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drawing room living room neutral colors

When you’re planning to redesign a room yourself, what are some basic home decorating ideas and principles to follow? Here are 5 from a professional interior designer.

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Recently, I chatted with a Portuguese interior designer called João Tavares da Rocha whose home has been featured as a spread in a Portuguese design magazine. I loved what he had to say. João said the secret to making a room have great style was to pick your battles. That is to say that if everything is special, nothing will stand out.

1. Decide on a hero piece or motif for the room and design around it

It’s important to decide what pieces you really love and then to play down things around them so your loved items shine like the stars they are. João’s example was when he designed a dining room for a high-end client. They bought 12 stunning rosewood chairs with pink-and-grey velvet upholstery. The price tag? Each chair was worth $1,000 US. Each!

When you have chairs that are ornately carved, beautifully embellished, and upholstered to the hilt, then you need simplicity with the table, and that way they stand out like they ought to. How did João handle this? He designed a plain, minimalist table made of straight lines and lacquered it in glossy white. The rosewood popped and the grey/pink duo wasn’t overwhelmed by a darker, more dominant color.

2. Be a treasure hunter

wicker chair and sidetableMaybe you’ll be lucky if you spend $1,000 on a dining room set, but design isn’t about breaking the bank, it’s about how things look. João confesses that he’s a thift-store diehard because that’s where uniqueness lies for him. This is where the best home decorating ideas are born; from a sense of personality and uniqueness.

João finds all kinds of beautiful pieces that he refinishes for style and pizzazz. He showed me his stunning dresser in his bedroom that’s probably 100 years old. He painted the tired old wood a vibrant sunshine yellow, making it dance under its grey marble counter. He removed the battered original knobs off and replaced them with bevelled crystal-and-brass knobs that pop against the yellow, while they catch and refracted sunlight from the window it sits next to. But his bedframe and side tables? Low-end straight-line, plain, dark IKEA. Really!

3. Keep it “clean”

In your own home, you can follow these same home decorating ideas and principles as João does. Find pieces you love, and then get affordable, minimalist pieces for the surrounding area. If you have a really lavish hall table and you want to display family photos on it, don’t go for ornate frames, but instead pick clean lines with zero embellishment so the photos do the talking, not the frames.

Think brushed aluminum, plain black, simple wood, whatever – just as long as there are no curlicues and fancying-up going on.

4. Don’t ignore “boring”. Just be sure to make it “brilliant”

João sometimes takes boring pieces and turns them into brilliant ones, like the dull Malm IKEA hall table that he upholstered in beige leather and brass studs, making it a one-of-a-kind piece that took him under $200 and an afternoon to make.

minimalist bedroom barn door area rug wood floor

By choosing some pieces to stand out and allowing others to play the background, you’re setting the stage for a dramatic, beautiful home that catches the eye but doesn’t overwhelm it.

5. “Expensive” doesn’t always equal “good design”. Variety and balance does

Not every piece in your home needs to be expensive and stylish. You’ll do your space a disservice while crippling your bankbook if you opt for that kind of approach. Instead, a mix of chic and basics, color and bland, style and simplicity will give you a designer-quality home that balances all kinds of elements without losing your personality in the mix.

Your home decorating ideas

When you’re looking to add personality to a space using home decor, what have been some of your best ideas? Which home decor websites have you consulted? Which ones are consistently inspirational? Tell us your stories in the comments section of this post.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.