If your first thought was “there are so many options available and so many decisions to make, I am overwhelmed!” you are not alone. My first warning is don’t retreat into the familiar! I see this all the time and it leaves a trail of disappointment and Linen White paint in its wake.  The ultimate goal is to create something you love.  Keep that in mind as you proceed.

  1. Look around and find styles you like. The easiest way to figure out what appeals to you is by looking at photos of other homes. There are many options with the internet; Houzz, Pinterest, House Beautiful and even Real Estate websites can show you some great images of homes. I am old school and like to scour design books and magazines.  Don’t be afraid to rip out or save images of things you do not like as well. After you’ve collected at least a dozen images, sit down and compare them. What do the pictures have in common?  Is it the colors?  How much furniture is in the room? The style of furniture? Layout of the furniture? Place a Post -It note on each picture reminding you why you like it or don’t like it later.
  2. Create a budget. Figure out how much you can spend. If you can’t afford to decorate your entire home at once, pick the room where you spend most of your time and make that your starting place.
  3. Sketch out a floor plan. If paper and pencil are not your thing and technology is then try the room planner through Jordan’s Furniture in Boston. You can plan any room in your house. If you need to see it in real life grab some masking tape and lay it on the floor and walls. While you are doing that…measure everything and don’t forget to re-check your measurements. Measure your space before you go shopping (as well as the doorways and stairs leading to your domicile), and bring those measurements when you shop. Furniture will look smaller in a showroom with 20-foot ceilings than it will look in your living room. And don’t buy matching sets of furniture, unless you want your home to look like the sales floor at Furniture Town.
  4. Pick a color palette.  I suggest starting with the items you’re most in love with. It could be a rug, artwork or even an outfit you adore or if you are simply madly in love with the color yellow, start with that. Use neutral colors for investment pieces, like the sofa and dining table, and put the color in paint or accent pieces like pillows, lamps and art. That way you can change the color palette in the future without spending a lot of money.
  5. Paint. Please paint. It’s the cheapest way to personalize a space, and it will give you the most bang for your buck. Even if you prefer white, find a wonderful white that lends atmosphere. If you’re reluctant to paint the whole place, just paint an accent wall. If you’re afraid of committing to a bold hue, choose an in-between color.
  6. Invest in the right furniture pieces. A sofa is going to stay with you for a long time, so get a good one. Even if you think you’ll have it just temporarily, it’ll end up moving from the living room to the family room to the basement to the college dorm. So don’t skimp.
  7. Where to skimp. If you need to cut costs, do it with accessories: Look for mirrors, pillows and lamps at places like Ikea, Target, T.J.Maxx and thrift stores or garage sales. The dirty little secret of decorating is that if you mix in a few cheap things among the more expensive items, no one will notice.
  8. Consider “temporary” furniture. Lots of experts advise against buying “temporary” furniture. Well, I’m here to tell you that I don’t necessarily subscribe to that theory. It can take a long time to find and afford just the right pieces for your home.
  9.  Hire a pro. If you’re still unsure about all of this, you can always seek the services of a professional. If you can’t afford a soup-to-nuts decorating job, then just ask for an hourly consultation. The designer will help you clarify your style, steer you toward the right furnishings and assist in the development of a long-term plan.
  10. Relax & Enjoy. Your first home probably will not be your last home. So don’t feel like you’ll be living with every decision for the rest of your life. Sure, it makes sense financially and environmentally to acquire foundation pieces that will transition from your first home to your second, third and fourth. But that throw pillow is going to be around for only a few years. So have fun.

Regina DiLauro-Fay has over 15 years of design experience. Her company, DF Designs, specializes in Interior Design, Home Staging & Color Consultanting. She can be reached at (843)906-9663 or reginadfdesigns@gmail.com.