21/05/2018 | 3 Mins read

How to nail design decisions like a pro

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to achieving a stylish, practical and coordinated look in your home. Designers can make the process look effortless, but the reality is that, with years of experience, most have a few tricks up their sleeve. Follow these insider tips to help you make design decisions with confidence

Establish a clear brief 

Designers often get to know their clients before they start a renovation project, finding out as much as they can about their lifestyle, likes and dislikes, as well as their goals and dreams for their home. So it’s a good idea to do the same when decorating your own space.

Track how you use your home over the course of a week, paying attention to what is working and what’s not. Are you constantly searching for your car keys in the morning? Do you have to move your table every time you sit down to dinner? If you plan solutions for these issues, you’ll dramatically improve your day-to-day life.

Be willing to let go of the way things are currently set out and design a home that focuses on present priorities, while leaving room for future growth. You might not be able to have everything you want, but you can often get exactly what you need from a thoughtfully designed home

Measure before you buy 

Always check the dimensions of your room before you commit to buying something. It’s disappointing when you find your new furniture is too large or small. Designers will draw each piece of furniture on a layout of the room to make sure everything fits together before ordering.

Plan your furniture layout using the 3ft rule – always allow at least 3ft (90cm) of space between pieces. This create an easy flow around the house.

Don’t get hung up on aesthetics 

We all want our homes to look great, but it’s more important to ensure everything functions. Focus on the less glamorous, practical elements first when you’re planning your renovation.

Consider those day-to-day necessities, such as coat and shoe storage, laundry areas, and linen cupboards for stashing towels and sheets. They all sound pretty mundane, but without properly planning these spaces, your beautifully designed home will soon look pretty chaotic.

Coordinate your finishes 

When you’re picking all those small elements, such as light switches, door handles and taps, it’s important to make sure they’re all in the same finish. For example, if you decide to buy chrome switches, don’t go for polished stainless-steel or brass door handles.

The same goes for timber – try not to mix shades of wood. For instance, if you have an oak floor, it might be a good idea to choose oak furniture, or a wood with similar tones. Also try to tone the floor tiles and worktop in your kitchen – again, they don’t have to match exactly, but the hues should complement each other.

Match your lighting and electrics to your furniture layout

Work out where all of your furniture will go before you plan your radiator, socket and lighting layouts. Think carefully about how you’re going to use everything. For example, consider where you might need to put lamps, then position sockets nearby. Or plan where your sofa is going to go to avoid the problem of furniture being pushed up against radiators.

Try not to rush decisions 

Rushing to have everything finished quickly can often lead to hasty purchases you may regret. You could end up spending too much money on an item you later dislike, but feel you can’t ditch because of how much it cost.

Sometimes, it isn’t possible to find the perfect mirror for your hall, or the right lamp for your living room, but it’s far better to wait until you stumble upon it than simply buy something to fill the gap.

Think about the big picture

Designers don’t make any decisions without having a plan to work to. Prioritise what work needs to be done and, if the budget won’t allow everything to be done in one go, carry out parts of the project in stages.

When establishing a plan of work, it’s really important to think about the future and not just now. It can be easy to design your home in a way that works for small children, for example, but pretty quickly you’ll find yourself with a houseful of teenagers and your completely open-plan layout might not work so well.

Stick to three colours 

When picking your colour scheme, try to keep your palette to a mix of three colours, or shades. The secret to getting it right is in layering. Start with a neutral backdrop and build on colour carefully by adding bolder hues through accessories and art.

Your wall colours should form your backdrop. It’s also a good idea to stick to neutral shades for larger items, such as sofas and curtains, which are more costly to replace. Introduce your second colour with larger accents, such as armchairs or occasional pieces. Then use your third colour to bring the scheme to life with more vibrant accessories – think cushions, throws, artworks and rugs.

Have a colour reference 

It can be really hard to remember the exact shade of your walls or sofa when you’re out shopping for furniture or accessories. A great idea is to compile a collection of swatches to take around with you for reference.

Gather paint samples and fabric swatches and keep them together in plastic sleeves, which can easily be carried with you when you’re out shopping. Have a sleeve for each room and add to it as you go along. By doing this, you’ll be able to match things perfectly, and pull together a scheme that coordinates beautifully.

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