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black round mirror in entryway above black and glass top console table from calibre furniture

How to Decorate a Room: My Proven Process Explained

I want to show you how to decorate a room the smart way. The heartfelt way. The way that produces a result you’ll fall in love with. That feels like you. And that doesn’t send you bankrupt.

You see, every designer has a design ethos. If they don’t, they should. I definitely do, and that’s what I want to delve a bit further into with you today.

When you work with a designer to make over your home, you know what their vibe is, so you know if you gel with them or not. You want to be able to grasp how they would make over your space, and how they’d approach spending your money.

I’m going to share my overarching concept on how to decorate a room properly with you below. It’s how I approach any room design, regardless of style or budget. Because I reckon if you adopt this approach at your place, you’ll be able to pull off your own amazing space without even having to call me in to help (but do feel free to do that here if you need to!).

PS all images in this post come via my friends at Globewest.

globewest terrazzo side table and terrazzo coffee table with velvet burgundy sofa

1. Start with the Base Layer of Investment Pieces

So you have an empty room to work with – fantastic! Nothing excites me more than working with a space with nothing in it and exploring the possibilities. And don’t be daunted by an empty shell, either. When it comes to how to decorate a room, a blank canvas means loads of potential!

The easiest place to start in an empty space is to bring in the base layer of investment pieces. These are the pieces you’re going to spend the most money on. The furniture and decor that’s going to last for decades.

Examples of the investment pieces in a room would be:

  • The sofa in your living room
  • The mattress in your bedroom
  • The dining chairs in your dining room
  • The rug in your living room
  • Armchairs in multiple pockets of a home

Generally, anything that your butt is going to touch needs to be invested in. Comfort is the ultimate luxury in life, and you want these pieces to go the distance.

Nothing makes me sadder than a cheap sofa that starts sagging after six months. Or dining chairs that lose their puff and padding too quickly.

PS: if you need tips on what to look for when buying dining chairs, this post has you covered.

The one exception to the rule here is around armchairs. If it’s a chair you won’t sit in a lot (like in the corner of a room rather than one you’d watch TV in every day), you can go cheaper. The longer you sit in something, the better quality it should be. And the less you use it, the cheaper it can be.

boho luxe interior design living room with cane chair and cane coffee table from globewest

Ensure the Base Layer is in Neutral Tones

If you invest money in the above pieces of furniture you can decorate around them forever, providing you’ve chosen them in a neutral, versatile finish.Now, I’ve never been one to shy away from using colour, but I’d not recommend you apply it to a larger piece like a sofa. Over time, it will become incredibly hard to live with as your tastes change. Instead, go with a neutral tone like black, white, grey or beige (even navy blue) and you can add colour through the second layer (more on that coming right up!).

Comfort First!

People often say you should spend a lot of money on a bed, but I don’t agree. The mattress is far more important than the bed it’s sitting on.

As long as the bed is sturdy and ties in with the style of room you’re going for, buy it budget and put more money into the mattress; you’ll be lying on it for years. Again, nothing is more important than comfort (and a good night’s sleep).

boho luxe bedroom wicker headboard and cane screen in green bedroom from globewest

2. Then Drizzle in Affordable Decor

Now that you have the larger investment pieces down – and you’ve been sensible about it – you have my full permission to go crazy with the decor. That is, of course, if you’re doing it on a budget.

I believe that the investment pieces in a room will stay for years, but the second layer of affordable decor is going to change each year (or each season if you love decorating as much as I do).

Here are examples of decor you don’t spend much on:

  • Cushions, throws, and bedding (soft furnishings are fun to change up!)
  • Side tables, coffee tables and TV units (as long as they’re sturdy, go cheap)
  • Lighting; have lamps at multiple levels, but don’t spend a fortune
  • Artworks; providing they’re not limited edition or originals
  • Candles, coasters, and other pieces on tables

It’s in layer two that we get to jump on trends, which come and go all the time. Love the millennial pink trend this season? Awesome; buy a cushion (not a sofa) in this tone. Want to jump aboard the tropical trend? Fabulous; purchase a tropical print instead of installing leafy wallpaper across your living room.

A note about art

I love original art. I love supporting local artists. I think it’s worth paying big bucks for one-off pieces or limited edition releases. Won’t I don’t advice spending hundreds of dollars on is prints that a brand is churning out thousands of. So if you find an expensive piece of art you just HAVE to have, invest in it (more on that further down!).

globewest black and white pattern sofa with navy blue velvet armchair and marble side table

Go Colour Crazy

Layer two is also where you get to experiment with colour and figure out which combinations you love.

Often you might think two colours go together, but when you place your new cushions side by side in these shades, it becomes apparent that they’re not friends after all. The most you spent on this lesson is under $100, not thousands had you decided to team a pink sofa with a yellow armchair.

Side note: don’t ever pair a pink sofa with a yellow armchair! 😉

Experiment like you’re 21 again!

Layer two is completely fun and experimental, so please be brave and don’t worry about making mistakes. We live in a world that’s telling us to embrace minimalism and stop being so wasteful with our purchases. But I firmly believe that you have to have one great love in life, and mine is interior design. So buy away and have a play.

Life is short; buy the candle! If you don’t like it, give it to a friend or family member. I don’t advocate hoarding by any means, but I’d much rather you try, fail and learn than get struck down with the condition I call SSTD: Sh*t Scared to Decorate. Aint nobody wanna to live with that.

globewest Willow Curve Buffet and terrazzo vase and terrazzo bowl

3. Finish with Personalised Mementoes

If you’re wanting to know the most important part of how to decorate a room, this layer might just be it.

This third and final moment involves tapping into your history, your family, your precious keepsakes. It often involves celebrating the things that other people might consider gawdy, off-trend, or downright ugly. To those people you can say, you don’t live here, biatch! 

Layer three is not about what other people like. It’s about what reflects you as a person. So don’t be afraid to go into your cupboards, or those boxes in the shed or garage, and pull out stuff you’ve had kept hidden away for years.

Examples of layer three personal mementoes include:

  • Old photographs of your family from when you were little
  • Things your kids made you at school from decades ago
  • Art you might have created a while back that you’ve buried away
  • Travel souvenirs you’ve forgotten you bought when overseas
  • Any keepsakes given to you from loved ones who’ve passed away
  • Vintage decor you’ve shopped for in second-hand stores

The great thing about finding these items is not only the memories they bring back, but the celebration of who you were and how these objects shaped you.

They don’t even have to make sense or have meaning to anyone else apart from you. In fact, I think it’s better when they hold meaning to you only, or remind you of a moment you shared with a lost loved one that nobody else knows about.

Check out this post for an in-depth look at where you can get layer three products from.

globewest Tully Bookcase and Coffee Table interior design trends 2019

Displaying your Memories

I implore you to spend some time gathering these things from hidden cupboards and drawers. Once you have, you then get to figure out how to display them!

Think outside the box here and look to interesting display ideas. Shadow boxes on walls are a great way to display items that are three-dimensional. Coffee tables with drawers like this one from IKEA are a great way to display loads of memories that you can change up all the time.

Even something as simple as a gallery wall of art and old photos down a hallway wall is a genius way to showcase your life.

That piece you just have to have!

In layer three, it’s OK to include an item in here that might be a little pricey. Sometimes, in your shopping adventures, you might see an item that literally makes your heart race. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.

If you find a decor item like this and it’s a little expensive, splurge on it! As long as you think you’ll have it a while, it’s not a waste of money and you’ll look at it fondly every single day. It actually ends up becoming a keepsake or heirloom because you’ll have it forever and likely pass it onto your kids.

globewest tan leather floor cushions stacked in a corner

Need more tips on how to Decorate a Room?

Hopefully this has given you some ideas and inspiration on how to decorate a room. If you want more tips on the daily, why not join my private Facebook group?

Coming into the group let’s you chat with other interior lovers, get design advice from me and other members on the daily AND I share exclusive discount codes with you for your favourite retails.

Join here and come have some fun with us!


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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10 Responses

  1. Great advice Chris, going by your tips I think I got it right, its good to know hearing that come from you. I love your style & approach to interior decorating and that your not afraid to shop at stores such as Kmart, I love shopping there! They have some great decor and make it very affordable to update your home with the latest trends… and yes I love decorating that as much as you do 🙂
    I was in Target earlier today and they have some really nice home wares and great quality too for the price 🙂

  2. dont know what happened here everytime I tried to post kept saying duplicate, but I kept amending it but had obviously already displayed – 3 times lucky

  3. Great ideas and tips — except for the heading – DRizzle in affordable Decor – my accessories, cushions throws etc have become a serious addiction and probably could replace a sofa a year with the amount spent, but as Marie Kondo keeps saying, if it brings you joy keep doing it, have told my husband, he better keep bringing me joy or he’ll be donated LOL

  4. Wonderful advice – thanks for sharing all your great tips —- except for the heading – DRizzle in affordable Decor – my accessories, cushions throws etc have become a serious addiction and probably could replace a sofa a year with the amount spent, but as Marie Kondo keeps saying, if it brings you joy keep doing it, have told my husband, he better keep bringing me joy or he’ll be donated LOL

  5. Wonderful advice – thanks for sharing all your great tips and your sense of humour, makes my day and cracks me up everytime, have learnt not to drink coffee while reading —- except for the heading – DRizzle in affordable Decor – my accessories, cushions throws etc have become a serious addiction and probably could replace a sofa a year with the amount spent, but as Marie Kondo keeps saying, if it brings you joy keep doing it, have told my husband, he better keep bringing me joy or he’ll be donated LOL

  6. Perfect timing, l am furnishing the lounge room in our new house from scratch. Just bought the sofa in a blue/grey.

  7. Quite a wonderful article, you have shared here. Glad I know the right method to decorate a room. Thank you.

  8. Hi Chris,

    Great reading about the layering process. Does feel and look more homely.
    Love the Kmart pic you posted. Do you know if these round black tables be available from Kmart soon?


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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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