How to Plan a Home Decorating Project – Getting Started!
Planning a project, for most, is not fun. Creating a budget for that project isn’t that much fun, either. We’ve all looked at photos in fancy magazines and imagine what our homes would be like if a team of expensive professionals were bustling about, catering to our every creative whim.
Snap out of it.
I have; it’s easy. I imagine my house, with our pets, and our gardening activities, our work businesses and our general life commotion absolutely destroying that picture-perfect image of a pristinely-decorated home. Such goes my thinking when I begin considering paying an arm and a leg for any super-fancy decor or pricey professional help. It takes only a moment for me to picture my blue staffy pup shredding a one-of-a-kind $1200 designer throw pillow (not that I’d pay that much for a throw pillow anyway), but at least the imagery makes me chuckle.
I chuckle because I just don’t live that way – I’m insanely, chronically practical. So practical, I will walk around a store for an hour with a half-priced clearance sweater deciding if I REALLY need it…and will end up putting it back. Okay…so however belabored my explanation, it is the sensible persona talking…and this persona is going to explain how to plan a home decorating project.
Decoration vs. Design Help – What do you really need?
Interior designers and Interior decorators work in the same industry and space, but there are some distinct differences.
I like to look at it this way. If your home is your face, a designer is a plastic or cosmetic surgeon. Rhinoplasty will help you breathe better if you have issues with that…and it’ll also make that schnoz look better. Designers can transform the function of a room and also improve aesthetics; and they have the training and credentials to work with construction contractors to make significant changes to homes.
If your room functions well, but needs updating or a fresh look, you probably would do well not having surgery, but a facial and a makeover. Formal home decoration schooling for decorators is not necessary but available. And there are certainly professionals in both camps that have experience and talent in both arenas. Just consider these differences when seeking guidance, and pay only for what you need…because sometimes even the insanely practical need professional help.
Now for the Budget…
Let’s assume for the purposes of this post that your project does not include any demolition or significant functional changes to your space…and you’ve decided that updating furnishings, textiles, accessories and paint would do wonders.
So where do you start? Start with a budget, and document it. I mean it.
Yuck, you say. I want to get to the fun part, you say.
Without a budget, nothing takes priority, and money (maybe money you don’t have) will leave you faster than my blue staffy pup gobbles cheese.
How much are you willing to spend? If it’s $250 or $10,000…make a budget. A budget helps define what is truly important in a project; it helps make hard choices easier. If your budget for the entire room is $1200, and you like that $1200 throw pillow, will you buy it? I think not. Here’s a tip: always consider a 20% contingency…so if your budget is $2000, allow $400 for error. You’ll thank me later.
When brainstorming budget items leave no stone unturned – don’t forget materials, labor (if hiring), shipping, delivery, rental costs…pizza for your neighbor who helped move your buffet, dog sitting for your blue staffy pup so she won’t track paint everywhere on paint day. Be creative and thorough.
Define the Scope
Every project, no matter how small, should have a scope. A scope defines your goal for the project, what will be completed, how much you will spend, and the timeline. It can also name what may not be included…for instance, if your scope is to redecorate your master bedroom, you may exclude your master bath.
“Our master bedroom redecorating project will be styled in bohemian decor, will incorporate shelving and storage options in the northeast corner, will involve ceiling, wall and floor repainting, window treatments, rugs, bedding, a new mattress, frame, head and foot boards and side table, and light fixtures, wall art and decorative accessories. Master bath is excluded. The dresser and cedar chest will remain. It will be completed in three months on or under a budget of $2300.”
That’s just an example…boring, yes. But also critical to the project’s success! And document it. I mean it.
What’s Your Style?
If you don’t know, take a look at this blog post and make a theme or style decision. Incorporate this into your scope statement and stick to it. If you’ve already budgeted and hired professional help, they should help you choose.
Concept, Inspiration and Sourcing
Budget created – check. Scope defined – check. Style identified – check. All documented…
Next step? Create a design style board to bring tangibility to your vision. A design style board will show your room dimensions, and will have details about finishes, pictures of accessories and furniture ideas, swatches of fabrics and paint colors. When you narrow it down to the must-haves, this will be your project instruction manual.
Source your items and add product information (retailer, dimensions, specs), cost (don’t forget shipping or delivery!) and any other special notes to your board, and also to your running document (e.g. project spreadsheet). One fantastic tool that I’ve discovered is through Modsy; they offer an unique service – a 3D virtualization of you room – so that you can place furniture and accessories VIRTUALLY. Then they recommend products that match your style preference. That way, you can complete your design style board, create a virtual copy of your room, and source your items. Cool, huh?
Plan the sequence of tasks, who will be doing them and when. Generally, cleaning, prepping and painting is done first…but if you’re sourcing furniture or accessories that may take a while to arrive, order those beforehand so you’re not sitting on the floor in a completed room waiting for the couch. Makes sense, right? Fixtures and window treatments next, accessories are last…almost there…
Now for the fun part…
I thought the design board and the sourcing were the fun parts…but this is fun, too. Execute your plan. You will have defined which items need to be done first, and who will be responsible for them. You will already know and have documented where your items are, what they cost, when you’ll purchase or deliver, and the impact to your budget and timeline should there be any error. Be accountable and hold others just as accountable to your project plan.
Now – if you’re on a tight budget, you may still be looking for garage sale finds, low-cost furniture to refinish or craft ideas for DIY accessories. You would have known this at the budget stage, right? That’s okay…just have on hand photos of similar items so you can keep as close to plan as possible when you’re sourcing. And be patient – it may mean extending your timeline – that’s okay, just make sure this won’t impact your budget. Remember that you have a 20% contingency…but don’t use it unless you MUST.
Rest and Relaxation
If your project is done, congratulations! If you’re still waiting for that couch, live and learn, right? Know this: the creative’s work is never finished…because most of us don’t live in a one-room house. Don’t rest too long…get to work on that next project, it’s waiting for you!
Do you have a funny story or picture of a botched project? Or better yet…a successful one? Share your stories below…
I’d love to hear from you!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”