How to decorate with confidence. Free interior design advice

Got a room to do up and need some free interior design advice? During the time when I still had my furniture store and was buying and selling vintage, all I ever did was follow my intuition and try things out. Put things together to see how it looked. I still don’t follow a certain style, or even a trend, I just pick what I love and usually immediately see if it works well. You can’t help including things or colour schemes that are trendy sometimes because what is ‘in vogue’ can actually be very beautiful and you know you will still love it even when the trend has passed.

First tip!

Go with your instinct. If it speaks to you, especially when you have thought about it for a few days, get it – or do it.

Today I am sharing some tips to help you in your own interior design projects. Next time you are redecorating your living room, or in fact any room, try and follow these steps. They may help you see things differently and choose a colour scheme, furniture and accessories with confidence.

free interior design advice

Interior design tip #1: Start a Pinterest board

This is a no brainer really and I am sure most of you are doing this already. Create a dedicated board on Pinterest and gather images of rooms you like, furniture you like, colour schemes and images that inspire you and ‘fit’ within the look you are thinking of. While pinning your favourites, think about the function of the room too: are you going to spend time in it during the day or mainly in the evening? Which family members will be using it most? Does it need a play area, a library, a desk? Will it have a TV in it and where would it go?

free interior design advice
When collecting images for a style board, think about the paint colours, accent colours, types of furniture, different textures and also images you like that may give inspiration for a style or colour scheme.

Once you have built a bit of a collection, stand back and look at it as a whole to see if you can see a cohesive style. Is there a certain colour that is dominant? This might become your wall colour or accent colour in textiles or upholstery. Are there certain patterns or textures you pinned in more than one image? Then this is another element you can use, when choosing perhaps wallpaper or accessories.

Delete any images that you feel are just too different from the rest, as this helps you narrowing it down. You can always save the image in another board, for future projects and ideas. As you do this (fun!) exercise over the space of a few weeks, you will slowly see a cohesive style board emerging, which can serve as a very helpful guide when choosing colours, furniture and accessories for your redecoration project.


Interior design tip #2: Look at the features of the room

When it comes to styling living rooms, I always start by looking at the features of the space. I try and picture it without anything in it. What is the light like? Are there any focal points like fire places or alcoves? Are the ceilings high or is it a cosy room with small windows? It is a good idea to measure up the space and draw it out to scale on a sheet of paper with written dimensions of walls, windows and doors. This helps you choose the right size furniture later on.

free interior design advice
Drawing your room to scale on a piece of paper is a useful  exercise to help you plan. Write the dimensions along the walls and bring it along with you on your shopping trips, so you know when a sofa or sideboard actually fits in the space you have in mind for them. Cutting out little miniature piece of furniture (to scale) can help you picture the room, while moving them around on the plan to see what they look like in different places.


Interior design tip #3: What to do with the flooring

Next you look another very important permanent element: the flooring. What is the flooring like? Is it staying? Depending on the ideas on your Pinterest board (and budget) you may choose to replace old carpet with wood flooring, paint your old floor boards or leave it as it is and work with rugs later on. Carpets can add a lot of warmth to a room, especially in old houses or if the floor boards on their own are just too draughty.

free interior design advice
If you have nice old floor boards, show them off! Sand them, stain them or paint them white. A rug will add warmth.


Interior design tip #4: Walls and woodwork: wallpaper or paint?

Next up are the walls and woodwork around the room including windows, skirtings and doors. If you are going for the ‘Scandinavian’ bright look, keep it simple and choose different shades of white as a calm background for your more colourful furniture. If you are thinking of a more traditional or ‘cottage/farmhouse’ style, you may want to look at darker, moodier colours such as deep blue, sage green or dark grey for the walls, creating a cosy sitting room for the evening. It may feel scary to go dark, but you’ll probably be surprised with how good it looks.

free interior design advice
A deep blue colour for the walls will make a small room feel cosy and great for snuggling up in during the evenings. Add contrast by choosing a white for the woodwork and picture frames, combined with blue-white throw cushions as accessories.
free interior design advice
For a modern, Scandinavian look, choose light wall colours and neutral flooring as a basis to form the perfect backdrop to show off your nice furniture and more colourful accessories or artwork.

Whatever paint ideas you have collected on your Pinterest board, it is a good idea to get some tester pots first as you may change your mind when seeing colours in the actual light of your room. Woodwork can also look beautiful just stripped and waxed if you live in a period house, or go for a contrasting colour to make a modern statement. If you go for wallpaper, most people choose to use a bold pattern on just one wall as a feature, rather than plastering it on all four.

free interior design advice
Wallpaper on all four walls can become a bit overpowering, but use it on just one or two and it makes a beautiful statement. This blue patterned wallpaper makes a lovely contrast with the white window frame and the circular pattern is similar to the cushions on the sofa. See also how the bronze accent colour is repeated in the accessories.

interior design tip #5: Lighting

Lighting is super important in interior design and needs proper attention. On your drawn outline of the room mark where you think you will need light. Where are you going to sit and read? What aspects need a spotlight (pictures, a bookcase)? Is a central ceiling pendant light necessary or can you just go for standard lamps, wall fitted lamps and table lamps to light the room in the evening? Perhaps consider putting in a dimmer for a ceiling light to change the mood of the room.

When choosing lighting, don’t buy lamps that are all very busy or different in style and pattern, but perhaps go for a standard and a table lamp with matching shades combined with some stylish wall mounted lamps. Or have one heavily patterned shade combined with more minimalist lighting. Also look at what type of bulb you are using in each lamp: white light creates a cool, contemporary atmosphere while yellow light gives off a warmer glow.

free interior design advice
Lighting doesn’t all have to match or be of the same ‘series’. In this room the lights do all have the same warm yellow light (bulb) and are fairly plain in design. Instead of the simple white shade on the standard lamp, a patterned shade in the blue and grey tones would also have made a good combination.


Interior design tip #6: Furniture

You may want to start from scratch if the budget allows or you just want to make a clean break. The likelihood is that you probably have some things you want to keep, so it is a good idea to photograph them to include them on your Pinterest board to see them in the mix. Then it is important to make a shopping list, not the least because you likely want to know what it is all going to cost.

Invest wisely

Invest wisely and think long term. It may be better to spend a bit more on a quality sofa than splash out on that super stylish vintage drinks cabinet you have spotted but are unlikely to use on a daily basis – although, I know, sometimes you just gotta have something. Shop around and mix and match. Don’t be afraid to buy your brand new sofa at a high street store, then combine it with an upcycled vintage coffee table and compliment it all with a set of cheap plain bookcases from Ikea. Your house is not a show home, make sure it is you and that your style shines through.

Eclectic living room with burnt orange and vintage furniture
Don’t be afraid to mix styles. If it speaks to you, it is meaningful and will still be liked in the future. This room shows the unusual combination of a sleek midcentury sofa with a chesterfield, a vintage cabinet, a modern glass coffee table, traditional table lamps and a Persian rug. But it works! The orange of the sofa comes back in the velvet cushions on the chesterfield as well as the in the rug and the very large artworks. Eclectic but very stylish!

How much furniture do I need in my living room?

How much furniture should you get? Less is more, you can always add something if you feel there is something missing. Just don’t cram a huge corner sofa into a small front room. Keep it airy, make sure there is still room to move. A 2-seater sofa and two matching midcentury modern armchairs on either side of a low table may be a good solution if you want to create a good ‘conversation space’ in a lounge. When it comes to upholstery, a safe bet is a quality lasting plain wool fabric or leather for the sofa. A grey herringbone is a timeless choice, and so is tan leather. Armchairs can add colour and contrast or even go for patterns to jazz it up.

grey sofa with two matching blue armchairs in a white living room
This calm living room combines a plain grey linen sofa with two matching midcentury armchairs. The blue upholstery creates interest and a bold contrast against the otherwise neutral interior. Imagine them being grey and you would have a much more boring effect. The warm wood tones also go very well with the dark fabric.


Interior design tip #7: Soft furnishings

Curtains, blinds and rugs. What does the room need? Plain grey or off white full length linen curtains are always a lovely choice, and go with both modern and traditional styles. Combine it with painted wooden venetian blinds or a patterned linen roman blind for some sophisticated layering.

When it comes to a rug (if you have wood flooring), choose a bolder pattern if your furniture is muted and calm in colour and texture. If there is already a lot going on in your upholstery or colours and patterns on the wall perhaps, select a large natural wool rug in a light colour as a base.

layered window treatment
These large windows lend themselves well for some layered window treatment. This room shows a nice light patterned full length curtain combined with a mustard yellow roman blind. The fabrics are repeated in some throw cushions.


Interior design tip #8: Accessories

Finally, accessories. Pictures, mirrors, cushions, vases, clocks, baskets, etc. Cushions are a good way to start. Combine contrasting colours, different patterns and textures. As long as they all fit in more or less with your image collection on the Pinterest board, they will add welcome interest.

>> General cushion pairing formula:

TEXTURE + LARGE SCALE PATTERN + SMALL SCALE PATTERN + LUMBAR

Cushion pairing example
Combine a plain coloured velvet texture with a large patterned monochrome cushion. Add a lumbar shaped one and perhaps a fourth cushion combining the orange and black and white, but in a smaller pattern.

When it comes to choosing artwork, don’t be afraid to get a big frame. A large painting or photograph can make a great statement in a room. They also look good over a sofa or sideboard. Alternatively a gallery wall can add a lot of interest and a great opportunity to show off family photos. Maybe even show off your collection of fabrics.

Play around and learn what works

Play around with placing accessories like vases and other loose objects. Does it look good where you placed it? What composition have you created, is there a good balance? Use other things as well to create interest such as some of your favourite books, found objects like shells or a rock and don’t forget plants! Plants literally add live to a room (as long as you keep them alive of course).

mustard yellow and grey
Buy some large indoor plants to add life and atmosphere to your living room. Imagine this room without the plants, it would look pretty plain.


Good luck!

I hope this list is helpful in guiding you, whatever room you may tackle. What do you find most difficult in your redecorating projects?

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10 thoughts on “How to decorate with confidence. Free interior design advice

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