Top Ten Decorating Tips

We love our new rustic wood-pallet wall. We hung up an industrial-style clock to mix things up.  Don’t be afraid to mix styles as long as it all blends well together at the end.

I have been happily married for 17 years and have been decorating our home on and off ever since.  After years of flipping through magazines, going over to my friends’ homes and stealing ideas, watching HGTV like everyone else, and just plain wandering through furniture stores and cruising around on-line, I have finally figured out my own decorating style and picked up a lot of solid decorating tips over the years.  I want to share them with you today.

But first, no…I don’t think I’m the most fabulous decorator in town.  I have made many mistakes along the way and I still have a lot to learn. Secondly, there is nothing in this post that is rocket science, just things I have learned over the years.

So without further delay, here are my top ten decorating tips, in order. I will start from the beginning, in case you suck at, errr….are new to, decorating.

Tip #1 Declutter your home and get rid of your old college furniture

If you do not declutter, no matter how awesomely decorated your house looks, it will look BAD because it will look CLUTTERED.   I am not talking about “normal family clutter.”  We all have that.  I am talking about serious clutter.  Get rid of it or find a home for it.  Also, if you have old furniture from your grandma or your college days and you don’t think it’s up to snuff and it’s from around 1985, get rid of it.  (If you can’t afford new furniture, see my P.S. where I give you a couple of ideas of how to decorate inexpensively.) Once your home is relatively free of old stuff and clutter, we can move on to decorating…. woo hoo

Tip #2 Decide your decorating style 

The first question I need to ask you is: which side are you on?  Classic or Eclectic?  Let me explain. Classic decorators include traditional, transitional, country, coastal, antique, etc.  If you are eclectic, perhaps you lean towards modern, vintage, or industrial, or even something crazy like art-deco.  Or perhaps you are somewhere in between.  I visited a friend last year in California and she decorated her home in the style of mid-century modern and I loved it!!  But I have no clue how to decorate like that.  So you first need to decide your style.

Click here for ideas to get started:

My suggestion?  If you are not sure what to do, choose something more traditional or classic, and add different decor elements from a different style or styles.  My personal decorating style is traditional/classic with rustic, vintage, and industrial touches.

Tip #3 Decide on, and purchase, your big ticket items first 

Choose your furniture and larger items first and foremost.  Make sure they all blend together well.  Beware of darker furniture, because in the light of a furniture store what may look a beautiful wine/brown leather color actually looks black when you bring it home (I know this from experience).  If you have have young kiddos, consider a darker leather couch, or washable fabric with a guarantee of some sort.  Bottom line: get your furniture and rugs (or wood floors) down first before you get all crazy with the smaller stuff.  Or the smaller stuff won’t blend in.

Tip #4 Choose your paint colors carefully.  And “pop color” on a ceiling or a door

I cannot tell you how many paint mistakes I have made.  We once bought what I thought was a beautiful light orange color and painted our entire living room with it.  Once the paint was up, it looked like human skin on a very pale white girl.  It was awful.  We had to repaint it immediately.  Another time I surprised Erik by painting our master bathroom really cool, light “sea foam blue” color.  The only problem?  After it was up it changed into mint green.  That did not go over very well, and he made fun of me for about a year until we changed the color.

Paint color is magical and mystical.  It changes color once it leaves the store and is up on your wall.  It changes color throughout the day.  You will love it at 9 am and hate it at 6pm.  I am not kidding you.  The point?  Try to find a color you can live with/absolutely love 24 hours a day.  If in doubt, go neutral.  Grays, creams, and beiges are still lovely. If you are not sure which color to choose, yellows and blues are good go-to’s.  Beware of super dark colors.  Few homes can actually pull them off well because they are so dependent on natural light, which varies throughout the day.  Your super cool dark red accent wall will look like deep-dried blood around 9 pm.  I would avoid that if I were you.

My suggestion?  Paint you walls warmer colors and “pop a color” on your ceiling or door.  We painted our bedroom a cream color and the ceiling a very dark orange and I think it looks pretty freaking cool.  Our living and dining rooms we painted a cream color (interactive cream – Sherwin Williams) on the walls and then a lovely brown color (canoe- Sherwin Williams) on the ceilings. But make sure the two colors blend well together.  Ask the paint store for assistance in this.

Paint colors: always tough to figure out.  We wanted a “warm” feeling in our dining room so we used cream for our walls, but then we “popped color” (brown) on our ceiling.

Tip #5 Put up a wood pallet wall or paint a fun color on an accent wall

We put up a wood-pallet wall and we LOVE it!  If you don’t like the wood-on-the-walls look, then paint one wall a different, accent color.  And then decorate it with cool, funky picture frames or other decor items.  Get creative.

*since wood-pallet walls are all the rage, I will put more detail on what we did specifically in my P.S.S. section.

Tip #6 Add smaller items and accent pieces 

After you have purchased the furniture and have chosen your paint colors, and perhaps painted or wooded-up an accent wall, now the fun begins.  Get online or go to stores and find pictures, decor and other items that “speak to you.”  There are so many good places to find inexpensive decor items.  I love the Home Goods Store.  You can try TJ Maxx, Target, Walmart, Michaels, and even K Mart.  You can go on-line  There are SO many choices now.

My suggestion?  Have fun and get pieces from different decor styles but make sure it all blends together at the end.

Tip #7 Organize all of your family photos and kids art/brag stuff in one area of the house 

We put our updated family photos on our new wood pallet wall.  And all of my kids art work and certificates of achievement are placed in another smaller area.  I think it looks cluttered if your kid stuff and family photos are all over the house (my personal opinion).  Figure out where it looks best and put it all in one spot.

Tip #8 Pop color throughout the house

With every room, the rule is two basic colors and one “pop” color.  So, for my living room, my two colors are cream and brown (kinda boring) but I “popped” yellow in the book case as well as the curtains and pillows.  It looks better with one “pop” color.

Two basic colors (cream and light brown) with one “pop” color — yellow

Tip #9 Decorate according to your own values

Decorate with meaningful pictures and art work that represents who you are. Like birds?  Decorate with bird art.  Huge fan of music? Purchase an old guitar and mount it on your wall.  Are you religious and want to have a conversation piece?  Pop some religious art.  We hung two really cool pics of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” in our dining room; a before and after of sorts.  It makes for some great discussion with guests.  I have fun vintage signs in my kitchen which make people laugh and it starts conversations.

Daniel in the Lion’s Den — a great conversation piece

Tip #10 Got kids?  Create a kid space

Kids are the number reason why houses get MESSY. Try to keep it all in one room of the house.  Do the best you can.  Keep all of your board games in a place you can easily see and access.  Keep all of the art stuff in one place too.

Bonus! Tip #11 Update your lighting fixtures

This one change will greatly affect how the inside of your home looks.  Take a look at your current dining room or kitchen table chandelier.  Does it cover the time span between 1965 and 2005??  If it does, please, for the love of all things, REPLACE it.  You can find some awesome, inexpensive light fixtures online (Amazon, Home Decorators, Wayfair) or at many home stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.  What about your kitchen?  Does it have that huge fluorescent light in the middle of it?  Get rid of that son of a gun.  Install cool, fun, practical lighting all over your home.  Buy new table lamps with style and color.  Consider small hanging lights (like indoor Christmas lights, but not) in one room of the house (perhaps your kids space). Lighting can VASTLY change the mood of your home.

One of the best things you can do is update your lighting fixtures!!  We found this one at home

Bonus Tip #12 Steal (I mean, get….) ideas from your friends, and decorate slowly

I love visiting new homes and getting ideas from my friends.  Of course, I don’t completely copy them exactly, but I get new ideas.  You can also feel free to steal ideas from me.  And decorate incrementally!!  Don’t stress over how long it takes to get your home together.  It has taken me three and half years to beautify my current home and it’s still not completely decorated.  Take your time and try to enjoy it.

Bonus Tip #13 Remember why you decorate

Finally, remember the ultimate goal of having a nice home is that you have a comfortable space for yourself (if you are single) or for you and your family to enjoy and live together in peace and harmony.  Try not to obsess over your home (and decorating). Love PEOPLE more than you love things.  Things get old, dirty, and broken.  People are gifts from God.  This includes friends and neighbors, too.  Welcome them into your home and feed them some tasty food.  If you love your home and the way it looks, it will make you and your family happier, and you will be much more motived to throw some par-tays.

In conclusion, I hope this post helps get you motivated to replace some old lighting fixtures, tackle a wood-pallet wall, and paint over that dried-blood-red wall with something light, fresh, and pleasing to the eye.  But make sure you like your paint color at both 9 am and 9 pm.  🙂

What about you?  What are your best decorating tips?  Let’s all share and learn from each other!


P.S.: Here are just a couple of “cheap” decorating tips.  You can find quality, inexpensive paint at Lowe’s and Home Depot.  Choose paint colors carefully.  Paint first.  Got old couches and you can’t afford to purchase new pieces?  No worries.  Buy a couple of nice, cream, matching slipcovers that FIT WELL and then buy some really nice, colorful accent pillows to go in each corner of couches (or love seats).  Pier One has great accent pillows.  Got an 80s coffee table from your grandma?  Fine. Paint it and then distress it (google or youtube this.)  Put some books neatly on the coffee table and maybe a cool vase in the middle. You can find lots of decor items in clearance aisles in various stores and at Flea Markets.  Go to Michaels, buy some cheap frames, and then print off things you find on-line and then put the print in the frame (vintage maps, vintage birds, anything that doesn’t have a copyright).  You can even put your kids artwork in cheap frames.  Check on line deals; has daily deals of up to 70 percent off.  Watch that site like a hawk. Finally, google “cheap decorating tips” and you will find many ideas.

P.S.S: Our wood pallet wall: to make a long story very short, I was originally going to do “peel and stick wood.”  (Just google it.) But it was WAY too expensive and definitely a DIY project (you have to carefully, with a little saw, cut the sides off of pieces that are too long) so I hired a local guy who actually got real, reclaimed wood, stained it in about five different colors or shades of the same color, and then he put it up piece by piece, staggering the wood out in a way that looks cool.  It took him several days to get the wood ready and about two days to install it; the total was about $800.  You can totally DIY this project but it’s a pain as you have to a. Locate the wood b. Make sure the wood is the same size and very straight across the top c. Stain most of the wood in grays and browns (leave several pieces with no color however) and then d. Carefully put the wood up evenly in a staggered way with a nail gun.  That takes a lot of time.  Or you can pay someone, as we did.  If you live local, I will give you the contact information of the guy we hired if interested.  You can also do a wood wall much cheaper by using Lath strips of wood, found at Home Depot, which are about $12 per bundle.  You install them with a Brad Nailer.

Hope this helps!! Thanks for reading!

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