Home Decor 101: How to be Your Own Interior Decorator - Christmas Tree Market Blog

Home Décor 101: How to be Your Own Interior Decorator

June 24th, 2013

When you’re thinking about redecorating your home, there are many roadblocks that you may have to overcome: finding time, finding money, and finally, finding confidence in your own judgment and style to take the plunge and make the change. In fact, embarking on a project without the help of an expensive interior decorator may seem like an overwhelming task. But what most people don’t know is that you can have the fabulous interiors you’ve always wanted. All you need is a plan and a little know-how.

In this first post from the Home Décor 101 series (due out on the last Monday of each month), I’m going to show you:

  1. How to find your style
  2. How to plan your home decor projects
  3. How to design for real life with examples from my kitchen redecorating project

With a bit of enthusiasm, you’ll be decorating like a pro in no time.

Step 1: Define your style

Before you start decorating, you must first define your style. Is it traditional, modern, or something in between? Do you like bold, bright colors or do you go for pastel hues? Think about your dream design — what you would have in your house if you had all the money and time in the world — and let these ideas inspire you to create something more achievable.

Now, while the spreads in magazines and on TV may be beautiful, keep in mind that you want your home to express you – and no one knows what that is better than yourself. Mary Steenburgen says it best in this great article from Houzz, “I don’t relate to rooms that have been beautifully designed but look like they could belong to anyone.” You’ll be living in your design, not just looking at it, so figuring out what styles you’re comfortable with is a foundational step of the process. That being said, it’s easier to figure out your style than you might think.

How to Define your Style: Collect Ideas

When defining your style, the easiest approach is to collect images of home décor that attract your attention. Whether it’s a picture of a pretty piece of porcelain or a fully designed room, these images will help you find out what you like. As you collect, you’ll notice that you start gravitating towards specific styles and color schemes, and there you have it! Your design style!


Follow Jennifer Lutz’s board Kitchen on Pinterest.


Once you’ve envisioned the kind of interior décor you would like your home to have, it’s time to file ideas away! Websites like Houzz and Pinterest (see above for my kitchen board) are wonderful virtual tools for planning house projects while Evernote makes it easy to jot down notes and store pictures of design ideas. However, I find that having physical files are still helpful. Find the system that works best for you.

Personally, in addition to keeping ideas on Pinterest, I like keeping a manila folder filled with ideas for each room of the house (accordion filing folders or style notebooks also work). When I’m ready to start decorating, all I have to do is take a look at the ideas in the folder and start prioritizing which ideas I have the time and budget to do.

Kitchen home decor idea folder


Step 2: Plan your Project

Though you may want to update every room in your home, doing so would be completely overwhelming. I know for our family, in addition to budget constraints, there are major time constraints with regards to family and work. Instead of trying to decorate everything all at once, focus on just one space, or even just one area of a room, for your first project. Prioritization is key.

How to Decide on a Space to Decorate

Make a List

Make a list of the possible rooms you’d want to decorate and consider the projects in each one. Projects can range from expensive undertakings like replacing carpeting with hardwood flooring to less intense projects like getting a new slipcover for the couch.

When you’re making your list, also take note of existing items in your house you would like to keep, or can repurpose into a new design scheme. Over the years, you’ve probably accumulated items that already define your style, so make use of them! Incorporating these items into your design will save you money while preserving items that may have sentimental value.

Planning and Budget Tip: Take note of what you want to redo, but also of what you can reuse. To save money, work as much as possible with what you already have.

Map out a budget

The most limiting factor of your project will probably be your budget. Do a bit of research and figure out how much it would cost to paint a room or add some drapes versus changing the flooring or buying new furniture.

Keep in mind that unforeseen expenses often come up when you’re redecorating, especially if you’re changing the flooring or walls. Mistakes may happen during construction that require extra time and money to fix, or you may uncover damage that needs to be addressed before you move forward with the project. So, give yourself some wiggle room when it comes to budget and time.

Planning and Budget Tip: Expect the unexpected, and budget time and money for it.

Decide on a Project

Once you have your list and your budget in front of you, you can start making decisions. What do you have the time and money to do? Which rooms would you like to focus on – one that gets a lot of traffic, one that’s full of eyesores, or one that gets a lot of use? When you’ve taken these factors into consideration, you can zero in on a few projects to accomplish and get started.

Design in Real Life

My husband and I, along with our four kids, moved into a new house almost two years ago. It’s a mid-century, bi-level house and definitely has some dated rooms (pink-tiled bathroom, anyone?). There’s a lot I want to accomplish, but taking into account my budget and time constraints, I decided to work on the kitchen first.

kitchen before remodel

I would love to get new kitchen cabinets (and possibly switch out the wood paneling), but that’s not in the budget right now. So instead, I went with what we could change: wallpaper (to wall color), window treatments, and décor and accents. I also took into account what I could work with, like my kitchen dining set and my favorite linens.

How to Get Your Project Started


Create a home décor storyboard

As much as I love blogs and decorating apps, I also need something I can tape onto walls, look at in real light, and take with me to stores when I go shopping. This is where my home décor storyboard comes into play. It’s my decorating road map! Once my mind is all set on what to do, I pull out my hard files and put together a color scheme.

Your storyboard can also help you work around big décor obstacles. Take the paneling and cabinets in my kitchen, for example. I don’t have the luxury of changing either of those immediately, so I have to make them work as is. I was able to use my storyboard to help me choose the right color to complement the cabinets and stay true to my style.

Do a little experiment

If you have little to no experience in decorating, do a little experiment and test out your ideas. If you’re experimenting with color, you can experiment with your storyboard by buying paint chips and tile or flooring samples to mix and match. If you’re repainting, you can also try painting an unnoticeable corner of the room to get an idea of how it would look before you paint the whole wall.

Blue, Yellow and White Color Scheme


You can also experiment by buying accessories and placing them around the room to figure out what you like and what you don’t. Remember, you can always return what you don’t like, so experimenting this way shouldn’t take away from your bottom line.

Planning and Budget Tip: Don’t be afraid to buy accessories and experiment! Just remember to go back to the store and return what doesn’t make the final cut.

Design in Real Life

As stated before, my obstacle in the kitchen was the existing wood wall paneling and the wood cabinets. Now, this is where knowing your style really comes in handy – I’ve always loved the color combination of blue, yellow, and white, and my existing kitchen furniture (tablecloth, chairs) were already in this color scheme. Knowing that in the future I’d probably want white custom cabinets, I needed to find a paint color that would work well with white AND match the current color of the kitchen. What better than yellow! All I had to do was find a way to incorporate blue in my curtains and other accessories.

kitchen storyboard and existing accessories 1. Working around the obstacle: I had to find a color that would work with the wood on the cabinets – the paint chips helped with that.

My collection of magazine pictures and my storyboard, which I took with me as I went shopping for paint and textiles, helped me work around the obstacle of the cabinet color as well as solidify the design I wanted. Because I had a clear roadmap, I could easily stay on budget and create something I was completely satisfied with.

How My Kitchen Turned Out

Now, you’re probably wondering how my kitchen actually turned out.

Well, here it is!

 Kitchen After

I’m quite happy with the removal of the wallpaper, and the way the yellow worked out with the paneling, especially with my existing dining set.

Just to review all the steps…

  1. I defined the style I wanted in my kitchen by collecting ideas
  2. I zeroed in on the projects within my budget
  3. I created a storyboard
  4. I went shopping and got down to work

Curtains and Hooks

I made curtains from shower curtains I found at Target. I’m not a fabulous sewer so if you can sew, then this will be easy for you! What I love about the shower curtain material is that it is often heavier and closer to decorator weight material. And since it has finished edges, I only had to sew the top hem.

Because I was using clip hooks, I cut off the top then hemmed that portion. I figured that the bottom would be more visible and I didn’t want anyone to look too closely at my sewing. I also sewed a simple white liner to protect the material and provide more relief from the sun.

Planning and Budget Tip: If something you really like is out of your budget, see if you can figure out a workaround. Oftentimes, you can get an item for half the price if you’re willing to do some basic crafting.

This doesn’t mean that I’m done with my kitchen, though. I’ve just set the foundation. When my budget and schedule allow for it, my next goal is to spray paint our kitchen chandelier and add a new clock and some vintage signs. Red may even make an appearance into my white, yellow, and blue color scheme.

When you’re planning out your own projects, keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything at once. Even within a room, you can spread out your projects and purchases to fit your budget and timeline. Guess it’s back to gathering ideas and creating a storyboard for me!

If you liked what you saw, stay tuned for my next Home Decor 101 post, scheduled for the last Monday of each month. 

What do you do to get your projects started? Share your tips!


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