Decorating your home—whether it’s for the first time or a remodel—can seem overwhelming. There are so many things to consider—color, style, utility, and cost, just to name a few—that you might not know where to start. Whether you’re choosing home décor items for your own home or looking for the perfect housewarming gift, it’s actually a lot easier than you think. I had a lovely chat with professional interior designer Wicky Gareau of Porro’s Custom Interiors in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts to get some expert tips on how to decorate your home and choose furniture for it. These are my favorite five tips from Wicky on decorating your space to make it serve your needs and purposes.
Think About What You Like
The most professional interior design in the world is useless if you’re not comfortable in it. Wicky told me that many clients who come into the shop don’t know what they want. “We like to get them involved from the very start,” she said. “I tell them to go through magazines and websites to make a file of rooms that they like. When they go back later, they’ll usually find that the rooms they like best have common elements—a particular color, for example, or style of furniture.”
Spend some time thinking about the spaces where you feel most comfortable. What colors predominate? How much space is around you? Are the surfaces hard, soft, or in-between? What does it sound like? What’s the quality of the light—bright, dim, or functional? Are there furniture pieces, rugs, or other items that you want to have a prominent place in your new design? Understanding your own tastes is the first step toward creating a functional and beautiful home for yourself.
Consider Who Lives in the House and How They Use It
Another important factor in decorating your home is considering not only who lives in it, but also how they occupy the space. That stunning contemporary glass-topped table trio might be perfect for your sophisticated, chic adult living room—but it’s a disaster waiting to happen if you share your house with active toddlers and preschoolers—or pets, for that matter. While you’re at it, think about the way your family moves through your home. If they typically make a beeline from the front door to the kitchen, you might want to avoid putting a big sofa right smack in the middle of the path of least resistance.
That doesn’t mean all is lost if your tastes and your family’s needs collide. Look for alternatives with a similar look and feel that are a better fit for your needs. This glass-topped living room table set, for example, has a similar aesthetic, but is much more stable than the choice above.
Invest in Quality Pieces
When it comes to major furnishings, Wicky’s advice is to invest in quality pieces even if you can’t buy everything at once. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” she says. “Invest in good pieces of furniture, whether it’s a good sofa or a dining table or some kind of cabinetry. We see so many people who go to discount furniture outlets, but after a year and a half, the pieces they bought are broken, and they have to throw them out. You don’t have to buy everything at once.”
You can create your perfect design over time. Invest in a few quality pieces and fill in around them with less expensive accessories. A few throw pillows on that sofa or bed can dramatically change the look and feel of your room.
Layer Your Lighting
The right lighting can completely change the feel of your room, too. Wicky said she thinks in layers when it comes to choosing lighting for a room. Ambient lighting sets a tone—and color does matter—while task lighting can help define different areas of your room. Lights can also create or emphasize design elements. If you have an accent wall, for example, consider how wall-washer lights can add drama and emphasis to your design elements.
Task lighting can be built-in, such as pendant and can lights over your kitchen counter space, or portable, for example a floor or desk lamp perfectly positioned to reduce eyestrain when you’re working. Be sure to consider how the shades you choose help direct or concentrate the light, too. It all makes a difference.
Window Treatments—Where Less Is More
I could practically hear Wicky’s face light up over the phone when I asked her to talk to me about window treatments. “Less is definitely more,” she told me. “It used to be all about layers and layers of fabric, but these days, more and more people are choosing simplicity over frills.” Among her favorite looks—fabric wall panels to frame a beautiful window dressed with nothing more than blinds or a shade. She’s also a big fan of Roman shades that coordinate or contrast with the room’s furnishings. They come in a wide range of options, including corded and cordless lifts, and even motorized versions with a remote control.
When choosing window dressings, Wicky notes that you should keep in mind that the color and texture of the curtains you choose will also affect the quality of light in your room. Choosing yellow or rose-colored sheers, for example, will soften and warm the light in your room and make everything feel just a bit more alive.
Creating a home that feels like home is an art, but it’s an art that can be learned. Even if you don’t think you have an eye for design, these tips can help turn your house into a welcoming home that perfectly suits your personality and style.
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer living and working in Massachusetts. She writes frequently about health, wellness and lifestyle topics.