Planning a room design: where to start.

It can be quite daunting task approaching a room design, there’s so much choice available. The world is your oyster and I’ve had a few people say recently they just have no idea where to start. So I thought I’d give some handy hints and share some insider interior design tips that might just set you on the right path to achieving interior bliss. I’ve broken the process down into 5 steps and hope to share more details on moodboards and colour schemes in the coming weeks.

1. Think Practical

First up, you need to determine the purpose of the room. Is it going to be an open plan, kitchen-diner/living space where all the family will spend their meal and leisure time or a cosy snug come games room for a couple to chill out in the evenings?

This will determine what key elements or pieces of furniture you will need within your design and also inform the layout and lighting. Does it need to be multi-functional? Space comes at a premium and many people are short on it, therefore spaces may need to double up or you might need to get clever with storage (you can never have too much in my opinion). Spare rooms often double up as home offices or dressing rooms and dining rooms/kitchens may need a play space or homework area. Or you may be lucky enough to be designing a more unusual space such as a home cinema or music room (one for the wish list).

Think about who is going to be using the space, obviously a family of 5 with young children would have very different requirements to an elderly couple or a young, single woman. And someone into gaming or hosting parties may require a large dining space with lots of seats and a plug socket or two nearby, but if you’re someone who eats out or travels away a lot, a smaller dining area or a breakfast bar may suit you better. Ask yourself what you currently like about the space and what you would like to change? Or which pieces of furniture would need to stay? Obviously if it’s a new build or extension you have a blank canvas to work with and will need to think carefully about placement of more permanent structures such as radiators.

Also consider the scale of the room and choose furniture in keeping with that scale. If you go too large the room will feel cluttered, too small and it will look lost and you won’t have utilised the space. Also ensure there is room around each piece of furniture, ie you can access the bed from 3 sides (unless it’s a kid’s bed), there is still space around the dining table when the chairs are pulled out or you aren’t going to be tripping over your coffee table. People often think that furniture should be squashed against walls to create a feeling of spaciousness, but actually pulling furniture away from walls even by a couple of centimetres can give the illusion of more space, as can wall mounted storage and furniture on legs, a useful tip for a small room. One of the best ways to consider the layout is by mapping it out on graph paper and moving furniture templates around until you get a combination you’re happy with.

Think about which times of day you use the room, for example a bedroom will mainly be used in the mornings and evenings and you may want soft mood lighting, but a kitchen-diner or a study may be used throughout the day, in which case you may want to optimise natural light and have bright task lights for certain spots.

Make sure you also have a budget in mind as this will affect your choices further down the line. If the budget is tight decide which elements are the absolute essentials for the functioning/feel of the room design and invest in those to the highest quality you can afford.

2. Get Inspired

Once you’ve considered all the practicalities it’s time to seek out inspiration. Collect paint chips, fabric samples, tear snippets out of interiors magazines and set up a Pinterest board. Inspiration can come from literally anywhere, it could be a vintage print on your great aunt’s curtains, some colourful packaging or a celebrity’s home you saw on instagram. Fabrics and wallpapers are a great source of inspiration as they provide a ready made colour scheme and come in wide variety of patterns. Think about why you are drawn to certain images or colour combinations and see if you can pick out any similarities or themes, which will help you figure out your style.

For example, I’m drawn to deep jewel colours and greens and I also like high contrast. I would say my style is eclectic with a mix of Industrial Art Deco and Boho Scandi. I also love mixing old and new and using lots of natural materials.

Thinking about how you want the room to feel can help you narrow down your image choices, create a list of adjectives that describe what mood you want to create in the space and pick 3 to focus on (for example inviting, fresh, calm). Then narrow down your images to those that fit the description or that you really love. If you already know you’re drawn to a particular style, for example country style, source a magazine in keeping with that, like Country Living to provide you with inspiration.

3. Pick a colour, any colour.

If only it were that simple … Colour schemes can be hard to get right and if you’re unsure it’s best to ask advice from an interior designer. But a good starting point is to consider the light in your chosen room. The direction the room is facing determines how much and what kind of light a space receives and as result which colour palettes will work. For example north facing rooms get the least light and the light can be quite harsh and cold, meaning that cool colours will only exemplify this and make the space feel colder. Therefore it is advisable to use warmer colours or colours that have a yellow base as opposed to a grey/blue base. Sunny south facing rooms, can pretty much get away with any colour scheme as they receive a lot of light through the day and the light is warmer. East facing rooms receive their light in the morning and the light can often appear blue, therefore its bet to work with the light and choose warm pale blues and greens. Whereas West facing rooms receive the light in the evenings, so will appear cooler earlier in the day and warmer later on.

A good source of information regarding colour and light can be found on the Farrow and Ball website. They also provide inspiration with ready made colour schemes using their paint colours and there’s a customer photo gallery, so you can see how colours work in different spaces.

As a general rule and if you’re a beginner to colour scheming, its advisable to stick to 3 colours (plus neutrals) and follow the 60-30-10 rule. Your main dominant colour should cover 60% of the surface of the room (usually walls). Your secondary colour should cover 30%, so perhaps flooring, large upholstery or curtains and your accent colour (usually a brighter, contrasting colour) should cover 10% so soft furnishings or objet d’art/accessories.

There are lots of different types of colour schemes and I’m planning to do a more in-depth blog post on those at a later date. But what I will say is: the colour wheel is your friend! If you can come to a decision on one particular hue, blue for example, you can then look to the colour wheel for colours that either sit next to that colour, are opposite that colour or are evenly spaced around the colour wheel. Lighter and darker tones of the same colour will also work together harmoniously.

4. Focus

Every room should have a focal point. It helps create wow factor and gives the eyes somewhere to rest upon when entering a space. I talked about this in my previous adding character post, but it’s here where architectural features come into their own. If a room has a fireplace or chimney breast, draw attention to it! This may be through colour or wallpaper, but it could be more subtle by adding an elegant mirror for example. Other focal points could be a grand staircase, windows, architrave, ornate cornicing or built in bookcases. Painting certain elements in a different colour to the walls can help these features stand out.

But equally it doesn’t have to be a permanent feature of the room. It could be an armchair upholstered in a bold print, a headboard in a deep velvet or an interesting light fitting.

It can also pay to have one item that is out of scale with the rest of the room. I know I talked before about keeping everything in scale, but sometimes you need to bend the rules and having one piece that is out of scale with the rest adds real interest.

5. Layer it up

Once you have an idea of furniture, layout and colour, think about the finishing details and how to add layers to your room design. By this I mean consider all the design elements, especially texture. If you’ve used all the same finish and texture (e.g white glossy kitchen cupboards, white glossy table, white walls) your room will feel very flat. Mixing materials and different textures and patterns adds interest and depth. Soft furnishings are a good way of doing this, for example a mix of cushions in velvet, wool and linen, creates a textured look, but if you stick to colours within your colour scheme they won’t look out of place. Metallics are another way of adding interest as they reflect the light and add another material in the mix. Think about different levels of light, if you can, always install a dimmer switch in the kitchen, so you can create atmosphere in the evenings. Pendant lights work well over dining tables and breakfast bars and feature lights and chandeliers can add drama in the living room and bedroom. Always try to have a few different sources of light, for different times of the day and to create different moods.

Finally put together a moodboard with your inspiring images, samples, colours and items of furniture. This is my favourite part of compiling a room scheme and canva is an excellent tool for this. Has anyone else used it? If not have a go, I’d love to know what you think. I’m also planning to share some of the moodboards I’ve created for friends and family over on my instagram soon, so go take a look (@decor.junkie)