1. Find a purpose.
First, determine exactly how you want to use the room in question. Do you want a great room that combines dining, television, and family space? Or do you have extra rooms and want one casual family room and one formal living room? A room's purpose should be one of the strongest considerations when choosing a decorating scheme.
2. Consider others.
Who will use this space? Guests, family, children, pets, or any combination of the above? Always consider a room's occupants when selecting finishes and fabrics. For example flat finish paints and silk slipcovers might be a sophisticated choice for an adult-only room, they would be highly inappropriate for spaces routinely used by children and pets.
3. Please yourself.
Great décor and personality are not mutually exclusive; your room should reflect your style. Look through design magazines and place Post-it notes on anything you like. Work fast and don't filter your reactions; now is the time to let your gut reactions and first impressions lead the way. When you review them later, the marked images will tell the story of how your room should be.
4. Size does matter.
"Most people think they have much more space than they do," says designer Alia Myer from Jessica Hall Associates. Then when they mistakenly buy oversized furniture, "it feels mashed together." These days, sofas continue to come in increasing sizes, but often the furniture doesn't fit the room. The solution is to draw a floor plan of your room to scale on graph paper (letting one square equal one foot, for example). Before buying furniture, measure the pieces and draw them in their potential locations on the graph paper to ensure a good fit before bringing them home.
5. Go with the flow.
A beautifully decorated home should have some continuity from room to room. Each room doesn't need to have the exact same color scheme or style, but try to keep one element that continues from one room to the next to maintain continuity overall. Designer Stephanie Henley of Beasley & Henley Interior Design says, "When you do one room, you have to think about everything that touches it, all of the spaces that connect. And stay with the whole scheme of the house."
6. Find your inspiration.
Sometimes you already own and love an item that can inspire an entire room. Line up your favorite things in the room you want to decorate, and let the one that most moves you guide your choices. From your grandmother's rustic desk to your favorite painting, these loves items can inspire color, texture, and style.
7. Make a plan.
Try to envision your finished room and then plan what steps you'll need to take to get there. You can keep the plans in your briefcase, on your computer, in a designated pile on your desk, or possibly in your head, but it's important to think it all through. Key measurements, inspiring images, and shopping lists can be useful and time-saving. Of course, all this planning is flexible and subject to change, but having a plan in mind will help you make decisions and keep your momentum.
8. Take time to browse.
You don't need to buy everything at once. Furniture shopping can be overwhelming and it can be tempting to buy the furniture showroom, which results in perfectly matching pieces that may look lovely, but may also look just like your neighbor's house and won't reflect your unique personality and tastes. The best way to accomplish your own look is to avoid buying matching furniture from a single store and instead shop from a variety of sources, gradually piecing together your pieces.
9. Avoid fads.
Avoid trendy patterns on expensive pieces unless you can afford to change things often or plan to redecorate every couple years. It's best to choose neutral colors for large upholstered pieces (like a sofa) and use funky and trendy accent pieces that are easier to replace when the trends change. If you want to create a bigger impact, go with a patterned slipcover or a coat of paint in a popular hue.
10. Light up your life.
You can never have too many lighting options. Both task lighting and ambient lighting will dramatically affect the functionality and mood of your room. In addition, convert some light switches to dimmers and have plenty of lamps.