Do you aspire to the kinds of beautiful interiors which feature in magazines and on design websites, but feel panic and despair every time you attempt to plan a redesign of your own place? If you appreciate aesthetics and love beautiful design the problem is likely that youfind something to love in almost any scheme or style you see. Narrowing it down to the right scheme – the perfect scheme for you – becomes an impossible challenge.
Faced with choice overload, you might seek comfort in choices which essentially avoid making proper decisions by playing it so safe that the result is simply bland and boring. Or worse, you become paralysed by indecision, and postpone indefinitely a redesign of any description, leaving you dissatisfied with decor well past its sell by date. (Think you might be a fellow sufferer of design indecision? Check here to see if you any of the indicators ring true for you.)
Why is it so difficult?
A fundamental mistake for indecisive designers is trying to design a scheme all in one go. This idea might be a revelation. Certainly my advice here is the complete opposite to what you probably imagine as the confident approach to interior design.
It’s true that if you were a professional interior designer commissioned to remodel a room for your client, then you would likely start with a blank sheet (more or less). Based on the client “brief” you’d develop an inspiring mood board, presenting a beautiful, covetable design which the client probably couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams, but which they instantly recognise as the perfect choice for them. With the client on board, you’d rip out the old and remodel from start to finish, ending in a big ta daaa reveal, ideally reducing the client to tears of joy at the mind blowing transformation. We’ve all witnessed this magic countless times on home makeover shows. It’s hard not to be impressed by the impact of a professional redesign. No wonder this is how we try to approach designing our homes on our own.
However this, absolutely, is not the best way to redesign your home. Here’s why:
1. It dates
If you put a scheme together in one go, you are likely choosing from the same trends and the same era. This is a recipe for a scheme which will look stale and outdated in quick time. Kimberly Duran at Swoonworthy, explained recently why an eclectic style drawing from different looks and eras creates a timeless design.
2. It’s easy to make mistakes
When you’re designing from scratch, you’re having to rely a great deal on your imagination and powers of visualisation. It takes a lot of skill, practice and ability to be good at this. If you haven’t trained as a professional designer (and perhaps even if you have), it’s likely you’ll find this difficult. This can easily lead to making decisions that you’ll regret when you see the the results later in situ.
3. Mistakes are harder to rectify
When you’ve taken a big bang approach to room design, you’ll have picked items which all work together. But what, for example, if you’ve already ordered your sofa, and picked up a rug and accessories to work with your paint colour choice, only to find that you hate the colour on the walls?
4. It requires a big capital outlay
To completely redo a room including decor, furniture and accessories, is an expensive business, even if you’re a savvy shopper and doing the decorating yourself. It’s the sort of expenditure which most of us have to work hard and save for. The need for a big wad of cash might put a room redesign entirely beyond reach. However, if you can stretch to it, the fact that it’s a big financial investment adds to the pressure and making decisions event becomes even harder for fear of getting it “wrong”.
The Incremental Designer
So what’s the alternative to the instant total room makeover? My advice is to become an incremental designer. This means an end to thinking in terms of a blank sheet approach involving throwing out everything you’ve got and starting again. Instead, design and implement your scheme in stages, taking time to reflect and plan between each bit.
Begin by asking yourself which element of your room is the one you’d most like to change. If it’s a major revamp you’re after, then think about the highest impact components of the room’s design first – most probably the walls and the floors, followed by the window treatments and the biggest bits of furniture. Start with decisions about some or all of those.
However, if these bigger (and more expensive) decisions are the ones causing the stress, it can be just as effective to start with something small. Thinking about incorporating some mid century elements in your design for example? Why not start with an art print, or a vase? Test it out in your room. If you love it in the way you think you will, you’ve got the launch point of a scheme already sorted. See this post for more detail on using this strategy to get started with developing a scheme.
Once you’ve got the start of your new scheme in place, you can take your time to consider the next additions, perhaps replacing the pendant light, or a coffee table. Then just continue to add to the scheme a little at a time – a picture here, a vase there. You can do this over any period of time, taking account of your budget, and how quickly you feel comfortable with making more decisions. Building up your scheme in this way means you’re less likely to make a mistake. Any choice you’re not happy with? Back to the shop it goes and take time to rethink.
Ok, so admittedly, by taking this approach you’re sacrificing the opportunity to wow your friend with “the big reveal”. But, realistically, have you ever really been confident enough in your choices and bold enough in your design to achieve that?
By limiting your decisions to one or two items at a time, you’re significantly simplifying the decision-making process, vastly reducing the associated pressure and the stress, and greatly increasing the chances of making good decisive design choices. By focusing on elements of the design individually, you’re more likely to choose things because you love them in their own right, rather than simply because they fit the look – a much better basis for a long term future together. You don’t need to save up for a one-off capital outlay. You can start your redesign today! And best of all you will create a look that is effortlessly timeless and unique to you.
Are you already an incremental designer, or are you too much of a devotee of the big reveal to give that up?
Learn about other strategies to simplify interior design decisions in my ebook, a free gift from me. To receive it, and regular advice and inspiration to help simplify your design decisions, sign up to the Around the Houses newsletter.