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11 Home Decorating Tips for Styling Your Home Like a Pro

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Getting your home decor right can seem like a challenging task — especially when it seems like the trends are always changing! Here, interior architect Shannon Vos shares his top home decoration tips to help you style your home like the pros.

Interior design is the art of understanding human behavior to create spaces within a building, inside and out. Interior decoration, though, is the adornment of a space with life and beauty. 

One can be seen as quite clinical, the other full of emotion and human story, and tackling any interior-decoration project can seem daunting to say the least.

But broken down into steps, as plentiful as they may be, is the only way to take on such a mammoth task. It’s only then that we can slowly breakdown the process and articulate all of our decisions.

Here’s what you need to know…

1. Know Yourself 

Probably one of the biggest steps in any project — design or build — is the first, and having a game plan is paramount to pulling off a cohesive space.

You will want to know where you are headed before you get there because no one likes that kind of surprise, especially when it involves quite a bit of cash.

2. Do Your Research 

Find your style, your niche, your look. Easier said than done, right? Look around you, pore over magazines, save Pins, start boards, ‘like’ posts and you will start to see patterns in what you’re saving. 

Create a vision board of all the beautiful images and things you like, and you’ll find certain styles and looks coming through.

A step further is to use the home you’re living in as a basis for a style. A chalet in the mountains, for instance, would look silly styled all coastal and beach-like. Use what you love and the home you have (as well as where you live) to build the palette of style, colour and life you wish for. 

This can take anything from a week to years, so allow plenty of time to refine your taste, and if you find yourself butting heads with your partner, husband, wife or bestie (I hate to use the word compromise), find that happy medium.

Don’t feel constrained by movements or particular styles; just gather what you love (the colors, the textures, the art) and make it yours. Own your style and you’ll build a confident personal space that feels like home and is that enclave of peace we all dream of.

3. Kick off With a List 

Knowing a style or trend you want to achieve is one thing, but pulling it off is something quite different. It’s best to create a brief (one for each space) or a set of needs and wants from each room.

This will inevitably change with time — think bachelor pad versus young family — so embrace the opportunity to reinvent yourself. 

List what you need and want from a space and start to tick off solutions. 

Take your dining room, for example. What do you need from it? Table for six, easy-to-clean floors and chairs, plenty of task lighting and a place to store all the bills. What do you want from a dining space? Softness pops of color, plenty of greenery, natural light, and cohesion with the kitchen space.

It can’t all be done at the click of a button though and, generally, the best way to know what you want from space is to live in it for a least a few months. 

Get to know the nuances of a room, the way it feels through the seasons, and the way the light changes in there throughout the day. Knowing the space will help you to figure out what you want from it and that, in turn, will create a clear brief for you to get started with.

4. Sketch 

A simple, to-scale sketch of a room or zone is an excellent way to create a floor plan and figure out how much space you have for the bigger things. 

It’s great for figuring out the space around a bed, sofa configurations and cabinetry detail. 

If it looks right on paper, it will generally look decent in real life, so don’t be afraid to play around with your floor plan to see what works best.

5. Start at the Top

If designed right, ceilings and lighting can really make a space.

A soft white ceiling with plenty of reflected light can build an ethereal tone while a moody grey hue overhead with muted warm light can build coziness and familiarity. Colour and light have so much bearing in a space, they set the tone for what’s to come in a home.

A space should (we can’t always hit the mark though) have three distinct types of lighting: task, accent and general. It’s these three (two if we’re stingy) that you want to layer so you can build character and personality in a space. 

A kitchen, for instance, might have task lighting directly over a benchtop, a killer (though not wholly practical) pendant light over the table for a touch of accent lighting, and a general wash of downlights to gently illuminate the entire space. 

Having only one type of lighting would be impractical on its lonesome, which is why a well-chosen collective can really shine. 

Try using plenty of task lighting (with dimmers if possible) where you can. That means lamps, wall lights, spotlights, anything with specific direction and for intentional use. 

On top of this, cut down the number of downlights you once might have gone for, and remember that Mother Nature is the queen bee when it comes to general lighting.

6. Go With The Flow

Furniture selection is a huge element in decoration. It may be the biggest purchase inside the home and usually dictates how a room is oriented or set out. 

Keep this in mind when choosing your pieces as you want to create flow and movement for the people who use the space.

Keep corridors within rooms for people to use. Furthermore, don’t crowd your room with too many big pieces. Give yourself and your furniture room to breathe and you’re guaranteed a more inviting space.

7. Soften Up

Don’t underestimate the effect of softness in a space. We all love natural timber floors, big glass windows, and handcrafted furniture, but that hard aesthetic needs to be balanced out. 

Cushions and throws can soften a space like nothing else, but remember that greenery and natural tones also have the power to create soft vibes within a space. 

Spend time choosing your cushions (looking for relationships in color, pattern, or texture) to really pull it all together.

8. Buy a Rug That Works

The Dude in The Big Lebowski was right all along – a rug does have the power to make or break a space.

That being said, it’s blinkin’ near impossible to guess what a rug will look like in your home. I love to try before I buy and always oversize a rug. 

Take a rug (or two) home and see what works best. Tuck a third of the rug under a bed or sofa to let those elements overlap, and keep your rug clear of any cabinetry.

9. Art is King

A room without some kind of art is an empty space, but it doesn’t have to cost you a generation of inheritance. A simple print or two, or an oversized canvas that delivers some color, can bring ‘smile’ to an otherwise dull room. 

I always invest in good framing and use the appropriate scale in a room. An oversized print on a big wall tends to sit well, as does a collection of smaller pieces in a more modest space.

10. Declutter

Nothing kills a space like clutter. We have enough going on in our lives without having to deal with 18 candles in a lounge room or your vast collection of snow globes from when you identified as a world citizen. Kill the clutter and take back your life.

11. Use Rules When You Get Stuck

Designers and decorators generally use formulas, or rules, to create cohesion. We’re not all gifted artists, so there is some method to our madness. 

The rules are principles we apply to the elements inside a home, and they govern balance, gradation, contrast, repetition, harmony and unity. 

Applying them to the elements in your home (such as colour, texture, tone and size) will give the space a sense of cohesion and help you to create rooms worthy of any magazine cover.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.

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