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Interior Design Basics

Interior Design & Decorating
By on May 15, 2014
Interior Design Basics


If you love to study design magazines, but freeze when it comes to trying those ideas in your own home, then you'll warm up to this simple, step-by-step approach to home decorating.

Rather than trying to tackle the whole room at once, the pros start by breaking down each room into its basic building components: floors, ceilings, walls, doors, windows, and architectural details. Determining the selections for each of those components will set the tone and character of the room. That, in turn, will dictate the style of furniture, lighting, window treatments, and accessories needed to complete the room's point of view. 

Start with the Floor

Along with the ceiling, the floor represents the largest share of space in the room, although it's actually more important, since we come in direct contact with the floor. Any steps and staircases in the room should be included as well. How will the room be used? Are you looking for soft carpet so you can get down and play with the kids, or elegant parquet flooring? Once you determine the type of flooring that will work best in the space, start considering colors. Will light colors stand up to the traffic, or will dark colors show pet hair? Do you want the room to look serene and calm in cooler hues, or festive and bright in warmer tones?

The Ceiling Should be the Next Thing to Consider

Many ceilings are simple, neutral areas. If a large expanse of blank ceiling looks just plain boring, you can break up the space with details that complement the flooring. Ceiling light fixtures, fans, or even skylights can add interest. Don't be afraid to consider painting your ceiling. You can always paint over it! Start a shade or two lighter than the chip you like since the color intensifies when you put it on a larger area. Test your color choice by brushing out a 4-by-4-foot section and looking at the color under different light at different times of day.

Wall Materials & Their Finishes are Third on the List

Wall options tend to be the most overwhelming, but if you've already made your decisions on the flooring and ceiling, it should be easier to narrow your choices. Paint is always the safest decision, using the testing guidelines suggested above. You can get more variety and personality with borders and stenciling or faux finishes, without committing to wallpaper. Don't forget to consider wall lighting as well, and how the light will create its own detailing on the wall.

Consider Architectural Detailing for Ceilings, Walls, Windows & Doors at the Same Time

The style of moulding choices around windows and doors should blend together, but it's not important to match everything perfectly. Some detailing in the room can be stained, while other elements can be painted in a coordinating tone or classic white finish.


Once you've made your decisions on the major building components, furniture and cabinetry selections turn architectural space into personal space. Window treatments should be chosen after the furniture is selected, considering light quality, privacy requirements, and, finally, color.

Last on the list for interior design choices are decorative accents and accessories. These charmers give a room its individuality and can be constantly refreshed with new finds and ideas. Remember, the most beautiful homes are never "done," but always evolving. And that's what makes designing your home so much fun!

Author Profile: Arlene Claiborne owned an interior design firm in the Baltimore, Maryland, area for 10 years. There she participated in several Decorator Show Houses. Also during that time, she opened a retail art studio/gallery called Shagreen, which showcased painted furniture. She holds an interior design degree from the University of Maryland.

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