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How to Decorate a Room from Start to Finish

Decorating a room is a refreshing and rewarding project. However, it can also be super overwhelming. Over the years, I’ve developed a series of steps to make the entire process run smoothly. Of course, some things vary in each space, but here are some easy steps you can follow to decorate a room from start to finish.

neutral bedroom with bed, rug, window treatments, pillows, and artwork

For this example, I’m using my own bedroom and going to style only with what I have on hand. I’ll be relying heavily on my 5 Home Styling Supplies.

empty bedroom with bed

Decorate a Room in 8 Easy Steps

1. Set a Budget:

I know, it’s no fun to start out thinking of money. But, trust me, this will make a world of difference. If you’re keeping it under a few hundred dollars, you’ll want to look for some budget friendly updates and spend only on items that make a big difference. 

2. Assess the Space: 

Measure & determine what cannot be changed.  Take accurate measurements of the room, including the walls, ceiling, and floor. This will help you choose the right size furniture, rugs, and decor.

For this space, the built in headboard, side shelves, and bed are staying. The flooring is also staying for now (though I wish I could change for one of the wood flooring options!).

empty bedroom to decorate

3. Take a Photo

I like to do this with a mostly empty space, or at least with the items that cannot be changed.

Taking a photo creates distance so you can see the space for what it is, not just being in the room and experiencing it. Then, look critically at what is working for you and what isn’t.

This also helps if you’re deciding to paint. Often, by taking a photo we can see current colors that aren’t working and perhaps other areas we’d like to define (like my bedroom office nook which is opposite of this bed area).

which wall paint color should i use?

I will always vote for neutrals! Read my Neutral Wall Paint Guide for exact paint colors and examples.

neutral and natural room design board for a neutral bedroom
design board for this room – all design sources at end of post

4. Define your vision

This. Is. So. Important. 

I know this can be tricky but if you do nothing else on this list, do this one.  Creating a vision (whether it’s a pinterest board, a room design board, notes in a journal, or just an image stamped in your mind) is crucial to decorating a room. 

Why? Well, without it, you’ll just end up going in circles. “Maybe I like these curtains. Oh wait, what about pillows? Do those need to match the rug? And the floor?! I hate the floor, what can I do about that? If I change it, what color of paint? And then does that go with the….curtains…?” 

Take the FREE Quiz!

Boho or Mid-Century? Maybe Modern or Coastal? See what interior design style fits you best!

See? It’s a vicious cycle and usually the point when my best friends send me an SOS text. 

Spend some time imagining how you want the space to function and how you want it to feel

bedroom with bed and rug

5. Select and place anchor pieces:

To decorate a room, start with the main pieces. This includes large furniture, rugs, and artwork.

Make sure they are all proportionate! This is a great time to use sizing charts like my art print guide and my rug sizing guide which help choose size and proportion.

In this space, I added the Loloi Rug (size 6’7″ x 9′), main bedding, and window treatments (woven wood shades + linen curtains).

My Woven Wood Shade Guide, List of 6 Neutral Rugs , and Wall Art Alternatives can help choose these anchor items.

6. Choose the Lighting:

Consider the lighting in the room. I like to include a variety of light: natural light from windows, room lighting (like a flush mount light fixtures or chandelier), ambient lighting (soft back lights), and task lighting (like a bedside or reading lamp).

And pretty please – make sure you use soft warm white bulbs not bright white or daylight – these will have a cold, blue cast! I like to refer to a lightbulb temperature chart to get a good idea of how a bulb impacts the mood of a room.

Check out all my Lighting posts for more inspiration and sources.

bedroom with window treatments and blanket

7. Add the Small Decor:

Ok, it’s starting to all come together now! Now it’s time to add the smaller decor items such as throw pillows, plants, candles, vases, and baskets to add your personality and soften any edges.

How do i add small decor items?

Instead of thinking of decor of just putting stuff places, I like to see decor as finding solutions. I’ll include some common decor items and how I use them strategically:

  • Plants – I use plants to ’round out’ spaces with lots of lines, edges, and corners. Especially plants with rounded leaves and flowing branches. (You can see this in the bedroom example where I used plants at the corners of the built in shelves – these soften those edges).
  • Baskets – Not only super functional, but baskets add texture and dimension to keep a space from feeling flat (you’ve been in rooms like this and probably thought, “hmm, something is missing…”)
  • Woven Pillows & Blankets – Riding that same texture train with the baskets! Woven pillows and throw blankets add texture and warmth to any room, but no need to go overboard!
  • Wood Items – Whether it’s frames, furniture, coasters, or something else, I like to use wood decor items to add some warmth to a space. Test this out yourself – swap out a white oak for those traditional black ones and just feel the difference
  • Wall Mirrors – Just like other decor, choose mirrors based on what the space NEEDS. Think proportion, shape, and lighting. For a full guide, check out my post, 9 Wall Mirror Decor Ideas.

Check out my Shelf Decor Roundup for my go to decor pieces perfect for styling.

small home decor with plants, art, and lamp

8. Edit the Room:

Don’t stop just now! Editing is the best part. This is where you make those final changes that make all the difference. 

Right near the end of a styling a room, I like to step back and take another photo. From there, I usually remove one piece of decor or adjust the placement of a frame, rug, or plant.

black, white, and wood bedroom with bed, lamps, art work and rug

After that? Sit back and enjoy your freshly decorated room!

Bedroom design sources:

more room inspiration

While these steps work well for decorating a room at any point, if you’re looking to sell, be sure to check out my Home Staging Tips for Successfully Selling Your Home or if you’re going through a transition, be sure to read Decorating After Divorce.