Isn’t it typical?
We dream of having enough time to be able to redecorate and then when we have finally have the time the shops are closed and we can’t ship the kids off to the grandparents.

But not being able to rush out and start splashing paint on your walls may not be such a bad thing.

Did you know that paint colour should be one of the last things you choose in a decorating project? Yet for most of us it’s what we start with. Many of us paint a room then over weeks and months add furniture and accessories. Then, when it’s ‘finished’, we wonder why it doesn’t look quite right.

The big industry secret I’ll let you in on is this. For a room to really come together and feel ‘well designed’ it needs to be just that, well designed. That means you can’t make it up as you go along. You should plan every aspect of the project before you ever pick up a paint brush.

By the time you are ready to paint you should know exactly what sofa you are buying in what fabric, what rug, what light fittings, what furniture, what flooring, what accessories, which curtains or blinds, which artwork and in which frames. If you make all these design decisions in advance you can make sure they all work together.

how to design a room like a pro

Image via John Lewis

So this time really could be a blessing. If you want to nail your next interiors project here are some steps to work through.

How to design a room like a pro.


It’s a good idea to start with pen and paper and interview yourself about exactly what you need. Ask yourself a load of questions to help narrow down exactly what the new design needs to deliver.

Here are some questions to get you going..

  • What activities are you going the use the room for? Working, reading, socialising, watching the telly?
  • How many people will want to use the room at the same time?
  • What times of day are you going to use it most?
  • How much natural light does the room get, what direction does it face?
  • What is more important to you, aesthetics or practicality?
  • Are there enough light sources to create the atmosphere you want.
  • Are there enough power outlets for all the appliances and lamps you want?
  • What existing item are you going to keep as part of the new design?
  • What kind of atmosphere do you want the room to have?
  • Are you happy with the condition of the plaster, ceiling, skirtings, radiators, etc?

All these things will have an impact on the layout, colour scheme, furniture and accessory choices. So work out what your priorities are. Once you have these firm in your mind you can make good choices to ensure you achieve what you want.


So the next step is to work out the best layout for your new room. This may be the existing layout but don’t be afraid to have a play around and see what else could work.

The most important thing is that the layout is practical. It must allow you to comfortably do the things you want to do it that room. So it’s pretty obvious you need to keep doorways clear and ensure there is enough room to walk around furniture. There are design ‘rules’ about this kind of thing. So if you like rules and have always wondered what distance you need between the edge of your sofa and a coffee table then crack on and read about it here.

If you find it hard to visualise layouts then why not physically move furniture around or get to grips with some free floor planning software. Or my favourite method is to buy yourself a load of rolls of cheap masking tape. I use these all the time to see the physical floor space a piece of furniture will take up. So have a play.


If you are changing your flooring then this is one of the first decisions you should make. Because the floor is a large surface area it will have a big visual impact. The type of flooring you go for will set the tone for the rest of the room and will impact on other decisions. So it’s a big decision you really need to think through.

For example, let’s say you really want a wooden floor but you also want your room to feel cosy.  In that case you will probably need a rug and full length curtains, rather than binds, to cosy it up. If you had a limited budget this may not be affordable. So going for carpet to achieve that instant cosy vibe would be more cost efficient. And think about any furniture you are keeping. If you are keeping your pine dining table but are thinking of laying an oak floor then there could be a clashing situation happening here. This would not look good. So you’d either need to change the pine dining table, or put a rug under the dining table, or paint the legs of the dining table to break up the two different woods.

See how you can’t think about each item in isolation? Every decision will visually impact on another decision so start with the bigger decisions first.


By the focal piece I mean the one that’s going to get all the attention (and budget). So items like sofas, beds and dining tables.

Because these pieces of furniture will be very dominant in the room we need to nail this decision down so we can then start to build a scheme around it.

Once we know the sofa fabric we can start to choose rugs, paint colours and other fabrics such as curtains and blinds. It’s much easier to choose a paint colour to work with your sofa, than to find a sofa to work with your wall colour. This is why we don’t choose paint colours first!

Also the style of your sofa will influence the rest of the design. A very traditional style sofa may not suit the industrial style coffee table you had your eye on. So once you know what sofa you have gone for you can start to choose other smaller pieces of furniture that work with it.

how to make the most of natural light

Image via Loaf


If you are going to have a large area of pattern in the room like wall paper or a fabulous Persian rug, then it’s a good idea to choose these early on in the design. Just like with the key pieces of furniture these will be very dominant in the room so we can’t just throw them in at the end and hope for the best. The colours and patterns within the rug or wallpaper will need to be carefully considered when choosing the colours in other fabrics and accessories.


Once we have the key patterns and pieces of furniture sorted then we can choose the paint colour for the walls. So make sure you have physical samples of the chosen fabrics you are going for where possible. I’ve been in touch with a lot of suppliers over the last two weeks who are still in a position to post out samples. If it’s items like rugs where you can’t get swatches then you are going to have to rely on images online or, if you’re sure it’s the perfect rug, then order that item now so you can physically match colours to it in the comfort of your own home.

Armed with your swatches, photos and any physical items you are using in the new design, you can now start to consider paint colours. Get all your items together with a selection of colour charts and start to play around. You can either complement or contrast. Trust your instinct and always go with your gut. You can read about how to choose the perfect paint colour here.


Now you have all the key items selected, your new room’s colour palette and style will be coming together. This is a good time to choose your pendants or wall lights. Light fittings can add real impact to your scheme or can discreetly complement it. The important thing is to make sure your light fittings have some detail that ties in with the other pieces you have chosen. It may the be the colour, the shape or the material of the light that picks up on other details within the room. The choices online are endless and I would say lights are one of the things you can risk ordering without seeing them in real life. Just watch out for the dimensions. The images are nearly always just the product itself rather than hanging in a room, so don’t give you any appreciation of the scale, always check the dimensions before you buy.


Now the core of the design is in place we can start to get creative with accessories. These are anything decorative such as cushions, throws, vases, mirrors, candles, baskets, plants, art work, storage boxes, ceramics, books, hooks etc. You can either introduce a new colour here that maybe contrasts your walls and fabrics, or you can pick out colours that already exist within the design to match and complement.

how to choose and arrange artwork

Image via John Lewis


The only way to know if all the items you are choosing really work, is to see them in one place. This is really easy to do on word, powerpoint or equivalent. As you are browsing online just cut and paste the images of all your items you are considering and put them into a document.

When you have a collection of your sofa, coffee table, rug, light fitting, sideboard, accessories and wall colour you can really start to see if they are all working together. If it doesn’t look harmonious then something is off. So try swapping items out and seeing if a different style would work better. Playing around like this will really give your eye the chance to see what is working and what isn’t. Much better to do this now then try to work out what’s wrong once you’ve bought everything.

example moodboard


Finally total everything up, it’s scary but important to get a realistic picture of what your design will cost. This will give you the chance to find cheaper alternatives now rather than running out of cash later.

All of this should take at least a couple of weeks so hopefully by then the lockdown will be over.  Then you can get stuck in to implementing your design. And I bet if you follow these steps it will be your most successful design ever. Let me know how you get on.

And if you don’t want to do it on your own then get in touch. I offer my design services across Hampshire, Bournemouth and Poole. And, depending on the scale of your project we could get going on it remotely. So give me a call, I’d love to help.

Good luck 🙂