What do you do when none of the rooms in your house feel like you anymore? When you realize that all that awkward, clunky furniture really doesn't fit together and you're never going to refinish it, no matter how many times you promised yourself you would? When you would rather close the door to a room forever than deal with what's inside? I've put together a list of 11 steps (well, really 10, but you'll have to get to step 11 to see what I mean) to help you deal with this very situation! As someone who is constantly moving from my parent's house to a dorm room, back to my parent's house, into a completely different dorm room, I'm redesigning a standardized format of a room at least once per calendar year. This list is full of tips and tricks I've picked up, as well as things I've learned from watching my mom, an interior designer, design spaces for her clients.
For this exercise let’s say the room giving you a hard time is the bedroom, but these steps are applicable to almost any room in a house! I want to emphasize that this is not the same thing as hiring an interior designer!! My mom is an interior designer and while a lot of these things I've learned from her over the years, it’s a much more involved process for someone else to design a room for you. If you don’t want to do it yourself, I highly recommend finding a designer you click with and whose design style is appealing to you.
What you'll need: a Pinterest account, a roll of painter's tape, a measuring tape, a camera (this could either be a ridiculously fancy DSLR or it could be your mobile phone -- whatever you have handy), and -- if you're like me and you love physically writing things down -- a few sheets of paper (or a notebook) and your favorite writing instrument, and your imagination!
1) Start a Pinterest board where you gather inspiration for what you want your new bedroom to look like!!!!! This is really invaluable, as it allows you to pin an infinite number of items and will quickly help you notice any color schemes, themes, or similarities in what you’re pinning. For example, this is my Pinterest board for interiors and from a quick glance it’s easy to see that I’m drawn towards modern, minimalistic design with white walls and color accented in bedding, furniture, etc. This step is invaluable in moving forward, and you can take anywhere from 2 hours to 2 weeks cultivating your board.
2) Make a list of the common themes you see in your board. This list could be in a Word or Pages document, on a sticky note, or jotted on a coffee-stained napkin that happened to be laying on your desk within reach. I personally like to write things out on paper, so I would get a pen and jot down things like “minimalist furniture and design” “modern lines” “neon accessories” etc.
3) Make another list where you write down what you WANT from your space! If you want to be able to do a jumping jack in the middle of your floor but don’t have the space to now, write it down. If you only want to walk on pieces of furniture without ever touching your feet to the floor, put it on the list! Write everything down, don’t try to edit your ideas. It could be anything from “all new furniture” to “new recycling bins because the ones i have right now are five years old.” This step is really important because it forces you to articulate what you feel like you’re missing from your current space. Again, try not to take a year on this step, but give yourself time to really assess what you feel like you're needing from your space. Make the room work for you, don't bend yourself to fit the room.
4) Figure out what color palate you want to use. Again, I prefer to physically write everything out, so I’d probably start a third list at this point. Write the colors you like and the ones you don’t. Go back to your Pinterest board and see what speaks to you color-wise. This will help you narrow down your color scheme, because it’s beneficial to see the colors you like in a space that exists already. I would advise that two colors (other than neutrals — black, white, beige, and gray) are the maximum that you want to pick. Now, you have the choice of making these colors the main focus (painting the walls with them) or using them to accent a neutral on the walls. I would advise you to follow your instincts and what you find aesthetically pleasing. If you want two neon pink walls and two neon yellow walls with black baseboards, go for it!!
5) Okay! So now you should have your color scheme, an idea of what you want from your space that you aren’t getting now, and a source of inspiration you can go back to at any time. Now it’s time to really assess what you have right now. Does your bed frame squeak? Is your desk marked up and rickety? If you have carpet, is it in good shape or is it incredibly worn? You need to take stock of what you have and how it functions for you in order to decide if you want to get new furniture or work with what you have. Be ruthless!!!!! Don't get sucked into the trap of "Well I payed x for this, I should keep it...." unless the piece is really working for you and the space. I would personally advise making a list (can you tell I love lists yet?) so you have something to refer back to.
6) If you're getting new furniture for your space, it’s time to do some shopping! As a college student who can't spend all of her gas going from store to store just to see something in person, I'm more partial to online browsing at 2am while listening to Southern Gothic music on 8tracks. Some good resources I like that are good quality items without being too tough on the wallet are IKEA, PB Teen,CB2, Urban Outfitters, and Crate and Barrel. Anthropologie has a pretty good selection of things for the home, but are on the higher end price-wise. West Elm is one of my favorite stores (the bed frame I have at my parent’s house is actually from there!) is a bit more expensive, but I love to just look through what they have, online and in the store downtown here in Austin.
7) After finding items that you love (it’s very important to LOVE WHAT YOU BUY!! Trust me, you don’t want to get something you kind of like because it’s cheaper, you’ll dislike it a few years down the road and wish you'd gotten that other thing that stole your heart the first time you saw it) it’s time to space plan! Now, I've never actually done this, I've seen from my mom's work how invaluable it is to space plan before you have a room full of furniture that won't all fit. My advice on this step? Empty EVERYTHING out of your room. Absolutely everything. Then, with masking or painter’s tape, tape out approximate outlines of the furniture you have or are planning on buying, using the dimensions that are available to you on the websites. This will give you an idea of how much space you have to play with and it’s much easier to pull off some tape and reapply it than to move full-size pieces of furniture repeatedly. Once you find an arrangement you like, take pictures!! Label which shape is which so you don’t forget when you take the tape off or refer back to the photos.
8) After you’ve completed the last step and found an arrangement that you're happy with, it’s time to order your new things!! Most of what you order won’t come at the same time and you’ll either get huge amounts of things at once or they’ll trickle in. Make sure you know what the lead time is before you order! Lead time is the amount of time it will take someone to ship an item to you. For example, a bed at one store might have a 2 day lead time, but a similar bed at another store might have a 2 month lead time.
9) If you’re painting anything, this would be the time I would suggest doing it! The room is empty, your furniture is ordered, and you're impatiently waiting for boxes to come so you have something to do. You can get good quality, inexpensive paint but make sure you talk to the people who work at the paint store to figure out how much you’ll need. That’s part of what they are there for, after all! And a very important tip, don't go to an expensive paint store to get swatches or samples and then try to color match at a store that will charge you less per gallon. This is because YOU CAN'T COLOR MATCH PAINT!!! If you're willing to invest in your paint, go with the more expensive store, but if you're on a budget, start and finish at the less expensive store. There are also other factors, like the type of base the stores use, that can effect the price per gallon, so if you're in love with a color but the price per gallon is a little high you can always ask if there is a less expensive base that can be used and how that will affect the final color.
10) Once you have all of your furniture, new or existing, it’s time to arrange it. Get out the photos you took in step 7, moving your furniture into the spots you figured out before. Also have your list from step 3 handy! Once you get everything in place, it’s really important to see and feel how you feel in the space. Does everything feel right? Are you getting what you need or want that you wrote down in step 3? If not, move the furniture around. This may take a few tries or it may take many. But it’s very important that the space feels good to you, since you’ll be living in it!
11) Do a dance!!!!! You’ve made it to the last, which is to enjoy your new space! Remember that you can change things at anytime. I know when I was growing up my mom and I would rearrange my bedroom at least three times a year. Because how your room works right now may not work four months down the road. Also, take pictures of your rockin’ new room!!