Hello friends! Are you skipping the most important step in decorating? There is one key thing you must get clear on first to successfully decorate any space.
In my experience with my readers and clients the number one decorating concern I hear is, “I don’t know where to start.” They want to know if they should choose furniture first, or a wall color first, or a decorating style first.
None of those are first, I tell them.
Decorating a room is full of decision after decision and it gets overwhelming fast. Eventually you suffer from one of two ailments; choice paralysis or decision fatigue.
Choice paralysis occurs when you are overwhelmed by all the options and are unable to make a decision.
Decision fatigue occurs when you make too many decisions in a short period of time and the quality of your decision-making gets worse with each subsequent decision.
Both ailments make decorating feel like an insurmountable task.
One simple way to get past both choice paralysis and decision fatigue is to start by making just one decision. Instead of focusing on all the details of your room, or all the different inspiration you are considering, or all the different furniture configurations, take a step back and focus on making just one decision.
The one decision you should focus on is the most important one you can make. And, if you make this decision first, every other decision will become easier.
When you feel paralyzed by too many choices, you can lean on your first decision to guide you. When you start to feel fatigued by too many decisions, you can look to your first decision to keep you on track. The purpose, or function, of your room is important. The style of your room is important. The colors you like are important.
But even before any of that, comes the most important thing in decorating…the feeling.
To get the room right you must decide first on a guiding feeling. Feeling can be thought of in several different ways.
– How do you want the room to feel?
– How do you want to feel when you are in the room?
– What colors, textures, patterns, styles make you feel that way or evoke that feeling for you?
The last question here is critical, because what evokes a certain feeling for you might be totally different for someone else.
For example, let’s look at Heather’s dining room (left) and my dining room (right) side by side. Both could be described as “inviting” and “comfortable”. The focus in both is obviously a great place to share a meal with loved ones. But, they are very different rooms.
The reason is what evokes the feeling of inviting and comfortable for Heather is different from what captures those feelings for me. Heather has a more neutral color scheme, where I prefer richer colors and contrast.
Heather’s dining chairs have a comfortable upholstered seat and the head chairs have a pillow. My dining chairs are fully upholstered.
So, although you can start with the same guiding feeling, how you bring out those feelings in your space is truly personal. “How do you want the room to feel?”, seems like an innocent enough question.
But it goes much deeper than the feeling words, or adjectives, you attach to the room.
Here are some strategies to help define the feeling you are after:
– List all the activities you plan to do in the space. What common feelings do you associate with those activities?
– Look at the rooms that inspire you and see what words (adjectives) come to mind to describe those spaces.
– Close your eyes and visualize your ideal space. Write down how it makes you feel.
From the list of feelings your brainstormed, narrow it down to 1-3 guiding feelings for the space. And, make sure they are consistent with one another, like “relaxed and calm”, not “quiet and fun”.
The feeling you want for your room is the most important decorating decision you can make.
Every other decision is informed by the feeling you chose. If you skip the feeling definition, every other decorating decision is harder, because you have no guideline. But, if you know what feeling you are after and what evokes that feeling for you, then all the other decisions become instantly easier.
Every decision turns into one question you need to answer: Does this support the feeling I want in this room?
When choosing a wall color, ask yourself, “Does this support the feeling I want in this room?” This will help you narrow down the rainbow of colors to a handful of options. Color, like all other feeling decisions, is very personal. I feel relaxed in a light grey room, where you might feel cold. I feel energized in a yellow room, where you might feel anxious. Choose a color that makes you feel the way you want in the room.
When choosing furniture, ask yourself, “Does this support the feeling I want in this room?” This will help you narrow down the type of furniture you need and the features of the furniture. Which one better supports the feeling, a leather accent chair or an overstuffed arm-chair? A sleek glass coffee table or a plush ottoman?
When choosing accessories, ask yourself, “Does this support the feeling I want in this room?” This will help you narrow down the type and quantity of accessories to use. For example, if you want your room to feel serene, you would use less accessories to keep the visual clutter in the space at a minimum. If you want the room to feel fun and inviting, you might use more colorful, personalized accessories.
When considering all the activities you might do in the room, ask yourself, ” Does this support the feeling I want in this room?” We all need spaces to multi-task, but sometimes we cram too many functions into one space. When considering all the things you want to do in your room, it is best to try to eliminate any activities that contradict the feeling you want in the room.
For example, if you want your bedroom to feel calm and relaxing, it is probably not a good idea to work in an office space or a play area. Those functions might work better in the living or kitchen area.
The feeling of your room is the guidepost by which you can measure every decorating decision. Every thing you put in your room should in some way support the feeling.
How do you want your room to feel? That is where you should start!
So Share! Do you start decorating your rooms with identifying a feeling?
Meg @ write meg! says
Makes perfect sense to consider what you’ll be doing in that room and how you want to feel — I’ll be using that when I choose color schemes for our new house! I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the options, for sure.
Heather SettingforFour says
Congrats Meg on your new home – that’s so exciting! I’m sure Jackie’s courses will help you with paint colors! Have fun decorating your new home!
Great post! Trying to create more flow through my house and being a bit more choosy before I add a decor item tomy collection. This will help me bring some focus and purpose to my choices. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for your lovely comments Mimi – I’m so thrilled you enjoyed this post! ~ Heather
Great article! Focusing on one thing at a time really spike to me, as I am one of those people who likes to get everything done at once and wind up feeling overwhelmed. A lot of great advice here- thanks!
Love your posts – they are really helping to guide my renovation decisions. I love the teal color in your dining room and have been looking for a similar color. Can you share the paint & color you used?
I am so confused. I love mid century, clean and simple . But want that “cozy, relaxed” feel. Beginning to refresh, repaint only. No major construction. Love white, with color. Currently in the kitchen. White cabinets with aqua ( think seaglass) glass subway tile and my Pyrex collection in glass fronted cabinets. WALLS and LIGHTING are paralyzing me! I have a milk glass Chandy that I would love to use( more vintage, less MCM gif sure) but no idea what lighting to use over my island and sink.
Anyone have any advice for me ? Painters are coming in 2 weeks 😳