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From Scratch: How to Plan Any Room Design

Room design is a process. It can be one that involves several evolutions of a space, or it can start from nothing but wall studs and go from there. Regardless of if you’re starting over with a blank canvas or reconfiguring a current room in your house, we’ve got some tips for how to get top functionality and design at the same time.

A sectional anchors a living room space. The room is accented with large windows and supplemental furniture.

Image via: Hunker


The ultimate factor for what items and pieces are going into your room is your space parameters! Take account of window placement, door sizing, ceiling height, number of outlets. Having all this information written down in front of you as you plan will come in handy, especially if you’re online shopping for furniture pieces!


What do you want this room to do for you? Maybe it’s obvious like a formal dining area, but really take time for things like bonus rooms or spaces you want to flex. Make a list of the things you need the room to be able to do, and then jot down what you’ll need in the space to accomplish that. Bonus space that is going to be a playroom/work area/extra linen closet? Sounds like you’ll need designated desk space and plenty of storage options like shelves and baskets. Dining room that doubles as cocktail party hosting? Don’t forget an area for a bar cart, the right size dining table with chairs and plenty of variety in lighting.

A pedestal dining table is shown with curved blush dining chairs.

Image via: Maria Killam


Once you have your space set and your function clear in your mind, you can start to draw some inspiration. Utilize online tools and magazines to get a sense of your vision. Keep your space in mind as you gather ideas, either use your specific parameters when searching, or keep in mind how you can use elements of something you love in a space that doesn’t match it exactly.


Set up your color scheme with paint samples, fabrics, finishes, etc. Remember to choose a dominant color and use other colors or materials to complement. Choosing a color can be overwhelming, so maybe find a piece that you’d like to pull from. A patterned fabric from your furniture, a piece of wallpaper or artwork you love, or even a photograph can be great sources of colors that work well together. Once you have a color scheme, you can always mix in more shades of the same color to create more variety within it.

Two large sofas are across from each other in this living room. The space is accented with smaller furniture like chairs and the coffee table.


Start with the anchoring pieces of your space. Wall color (or wallpaper) first since it’s the largest portion of the room, then start building in the furniture. Larger pieces like sofas, dining tables, and oversized art are important to do first, since they will be the focal points of the space regardless of what else you put in. Work from those toward smaller furniture pieces or art, and other textiles that make a big impact like curtains or rugs.

As you are making decisions, it can be really beneficial to use some sort of tool to make sure your sizing and scale of pieces in the space feels good. Even if you aren’t a technical drawing sort of person, there are some easy ways you can test objects in the space before ordering. Many online retailers now have “see it in your space” options to deliver a virtual rendering of the piece in a photo or while you move a camera around. Another option is to use given dimensions of a product and tape out those on your floor with something like painters tape. Keep in mind the flow of a space as you test pieces out. Make sure you’d still be able to walk around furniture and get through a space easily. Consider also height differences of the furniture.

A large sectional in a living room is shown with a coffee table. Several accent pieces fill out the room with throw pillows, coffee table accessories, accent tables and baskets.


Once you’ve got the anchoring pieces in, you’re almost there! Final step is layering in the details with accessories, pillows, textiles, artwork, etc. This is a great opportunity to amplify part of the color scheme, create visual texture, and solidify function of the room.

Room design takes practice, and there’s a reason that people get hired to do it for others! That doesn’t mean that you can’t tackle some of it on your own and be successful. What rooms have you planned by yourself? What are you planning next?


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