How to Be a DIY Interior Designer: Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on January 30, 2020
viryabo profile image

Working as a professional interior designer for many decades, I've been involved in design-and-build residential building projects.

We all know that employing the services of an interior designer can be pricey and, depending on the scope of works, can run into several thousands of dollars. However, this doesn’t mean that interior design services are only for the rich.

It is not uncommon to find homeowners who’d prefer to hire designers because they know they’ll not only get professional touches that only interior designers can give—they are also privy to the fact that unusual design secrets of interior transformations can only be given by a professional designer.

But not all interior design tasks require a professional to execute. There are simple tasks that you can implement yourself if the scope of works is basic and uncomplicated.

You don’t have to be design savvy to give your room a simple upgrade, and you don’t need to be a professional to apply clever tricks to transform your interior space. If you desire a makeover for a particular room, a space within a room, the entire home, or an outdoor room, and plan to do-it-yourself (DIY), the following question and answer tips will help you in no small measure.

Of course, there are certain tasks you may not have the skills to implement. For instance, if your upgrade requires electrical or plumbing works, you may need an electrician or a plumber. In this case, you may hire licensed contractors through your local home improvement stores.

So, if you plan to give your interior an uplift but can’t afford to hire an interior designer, do-it-yourself. As a DIY project, you will save tons of money.

FAQ on Interior Design Tasks

Below you will find some of the most common interior design makeover questions with simple and straightforward answers. You will also get useful advice and simple tips that designers employ to make an interior look professionally done.

Q: Before you design a room, what is the first thing to consider?

The theme.

A good design begins with choosing a theme or style and this can be anything from the elegant country style and art deco to Hollywood glam, Asian, feng shui, or the minimalist style. Once the style is clear in your mind, design the entire room accordingly using artwork, colours, textures, furniture, furnishings and lighting to achieve your desired theme. If you don’t have a particular theme in mind, create your own. You can do this by having a combination of no more than two themes: like a predominantly modern style with a splash of traditional features.

Interior design theme: A simple and beautiful beach home style of a living area.
Interior design theme: A simple and beautiful beach home style of a living area. | Source

Q: What are the key décor elements that will uplift a room?

Accessories.

If you plan to keep your existing furniture but need to spice up the room to give it a fresh look, accessorize. All you need to do is add some key elements to brighten things up. Décor items can make a room look elegant, comfortable, and professionally put together and they don’t have to be expensive. In fact, most are quite budget-friendly. Examples of key décor elements include plants, indoor water features, soft furnishings like cushy rugs and throw pillows, framed art, sculptures, carvings, and gold metal accents.

Key decor items in this room are framed art, wall clock, pendant lights, and the tabletop decorations. A great way to accessorize an interior space. Notice how they make the room look elegant and professionally put-together.
Key decor items in this room are framed art, wall clock, pendant lights, and the tabletop decorations. A great way to accessorize an interior space. Notice how they make the room look elegant and professionally put-together. | Source

Q: How can you best design a small space?

Use colour.

For small spaces, you want to keep it impressive while avoiding a cluttered and overwhelming look. Use soft light colour paint on the walls to make space look bigger and if you like white, that’s okay too. Make one of the four walls a feature wall by painting it with a complimentary but understated hue but avoid using cheap or poor-quality paint. Don’t over furnish a small room and ensure that the furniture items you use are small-scale pieces.

A small uncluttered and impressive sitting area with light tone flooring, white walls and ceiling, and one brick feature wall.
A small uncluttered and impressive sitting area with light tone flooring, white walls and ceiling, and one brick feature wall. | Source

Q: How can you design a large room?

Create zones.

If you have a large living room for instance, break the space up into two or three distinct seating areas with furniture. Avoid using large-scaled pieces but rather, use furniture items that are small in scale. One zone can be created to seat six people, the second can seat four, and the third made to seat two persons.

A large and open living room space with three different seating zones.
A large and open living room space with three different seating zones. | Source

Q: What is a good way to add lighting to a room?

Use a mix of standard, ambient, task, and accent lights.

The best way to enhance a room with lights is to incorporate these different kinds of lights to create different lighting. There is a workable ratio to use: 70% of overhead lights in form of a pendant, ceiling, and/or recessed lights, and 30% of free-standing lights like wall-mounted sconces, night lights, table lamps, and floor lamps. Use spotlights to illuminate wall art and paintings.

Q: How can you give a room a unique feature that stands out?

Create a feature wall.

There are various ways to design a feature wall. Colour, texture, form, and character comes into play when creating a focal point in a room. You can use the main wall in the room or the wall you face as you walk in. Feature walls can be mirrored, painted in a starkly contrasting (but complementary) colour. It can have a large piece of artwork or a cluster of framed paintings/illustrations. It can also be finished with decorative stone, light-art, stucco, wallpaper, vertical wall-plants or easy-to-install wall panels.

A unique feature wall with faux stone application and an elaborate metal wall art.
A unique feature wall with faux stone application and an elaborate metal wall art. | Source

Q: How do I select the right furniture?

Choose the right scale.

There is no ‘right furniture’ per se because the choice of furniture will depend on the style or theme of the room. However, the scale of furniture must be right and the best way to not-go-wrong is to first check the room’s dimension, and if possible, sketch it out before going out to select furniture. Don’t use over-sized furniture for small spaces and don’t use small-scaled furniture for bigger rooms. And, don’t over-furnish the room.

Q: How can you use dead-spaces, alcoves, and dead-ends?

Shelving and display.

If you have a small apartment, finding space for a standalone bookcase or display unit can be a problem. If this is the case, it is best to install decorative wall mounted shelves. These leave enough floor space to place other furniture items. For dead-spaces, corners, niches, and between windows, shelves provide space not only for books but for decorations, souvenirs, figurines, and other collections.

Q: What type of countertop material can you use for a kitchen upgrade?

Stone, wood, or man-made materials.

With a countertop change, a kitchen will be totally transformed but the choice of a kitchen countertop material depends mainly on costs. Granite and quartz are on the high side, but they have great advantages and longevity. While marble and limestone are also good options, but they are not resistant to stains and scratches like granite and quartz. Woods like maple, cherry and oak and laminate countertops are more affordable but are prone to dents and scratches and unsuitable for direct cutting. Stainless steel countertops are non-porous. They are aesthetically pleasing, water-resistant, and heat and stain-resistant.

Beautiful Corian kitchen countertop and sink. Made from high-performance DuPont, this solid surface composite is available in a dazzling array of colours, forms, and styles.
Beautiful Corian kitchen countertop and sink. Made from high-performance DuPont, this solid surface composite is available in a dazzling array of colours, forms, and styles.

Q: What is green interior design and is it for you?

Green interior design is, simply put, eco-friendly design.

If you are a health-conscious sustainable living enthusiast, that means that you are one that pays close attention to the products you use in your home. Eco-friendly interior design focuses mainly on furniture and furnishings that are free from pollutants that harm indoor air quality. Examples of green materials include upholstery made of organic materials, natural woods and furniture made from walnut, oak, teak, and mahogany, including maple, bamboo and pine for more casual pieces. And rugs made from natural fibres like jute, wool, hemp, and cotton.

Q: Can you convert your balcony or porch to a garden?

Yes.

Because you live in a high-rise apartment doesn’t mean that you can’t have a ‘garden’. To create a lush garden of your dreams, create a vertical plant wall, use stacking techniques, hanging plant baskets and utilise potted planting. For a maximum effect, install faux grass flooring and add a garden stool or two if you have enough space. Add some ornamental plants for decorative purposes.

A patio-garden with lots of lush plants and terracotta pots.
A patio-garden with lots of lush plants and terracotta pots. | Source

What Things Must You Consider When Designing a Room?

  • Use colour carefully and remember that lighting doesn’t only serve as illumination, it also has an effect on everything in a room including the walls, ceilings, furniture and furnishings.
  • When placing artwork, paintings, or framed illustrations on your walls, place them at appropriate heights on the walls. Not too high and certainly not below eye-level.
  • Use appropriate lighting. You don’t have to turn them all on at the same time except perhaps on special occasions. Use ambient lighting to create moods and atmospheres.
  • For very small rooms or niche-like interior spaces, install decorative wall mirrors to give the space an extended outlook. They come in all shapes and sizes, as one-piece units, or in random clusters.
  • Choose and shop wisely. Be ready to visit flea markets and estates/garden/garage sales for rare and unique finds. These are one of the sourcing secrets interior designers use to create high-end interiors.

Work at Your Own Pace and Budget

Today, we live in a DIY culture. So if you prefer to be your own interior designer, you can work at your own pace and save money. You can choose what you can work on and hire someone to do what you cannot do. And if you don’t have a lump-sum of money available, you can put the space together in phases.

For inspiring interior design ideas and tips on what makes interior designers ‘tick’, look for e-books or online magazines that even the top designers read to polish their skills and stay relevant in the building industry.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • viryabo profile imageAUTHOR

        viryabo 

        2 weeks ago

        Thank you asereht1970. I'm glad you find it helpful.

        Best wishes.

      • asereht1970 profile image

        asereht1970 

        2 weeks ago from Philippines

        Very nice and helpful article. Hopefully, I will be moving to a new house before the summer, and this is a great article I will be reading more than once. I don't know anything about designing a house so I will take your advice to heart.

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