can play around within your budget and different combinations.

11. Triple check your pairings. I suggest creating a mood board.

This is the step where you narrow your list down to only the items you plan to purchase. Then, I find that creating a mood board is the easiest way for me to experiment with different items together and make sure I’m happy with how they will play against each other.

For example: Which pendant light do you prefer in the mood boards below?

12. Time to purchase. Pick your timeless pieces first.

You’ve done it! You’ve successfully designed your room. All there is to do now is purchase your items and install. You might have to make some hard choices to decide where to stretch your budget and where to trim your design elements. If this is the case, always choose the timeless items first. The high-quality, long-lasting items that will stand the test of time.

13. Add your trendy, or seasonal, items after.

With your remaining design dollars, go ahead and splurge on that funky throw pillow that you might be over by next spring. Or the summer centerpiece that you’ll have to store come winter. These might not be high on your prioritized wish list, but they’re fun, personal pieces that will make you smile every time you enter the room.

14. Sentimental and personal touches go last.

After you’ve filled the space with your gorgeous interior design, don’t forget to sprinkle some personal touches that make it feel like home. A framed family photo can go a long way to turning a room into your room.

15. Make yourself at home!

This is the most important step on this whole list. Pop open a bottle of wine [with some of your new bar accessories], kick up your feet, and look around at all that you’ve accomplished. Then, take a deep breath and enjoy.

Does this sound like a little bit too much to take on alone?

Call August Black and we’ll discuss your project goals!

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