Short Guide to Interior Decoration

Here is a quick guide on interior decoration that I am collecting from various resources.

A good example of interior decor in a small space

I intend to update this every time I find something worthy of adding here.

Overhauling Your Interior Design

Here's an old saying in show business: if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage. Most guys will haphazardly throw together any old furniture and possessions when they move in without any real thought. You're not most men. Do a quick sketch of the room and start drawing up blueprints.

Plan on paper

Where might the couch go? Where do you see some extra space that a nightstand might fill? What could you put up on the walls to fill out the empty space?

You don't have to line your walls with furniture. Sometimes there are limited layouts for small spaces, but if you have enough room and walking space, don't be afraid to angle things in a corner or turn a piece away from a wall to create separation in a large room. Having an accent chair in a living room is great for this if you're stuck having a sofa on a wall, since it still adds a little free flowy-ness without being too large.

The most important part to every room is its function and focus point. When planning, do not assemble furniture willy-nilly. Take into account the lighting. How much natural daylight comes into the different spaces, is the space south facing or north facing. If the room has windows facing the south, it's going to get a lot of sun and heat if you live in a sunny area, so plan it to be a space where you wouldn't mind that (living room). If the windows are north facing, then that is allowing in cool sun. This is the best location to spend most of your time (bedroom, work space). Now, those are more dependent on the architecture and maybe the windows face only one direction.

And look at the room's color. What matches and complements the walls and carpet? Settle on a basic palette before you even start decorating - for simplicity, stick with three colors. Biege, brown, and gold. White, black, and blue. Hold up a few color palettes to the room itself and try to see which works best.

2. Choose furniture before anything else:
A room's furnishing define its roles. See how much this living room works because of the right couch selection?

This living room works because of the right couch

A bright purple suede couch, not so much. No matter what else you put in the room, it won't work if you don't have the right furnishings. If you have space to fill, do it with furniture first. Couches, chairs, tables, coffee tables, desks, end tables, etc. Don't start adding in plants, frames, and the like until you have the furnishings down pat.

When choosing furniture, keep the big pieces (sofas) neutral. Accent with print. It is much easier to redecorate with pillows than having to recover a sofa.

3. Pick more than one kind of lighting; arrange function around lighting:
The most important thing is to make lighting mostly subtle; it should take up a bare minimum of space.

You don't want the only lighting in each room to come from the ceiling. Additional lamps and light fixtures at varying heights will help every room feel like "home" instead of just a room.

Don't go for novelty lighting. Thin, minimalist, and tasteful tends to work well with male living spaces.

Remember to rearrange the function of the space around the lighting. And then arrange the plan around the function. If it's the living room, think about what the most important thing is. Is it a reading nook, is it the TV, is it the fireplace, is it the couch, the video games, etc. you can make things the focal point by its sheer size, the light shining directly on it, the directional guide of furniture / accessories towards the destination, the distinct color, directional patterns (chevron for example).

Colors of the space and lighting go hand in hand. When there's a lot of natural daylight coming in, light neutral or pastel colors work well and so do vivid bold colors. Direct sunlight gives off a warm hue. Indirect sunlight gives off a cool hue. When working with a lot of artificial lighting, think about the effect it has on different colors. LED lighting works well with different colors, but what about the glare, the shadows, the proximity of lighting to surfaces. Fluorescent lighting tends to be a little bit dimmer and affects colors differently than LED. If it's incandescent, again, check its effect on colors. Color depends entirely on lighting so experiment with it!

4. Choose a paint colour; learn colour wheel:
It is easier to pick room colours based on an item you love, as opposed to attempting to find items based on your paint. Paint is easier to change, but finding the perfect bedspread to match the paint colour you like isn't as easy.

Take a set of any 3 of these colors and each room would be amazing

When picking paint, make sure to see it in your own lighting. One of the things people constantly get frustrated with is that their paint colour looks different in the store than at home. Those little tester cans are great if you're unsure of a colour.

Be sure to look at it in different sunlight throughout the day, and then with your artificial light as well (incandescent bulbs wreak havoc on purple and blue paint, it drowns the colour out).

Colour Theory plays an important role in choosing right colour combination.

Contrasting Colours: If you have a piece of furniture you want to stand out, choose contrasting colors to make this piece catch the eye when you walk into the room. For example, if you have a red couch, you may want to choose greens for the wall. This will cause a high contrast. If you want to make the contrast less extreme, use secondary and tertiary colors.

Example of contrasting colors

Harmonizing Colors: Another approach is to make everything harmonize in the room. Again you'll want to create contrast by choosing deeper and ligher shades of the color you are using. For example, choose a lighter shade of color for your walls than the furniture or the borders to windows and your doors.

Harmonizing Colors

Adobe Kuler is a free web service that allows you to input a color value and then choose one of the rules described in the image and it outputs different color values. I have used it on a couple of projects and it works pretty well. There are plenty of mobile apps that let you select colours by clicking a photo.

5. Accessorize and pick ornaments for the home:
Plants, frames, and objects like globes, clocks, and speakers. Now you're filling out a well-designed room to make it not only practical, but to make it actually look "lived in." And you'd be amazed at how one object can go a long way. Consider how bare this bed frame would look without that contrasting lamp.

Here, you want to fill in any "negative" space with contrasting objects that brighten a room out. Here is where you can break out of the color palette a little bit and have a little fun.

Mirrors are great way to bounce light around a room

Mirrors are a really fun way to fill wall space when you don't really have furniture or art that works with the area. Mount them on the wall or if they're large enough, just stand and lean them. They're a great way to bounce light around a room.

6. De-clutter
People don't always realize the reasoning why some rooms make them feel better than others. Rooms with clutter generally make people more anxious and unsettled.

Avoid things like china cabinets. They are useless and only collect junk. Avoid putting an unreasonable amount of things on a surface. If it's a short-medium sized furniture (coffee table/dining table) one item or cluster of related items (like several pillar candles) in the center at the most. Things like buffets or kitchen islands benefit from one long centre item or 2 tall items on either end (sometimes with a shorter one in the centre). If you're not a fan of symmetry, always put the tallest item on the left (unless theres a good reason not to). We read from left to right and it's more pleasing to start the eye large and move into smaller details. Also, try to keep photos organized in gallery walls, or have one large piece of art on a wall. Having a million framed pictures on a table just turns them into useless space-wasters. Baskets are a good way to quickly store items that tend to waste space but need to be at hand (it just looks nicer to keep it out of sight).

7. Arrange by the Rule of Thirds:
Okay this is not a rule, but rather a guideline. Divide the space virtually into thirds. It could be a horizontal division or vertical. Now place the important items within the thirds.

The Rule of Thirds

If your furniture items look dwarfed then think of the width of the wall in thirds and fill the thirds with your furniture, art, or other accessories.  To create a symmetrical balance in the space try equally placing design elements in each third.

8. Place art work at eye level:
Most galleries hang their art at average eye level, about 58 inches high. The center of the artwork, not the top of the piece, should be at that height. Like all rules of design this is just a guideline. Take this as a starting point and adjust according to the size of art, surrounding furniture and other factors (kids!)

Place the art at eye level

The equation to find the height, in inches, of your mounting point is:

(58 + x - y)
x = half the height of the artwork. y = distance between wire, and top of artwork.

9. Get the drapery size correct:
Drapery should be hung at least 4 to 6 inches above the top window trim (all the way to the ceiling is preferred) and just touch/skim the floor or have a slight break… no high waters please. When considering how the base of the drapery should be at the floor think about how you like to wear your favorite pair of pants. That is how the bottom of the drapery panel should look when it touches the floor.

Drapery should be hung at least 4 to 6 inches above the top window trim

Places to Buy Furniture and Furnishings

IKEA: It's hard to go wrong with IKEA. They seem to do everything right with simple tastefulness, from simple TV stands to no-nonsense coffee tables.

If you have the good fortune of a nearby IKEA outlet and enough cash, you should be able to find most of what you're looking for in a trip or two.

They can be pricey though.

JCPenney: Their prices are good, they offer just about everything, and you can shop their clearance rack if you're on a budget.

Unison Home: Free shipping for orders over $150, which is easy to do when you're shopping for furnishings.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond: Click over to "Home Decor" and you'll see just about anything you could need, including full bedroom sets if you don't like making all of those decisions yourself. Bed, Bath, and Beyond is basically a total furnishing store, so always check to see if they have something you like.

If all else fails: Target, Wal-Mart, Craigslist, and the like. Yes, the stuff is cheaper, but if you're a shrewd shopper who knows how to pick out a good item that fits your color palette, who's going to know? If you're resourceful and put in the effort to research, you can overhaul a place without a huge budget.


LED strips: LED strips with a basic remote control put behind a TV can be great for night lighting, under a bar, etc. Just don't overdo it, and certainly don't make the LED strips visible.

Society6 clocks: It's going to be tough to find one that doesn't fit, and doesn't make your interior design pop. Some are obnoxious, yes, but some of them can be really cool in the right setting.

Buy cheap matching travel posters and have them custom-framed at a local frame / arts store. It sounds like a hassle, but when you're working with $4 posters, the cost is entirely justified...and ends up being less expensive than what you find online. Plus, with the frame, the purchase looks more expensive than it actually was. And yes, I have yet to see a wall that was well-decorated with posters or similar items that were unframed.

Framing your favorite art work: Mountary or Simply Framed are both pretty affordable options to get framed done.

Let Us End with the Most Common Mistakes:

Prioritizing bling or eye candy over function. The most important rule and the only rule in interior design is to give function the fullest attention and priority.

Where do we sit down?

The stuff you usually find in a frat guy's room. Unframed posters, bottles as decoration, posters (framed or unframed) of novelty items, lack of bed frames, etc. Avoid these!

Unframed posters

Lack of proper colour composition.

Lack of proper colour composition

This is an actual style (!) and at the same time an epitome of improper colour composistion. It is called Memphis. Popular post-modern furniture design had its moment in the early 80s. Bright colors and kitsch.

Remember, this is your home, your oasis. If you want to go crazy and have different themed rooms, that's OK. But definitely think of an overall theme for your home (comfy/plush, urban/minimal, cozy/warm, etc.)

A hint of nerdy is fine and it shows your personality in the room. But a full nerd bounty like Steve Carell in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" is too much.

A similar common design mistake I see is having too many statement pieces. Things like accent walls, mirrored furniture, and wild patterns are beautiful and can be done tastefully--but make sure you're not trying to throw too many statement pieces in one room together.