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Home Decorating for Beginners

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

You're all grown up with a real job and an apartment of your very own. As you start life’s big journey, you suddenly realize it’s time to look and act the part of a responsible adult. You dream of inviting friends and family over for a sophisticated evening of cocktails and dinner, but sadly your place still looks like a college dorm room.

As much as you’d love to completely decorate your home, the reality of a limited budget leaves little left for all the furnishings. To help you get on your decorating feet we’re sharing valuable design tips that will make your place look fabulous without cleaning out your bank account.

Begin by Determining Your Decor Style

Start by choosing the perfect style for your home. Instead of decorating each room in a different style, think about a unifying design concept. This will give your home a harmonious look and feel. Now decide on whether you prefer formal or casual. Finally narrow it down to a particular style, such as modern, industrial, vintage, traditional, country or bohemian.

Do some research and decide which type of interior style is your favorite.

Do some research and decide which type of interior style is your favorite.

Color and Patterns Are Key Decorating Details

Picking the perfect color scheme takes time and is an important part of your home's overall design. While you may want to use a different color in each room, keep it simple by creating a consistent look. Using similar colors will make your home look cohesive.

Various fabric patterns are a little more difficult to incorporate into a room. They don't exactly have to match, but the colors and sizes should work with each other. Use at least three patterns in the same scale and equally disburse them throughout the space.

Bring diverse patterns together work well in the same color.

Bring diverse patterns together work well in the same color.

Don’t Skimp on Essential Pieces

When you're decorating for the first time, an interior designer will tell you to spend as much as you can afford on major furniture such as a sofa, dining room furniture, and a quality bed. Investment furniture works like your go-to black dress or favorite jacket—they’re the foundation for everything else. You can always take the budget route with secondary pieces like side tables, ottomans, throw pillows, bedding, art and lighting to pull it all together.

Invest in essential furniture pieces.

Invest in essential furniture pieces.

Get Familiar With Basic Elements and Principles of Design

Interior design principles may seem a little daunting but you can easily make sense out of these basics. Just think about the placement of furnishings that balance visual weight in the room. If you like a traditional style, the use of symmetry will make you happy. Casual or modern interiors lean more toward asymmetrical.

A focal point is an element intended to catch your eye as you walk into a room. It is a component that stands out from the other design elements. The center of attention can be anything, such as an accent wall, a large window, television, artwork or a fireplace.

Don't forget to incorporate the principles of scale, proportion, color and texture. Scale relates to the room size. Proportion makes a visual connection to the shape and size of similar items. Another principle is rhythm, which creates order, repetition, progression and movement with color, shapes and texture.

The focal point in this room is the fireplace and the mantel artwork.

The focal point in this room is the fireplace and the mantel artwork.

Seek Furniture and Artwork With Character

You certainly don’t want your place to look like pages out of the Pottery Barn catalog. There’s nothing like a vintage furniture piece to impart quality and character to your home. Adding in a few vintage items create an interesting, personal and inviting space.

We're not talking about Grandpa’s broken down recliner or Aunt Emma’s plastic covered sofa. We’re referring to good deals on solid furniture like a mid-century coffee table or an art deco hutch. Scour your local paper for estate and garage sales or online sites like Chairish and Craigslist for steals and deals.

Invest in transportable furnishings. When first starting out you’re more than likely to move several times before settling down in the home of your dreams. A chair or dresser can go along with you but it will be impossible to take wallpaper, shiplap or custom made window treatments.

Instead of special permanent touches that remain behind, consider investing in artwork to make your home a personal statement. You don't necessarily have to spend a lot on original art. You can reframe a thrift store find to make it part of your curated collection.

An estate sale is a great way to find budget-friendly vintage furniture and art with personality.

An estate sale is a great way to find budget-friendly vintage furniture and art with personality.

Swap Out Old Fixtures for New

Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean you have to put up with old light fixtures. Changing out a chandelier or pendant is much easier than you might imagine, and it makes a big impact. Check out thrift stores and big sales at lighting retailers for deals on sconces or outdoor lighting.

When you’re ready to move, switch the old ones back and take your new light fixtures to the next place. If you're super handy around the house you can even swap out plumbing fixtures—it’s just a bit more involved and time consuming but it can be done.

When you lease a place switch out ugly lighting fixtures with economical replacements.

When you lease a place switch out ugly lighting fixtures with economical replacements.

Buy Budget-Friendly Accessories

Don’t toss away your hard earned paycheck on things like bedding, towels, area rugs and throw pillows. These are items that get a lot of wear and can be replaced regularly. Accessories in general are also trendy in nature. As tastes and trends evolve you're more inclined to exchange them for the latest colors and styles. And besides, updating your space with inexpensive accessories is a great way to refresh your home.

It's easy to find a wide range of inexpensive accessories to swap out as trends change.

It's easy to find a wide range of inexpensive accessories to swap out as trends change.

Don’t Get Carried Away

Settling into your first place is always an exciting time. The inclination is to go on a major shopping spree to fill every wall, nook and cranny right away. Don’t rush. Go slowly so you can feel it out, see what you really need and determine how you want to decorate your space.

Adding too many pieces can make the room over-cluttered.

Adding too many pieces can make the room over-cluttered.

Purchase Budget-Friendly Furniture for Now

Here is the best way to pull everything together for your home to function and create a reflection of your personal style. This gradual approach will also give you the chance to save up for better quality furniture. If you are cash strapped at the moment, you can always go to big box stores for your foundation pieces then in a few years upgrade things as needed.

Ideas for Getting Good Furniture on the Cheap

  1. Hit up moving, yard and garage sales.
  2. Hunt regularly through discount stores.
  3. Check online for coupons and special promotions.
  4. Use consignment shops.
  5. Refinish and reupholster your furniture pieces that have good bones.
  6. Shop stores that are going-out-of-business.
  7. Always haggle prices no matter where you buy.
  8. Sign up for a retailer's loyalty program.

© 2019 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 17, 2019:

Liz, I'm glad you enjoyed this article. It was fun to add a bunch of interior design ideas for novice home decorators.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 17, 2019:

Ahti, it's plenty of decorating details that will create perfect design elements.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 17, 2019:

I wish I had read this article many years ago when I was starting out decorating. It is packed full of useful advice.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 26, 2019:

Eman, so glad you enjoyed this one!

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on February 26, 2019:

I really loved reading this article! very enjoyable. The ideas are also valuable.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 24, 2019:

Thank you, Liz. Wow, I would love to see the milking shed house. I bet it's incredible.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 24, 2019:

This is a fascinating article. Only today I was shown round an amazing re-imagined house in a former milking shed on a farm. The owner had really stamped her individual style on it to great effect.