Interior Design 101: 7 Hacks for the Interior Design Amateur

published Nov 27, 2019
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Want to spruce up your space but feel like you don’t know design well enough to even begin, let alone execute? You’re not alone. And if it makes you feel better: Everyone has to start somewhere. So to help you hone your home style, start with these basic interior design hacks. Try a few of these out, and your space will be more pulled together than you might have thought ever possible without professional help. 

Give Finishes a Face-Lift

First, look at the skeleton of your space. Could your walls use new paint? Perhaps a brighter white paint color, if they’re currently seeming a little dingy? How do your counters, floors, and cabinets look? Those things can all be completely redone, of course, but those jobs can be expensive. Luckily, you can do a lot of updating with paint. Area rugs will help hide tired or old flooring, and hardware and lighting can always be replaced on a room-by-room basis as you save up for individual items.

Create More Light

Light is always a good thing indoors. You can create more of it with some simple choices. Opt for sheer curtains—or no curtains at all in your non-private spaces. Or, if you want window treatments, use an extra long pipe as a curtain rod that’s long enough to extend your curtains all the way past the windows when they’re drawn (you can see an example of my own pipe curtain rod here). Not only does this bring more natural light into your space, but it also creates the illusion of a larger window when the curtains are open. Another idea for harnessing light indoors? Use mirrors strategically. Placing mirrors across from windows can help bounce natural light all over your rooms. 

Add Texture

Mixing textures in your space adds dimension, which makes an interior more appealing to the eye. Play around with various fabric textures—faux fur, velvet, linen—as well as other tones and finishes—wood, metal, tile, glass. You might be surprised how far variety can take you.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Go Green

Houseplants are a guaranteed way to add a little color and life to your home. They’re a great finishing touch on a shelf or tabletop, and they’ll even improve the quality of your indoor air. Choose different kinds of plants and try to vary how you display them—windowsills, in corners, on your coffee table, etc. 

Credit: Etsy

Think Outside the Box

Funds, time, and skill are obstacles for many people when it comes to redecorating their space. If you’re set on achieving a change for the positive though, it’s important to be flexible. Consider this example from designer and stylist Tara Dawkins of Parlour & Palm. “We recently used this dotted herringbone stencil in a client’s nursery, and it looks so cute,” says Dawkins. “Originally, the homeowners wanted wallpaper with a similar pattern, but when they realized how much it would cost, I could hear the husband’s jaw hit the floor. The stencil achieved a similar look for a fraction of the price.”

Credit: Sarah Kue

Find Inspiration 

Like most creative endeavors, interior design tends to pan out better when you have an idea of the aesthetic you like. To create a space that feels like home for you, bookmark, pin, and save the images you like on sites like this one and social media. Pull up those images when you’re shopping for furnishings to see if they fit with the look and feel of your saved inspo images. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale—try to truly love everything you bring into your space. And go ahead and make a mood board like this one from Parlour & Palm. It’ll help you visualize the fabrics, finishes, and patterns you gravitate towards. Inspiration boards can also help you create color palettes and plans of action for your individual rooms.

Credit: Cat Meschia

It’s Okay to be a Copycat 

Yes, you want your home to be personal and original. But definitely don’t be afraid to straight up rip off some tried-and-true ideas out there in design. Ladders as organizers, DIY headboards, decorative paint ideas—it’s okay to share ideas and put your own spin on them.

Don’t doubt your ability to make decorating magic in your home. You are closer than you think to a home that looks and feels like you. Like anything else, you just have to start.