Interior designers are trained individuals with an envious talent for pulling a room together, often using things you would never imagine. They certainly have a lot to offer and are an excellent resource for those who hire them — but many of us just don’t have the budget.
Here’s a secret: You can learn how to think like an interior designer. Sure, if you watch enough design shows on TV, you’ll start to get an idea. But it takes much more than those attention-capturing highlights.
Here’s how to see your home like an interior designer.
1. Determine what you want to accomplish.
Anyone who has taken on a design project knows that your original plan can escalate quickly. There are times when that is a blessing, but more often than not, it becomes a pain — not only to those you share the space with, but also to your wallet (and sometimes even your back).
Look at your space as if you were hiring someone else to design it. Do you simply want a new color scheme, or are you looking to start over? Are major renovations of your space within your budget, or do things need to be done quickly with no monetary surprises? Plans can certainly change, but start by answering those questions to save yourself a headache down the redesigning road.
2. Look at your space with fresh eyes.
We often get so comfortable in our space that we don’t question whether our decor is arranged in the most aesthetic or functional manner. For example, if you are redesigning your kitchen, think about the things you use most often and where they should be placed.
Designers arrange a kitchen layout with the work triangle in mind, making it functional and easy to use. Always consider how you want the space to function and feel, drawing on past experiences to determine what you want — and don’t want.
3. Consider the feeling and function of the space.
Do you dream of having a cozy living room for friends and family to sit and talk? You need to plan for how many seats that involves. Does your career call for you to host business dinners in your home? Ponder your dining area and its formality.
Think about the comfort level of your space, whether it’a a home office, living room or bedroom. Being thoughtful about your requirements and how your design can best satisfy those needs will pay off as you proceed.
4. Remember that design is 90 percent inspiration.
While there is no scientific study to prove it, inspiration is the key to successful design. And you are lucky enough to be designing for someone that you know incredibly well — yourself. Spend some time thinking about the mood you want in your space and how to capture it.
Make an inspiration board (physical or electronic) to keep track of your ideas. Does the beach inspire you to think more clearly? Perhaps your office inspiration board features seaglass colors. Are you looking for an escape in your master bathroom? Look to high-end spas for that feeling of relaxed pampering.
5. Remember that inspiration can be found anywhere.
Yes, we already talked about inspiration, but it is worth mentioning again. There are so many ways to find what inspires you, including showrooms, design galleries and open houses. But don’t forget those you can peruse in your pajamas — websites such as Freshome and Pinterest offer wonderfully designed spaces that you can view at any time, no appointment (or shoes) needed.
Perhaps you saw a pillow that you adored while shopping. Jot down what you liked about it, take a picture of the color scheme, record how you felt when you looked at it. Don’t buy it until you’re sure that it works in your newly designed space, but document the feeling that you got from it. The little details can inspire an outstanding room.
6. Keep the scale of the room in mind.
Even though you might love the coziness of an overstuffed sofa, you’ll need to choose a more scale-appropriate piece if you live in a compact urban condo. Likewise, a small piece of art could be lost in a grandiose dining room.
Interior designers know how to select pieces that fit the scale of the room — and when it is acceptable to work outside of the scale. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong; if you like the way a piece feels in your space, then it is the right scale for you.
7. Keep the Rule of Three in mind.
Design rules seem to be made to be broken, but this classic is certainly worth mentioning. To think like an interior designer, start thinking in odd numbers. There is more visual interest in three pieces on a mantel than in two pieces on that same mantel. This is called the Rule of Three.
Symmetry is nice, but to make a space energized, consider sacrificing some of your symmetrical comfort and use odd numbers in your arrangements. Five picture frames grouped together is much more engaging than four; three decorative elements displayed together will draw your eye more than two. Even three colors in a design scheme will feel more vibrant than one or two.
8. Mix it up; everyone loves a complement.
Speaking of things that are more visually interesting: mix up your style. A bedroom full of one style or one color can lead to a boring space. If you have a bold headboard in your bedroom, complement it with softer nightstands. Put a vintage clock in a room with a modern sofa.
As you looked at your inspiration rooms, how many of them were filled with one type of furniture? That style may be great for sales ads, but not for a stimulating space created by an interior designer. Be brave and fight the compulsion to be matchy-matchy. Complements are so much more flattering!
Your space is almost ready; it’s time to add the finishing touches. The accessorizing step can make a huge impact on the space you have created. Did you find smaller pieces that inspired you at the beginning of this process? Perhaps it is time to add those into your new space.
Accessories let you add personal flair to your space. Be bold and display those items that speak to you.
10. Take a step back.
Step back from your space and try to look at it as an outsider. Think like an interior designer and ask yourself if you accomplished what you set out to do. Sometimes taking pictures helps in this last step, allowing you to truly see the space from a different perspective.
Is your space functional? Stylish? Reflective of both your personality and your needs? Did you follow the guidelines of interior design, or did you bend those rules and create a space that represents you?
These tips should help you start thinking like an interior designer and give you an artistic advantage on your next project, even without a designer. Who knows — you might get your own TV show someday!