How to Start a Decorating Project

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Whether you’re furnishing your first place or redoing the house you’ve owned for decades, decorating can be a challenging task, filled with costly decisions whose outcomes could haunt you for years. How do you figure out what style is right for you? Should you tackle the job yourself or hire a pro? How much should you spend? And what steps can you take to ensure you’ll be happy with the results?

Take a critical look at your current home. What do you like about it? What do you dislike? Are your feelings prompted by the aesthetics of the decor? The comfort? The fabrics? The colors?

Write your list for Santa. Create a wish list — your Santa Claus list. Write down everything you would like to do if money were no object. Then figure out which things you can do, which things you can’t do, which things have to be done now and which things can wait.

Collect photos. Start collecting pictures of rooms you like. Even if you’re going to hire an interior designer, this will help him or her get a sense of your taste.

“I don’t know what I like.” Many people find it difficult to articulate what they want. Don’t let that bother you. Let those photos you’ve collected convey that information for you. Look at the characteristics that pop up again and again: the style of furnishings, the color palettes, the patterns, the materials, the quantity of furniture in each room. Let those characteristics guide you.

Take another look around. Now that you’ve started to zero in on the look you want your interior to have, make a list of all your significant pieces and figure out which items should stay and which should go.

Keep in mind that if you love a piece of upholstered furniture but hate its fabric, it can be reupholstered. Wood pieces can be painted or stained. Objects can be repurposed. And if there’s an inherited piece that has great sentimental value but you can’t stand to look at it … well, life’s too short to live with things you don’t love.

All at once or in stages? If you have the budget to do everything at once, by all means go for it. If you want everything done at once but can’t afford that now, save your money and do it all at once later.

If you can’t afford to do it all at once and don’t care if everything is done at the same time, then you’ll be better off doing the project in phases. Complete one room before moving on to the next one, rather than doing a little bit in one room and a little bit in another.

The living room is a good place to start. It can set the tone for all your other rooms you want to redo.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Irvine, Tustin Mission Viejo, and all areas of Orange County, California.