Which comes first | how to avoid decorating regret

Marian ParsonsDecorating, decorating dilemmas, Tips and Tricks

One of the projects I’ve been working on lately has me thinking a lot about the design process, specifically as it relates to putting a room together.  I’ve been pondering the order in which choices and purchases should be made and I’ve realized that most people, including myself at times, go about putting a room together entirely backwards.

Think about it with me…  You’ve been browsing the internet or flipping through decorating magazines or perhaps binge-watching your favorite design show and now you’re ready to tackle your room.  It’s time for a makeover!  What do you immediately do?

I think it’s fair to say that most people pick a paint color.


You pick out paint chips and paint swatches on the wall and the room makeover has begun!  I think we all go straight for the walls, because it’s the easiest, biggest bang for our buck.  We want big change right away and this is a way to do that.

The problem comes when you then want to pick out bedding or curtains or buy a rug and you have picked the only shade of blue that doesn’t match anything else in the world.  I seemed to have a knack for picking those colors.

I am going to propose a radical thing and suggest that painting should be one of the last things you do (or at least the last piece of the decorating puzzle that you put into place.)

So, which decorating decision do I think should come first?

no. one | the inspiration piece

This can really be anything…a piece of furniture, fabric, a rug, a piece of artwork.  It just has to be something that you love and want to use as a jumping off point for your room.  This piece can give you color and style cues and work as your compass and you make other decisions.



no. two | the primary pattern

This should be selected with the inspiration piece in mind.  The primary pattern might be a print on an upholstered piece, it might be a busy, colorful rug, wallpaper, curtains, etc.  This is the print that is dominant in the space.



no. three | coordinating patterns

This is where you select coordinating prints, patterns, and colors that support your first two picks.  As a general rule with fabrics, you want to have one large scale, all-over pattern (a floral, paisley, toile, or damask), one geometric (a check, plaid, polkadot, stripe, etc.), and one solid.  Obviously, these can be mixed, matched or totally chucked out the window, but for people who need a formula, that’s a good one to follow.

As far as colors, just lay them all out together to see how it works for your design eye.  You might immediately see what isn’t playing nice with everything else.  Again, if you want a formula, I like picking one color and white/cream.  That looks clean and classic.  I then like to add accent colors through accessories that are easy to change out, like pillows.



no. four | paint colors

Now that you have the prints, patterns, and colors established for the space, a paint color for the walls will be pretty obvious.  From there, select the colors you want to use on any other painted pieces in the room.  The reason why you want to pick a color later in the game is that there are thousands of paint colors and they can custom-match just about anything, so you can pick a color that is perfect for the pieces you’ve collected.

You may also realize that your fabric and pattern choices are bold and you either want a quiet color to balance things out or a bold color to support those choices.  Or you may discover that your selections are all very neutral and you want to make a statement with the walls.



no. five | the accessories

Now is the time to pick out the accessories and smaller pieces of furniture that support all of the other choices you’ve made.  These are the finishing touches in a space that really bring it to life.

These aren’t selected last, because they are unimportant, but because they are flexible and easy to move from one room to another in order to find their perfect home.



So, as you’re working on those spaces, I hope this helps you get off on the right foot.  If you’re anything like me, you’re always anxious to get right to it, but then regret it later on.  I assure you that showing some patience and working through your design plan with a strategy will help you avoid those regret-prone decorating decisions!

Which comes first | how to avoid decorating regret

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