A Logical Sequence for Home Decorating Decisions

“We’re not sure where to start.”

 I sometimes hear that comment when I first meet clients to discuss a home remodeling project.  Whether it’s contemplating knocking down walls, radically altering a room layout, and/or envisioning a major change in color palette, many homeowners are uncertain about the most logical sequence for making those decisions.   

Interior design is not rocket science, but it involves many inter-related decisions: colors, textures, patterns, finishes, scale, room flow and other considerations.  That’s especially true when working with an open floor plan, where the family room, dining room and kitchen share one large space.  And the bigger the scope of the project, the more important a logical sequence of decision-making becomes in helping the process proceed smoothly.   

If you’re selecting new floors, my advice is to start there and work upwards.  Whether the new flooring is wood, tile, carpeting or another material, that decision should help to determine the wall paint color. Generally, I advocate lighter colored walls if the flooring is dark, and balancing a warm colored floor hue with a cooler wall color.  Or vice versa. 

The amount of natural illumination inside of a room is also a factor in color-related decisions.  If there are small or a limited number of north-facing windows in the room providing minimal natural illumination, then lighter wall paint or wallcovering hues work well.  

Given the hundreds of color options to consider, my suggestion is to start with a piece of upholstered furniture, an area rug, or wall art that is going to be re-used in the space.  Pick a favorite color or two from that palette.  The object or element that serves as an “inspiration starting point” wonderfully helps narrow the array of colors for wall paint, wallcovering, furniture, rugs and accessories.  

In terms of implementation, there is often disagreement over whether to refinish a wood floor first, and then paint the walls, or vice versa.  I generally prefer to see the floors completed first, followed by painting the walls and trim.  That’s because the newly painted walls would need to be thoroughly cleaned if the opposite sequence is followed.  But I’ve worked with general contractors who insist on following the opposite sequence.  lakewood_painters_005

Another essential element to be weighed early in the decision-making process is the lighting plan.  If you’re remodeling a kitchen with recessed lights, the position of those cans will likely need to change with the new layout.  Bathroom remodels often involve installation of new hard-wired fixtures such as wall sconces.   If you’re re-arranging furniture, make certain there are wall or floor outlets to plug in a lamp near the end of a sofa or adjacent to a bed.  Painting is best done after the electrical work is completed.   

When selecting new furniture, wood hues on the sofa legs, bed headboards, dining tables and chairs, etc. should work well with both the flooring and wall hues.  Then make upholstery and area rug decisions.  Some designers advocate starting with the area rug, then choosing the furniture finishes and upholstery to coordinate with that rug.  Bottom up, in other words, when it comes to furnishing a room. 

Following the decisions on upholstery, bedding linens and/or area rugs, window treatments merit   careful consideration.   Because these choices are often made toward the end of the process, remember that good quality products require a considerable investment.  Set aside money in your budget for these.  Window treatments are important not just aesthetically, but also for privacy, security, and heat retention reasons.  They also help protect your new area rugs, wood floors and upholstered furniture from solar damage.