Over a year ago now I redecorated our living room and it quickly became my favorite room in our whole house. Before the refresh, I had decorated the space while I was still trying to figure out my decorating style, so it was all over the place and I wasn’t loving the way it looked. It needed something so it didn’t feel so blah. There were a few things I knew I wanted to change, so I decided to do a mini makeover so it better reflected my style and was the pretty, inspiring space I craved.
When I’m decorating a room, there are certain steps I do every time to make the process streamlined and organized. I thought I’d share the actual process I use to create a design plan for a room refresh.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to start decorating a room, whether it’s a blank slate or little refresh, without a plan at all. If you just start haphazardly buying things, without a real idea of what furniture and accessories you need, you’ll end up going in a million directions, feel overwhelmed and confused, and question whether you’re making the right decisions.
So I’m going to show you how to create a design plan for a living room, kitchen, office, bedroom, glam walk in closet, or any project you might be working on, no matter if you’re starting with a blank slate or if you’re simply refreshing a room.
For this post, I’m using the example of our kitchen remodel and redesign to show you how I planned out the entire design plan.
I want to preface this by saying you should always take the time to find your decorating style FIRST if you don’t know it already, before you start creating a design plan. I know I say it over and over, but I stand by my word and truly believe you MUST know your signature decorating style before you begin any kind of decorating or you're just setting yourself up for failure. Knowing your style will just make the following design planning process much easier and faster because you’ve done a lot of the work upfront. Otherwise, if you don't know your decorating style, you run the risk of being all over the place with your design and not really happy with how it looks in the end. And we certainly don't want that to happen, amiright?
So, if you aren’t sure what your decorating style is or need help finding it, this post will walk you through it. Make sure you go do that before moving on to your design plan.
How to Plan Out a Room Refresh Design Plan
1. Gather Inspiration
First, you want to start by gathering inspiration to help guide you as you make decisions down the road. You may already have some ideas in your head of what you like, but you want to put everything in one place so all your inspiration is together. I like to use Pinterest since most of my inspiration comes from online, so I usually create a new Pin board for the room I’m working on. If you’re more of a paper and pencil girl, you can totally cut out magazine clippings or print out images and create a visual board. The main thing is put all your inspiration in one place.
As you’re looking for inspiration, gather anything that speaks to you and reflects how you want your room to look and feel. When I’m deciding whether or not I should pin an image to my board, I always ask myself if I truly LOVE the way it looks. If it makes me happy and is something I would want in my own space, then I pin it to my board.
You can spend as much time as you feel you need on gathering inspiration. Aim to have a good overall idea of how you want your room to look and you should be able to explain in words how you want your space to feel. If you can’t do that, keep looking for more inspiration.
2. Organize Your Thoughts
Once you have your complete inspiration board, find the common threads. Maybe it’s a color palette, the style of furniture, or a common vibe or feeling. Whatever they might be, take note of what elements you see show up again and again in your vision board. Then, start to organize your thoughts and make decisions as to what colors, patterns, furniture styles, wood finishes, and textures you want in your space. Use the common threads you found throughout your inspo photos and choose the elements you love most that you want to use in your room design. Whatever colors, patterns, furniture, wood finishes you decide on, just make sure you LOVE them and how they all look together.
If you read this post on finding your decorating style, this step should be fairly easy for you because most of the hard work is already done. You should have your 5 decorating elements already defined, so now it’s just a matter of deciding which of the elements will be used where/how in your space.
Your goal for this step is to decide which colors, patterns, furniture styles, wood finishes, and textures you will use in your design plan.
As an example, here are the elements I’m using for our kitchen design. You can see everything still aligns with the rest of the decor in our home so it all flows from room to room. We will be using the same wood floors we have in the living room and hallway, butcher block countertops, white subway tile with gray grout lines, light gray cabinets, white walls, a round rustic wood table with modern chairs and a mobile pendant light fixture, with matte black accents.
By now you should have a pretty good idea of the direction you’re headed for your space, but the design doesn’t have to be completely set yet so you can make a few tweaks later if needed.
3. Decide on a Floor Plan
Now you need to decide on a floor plan. You may be keeping it the same as your existing floor plan or you might want to switch it up. There really is no right or wrong choice here, you just want a floor plan that works for you and your space and flows nicely. The main thing is to try to keep furniture from hugging all of the walls, and to allow room for the natural flow of traffic and conversation areas in your room.
I like to sketch different floor plan options on a paper and think of all the different configurations I can come up with. Then, decide which option works best. You will want to grab a tape measure and actually measure your room dimensions and furniture you plan to use in that room to make sure it fits with your proposed floor plan. If you need any new furniture, measure your room and decide what size of pieces you need that will fit appropriately and include them in your floor plan drawing.
I also physically rearrange furniture in my room to test out different arrangements and use painter’s tape to mark off pieces of furniture I don't have yet but need to get. This helps give you a visual of what the furniture would look like. We aren’t changing the footprint of our kitchen, so the floor plan is staying the same. The trick was finding a table that was small enough to fit the small breakfast nook area we have.
4. Make a To-Do List
So far you have your inspiration, figured out what colors and other elements you are using, and decided on a floor plan. Now it’s time to create a list of what all needs to get done/need to shop for. If you’re painting walls, repurposing furniture, or anything new you need to buy for your refresh, list it all out.
Make sure to include everything you need to do project-wise and write down any piece of furniture or decor you need to buy, from accessories to textiles, hardware to plants, and lighting. Everything. You don’t have to buy it all right away, you just want to create a list so you have something to stick to and keep you on track from buying other random things.
5. Shop Shop Shop
Based on your to-do list you just created, shop for any new things you need. Obviously, you can’t run out and buy everything on your list right away, so I usually buy the things that are essential to the space first like the table, chairs, light fixture, then I'll get the decor items last.
This step takes the longest (buying process can be weeks or months) depending on how big your project is and the timeline and budget you’re working with. Finding the perfect piece within your budget is often a challenge. Things go out of stock. The perfect couch you found no longer fits with your coffee table, etc. Things happen and that’s why this step takes so long, but you want to take your time and not rush any decisions. Most importantly, make sure that every piece you bring in your space aligns with your stye and your plan from step 2, but also that you absolutely LOVE it. If you love everything in your space, you will love your results in the end.
As I shop and source furniture and decor, I like to create a mood board of everything so I can see what it all looks like together. This helps you visualize the space and decide if you need to make any changes before you start making purchases.
Here's a post on how I make simple mood boards without without Photoshop.
Remember, decorating takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. Creating your design plan upfront using these steps makes the whole process go much smoother and keeps you organized and on track. By taking these steps you will be able to create a space you love, that inspires you, and hopefully brings you a little joy in your everyday life.