There’s nothing quite like the moment when you turn the key and open the door to your very own, no-more-roommates, all-to-yourself home.
As you look around the blank walls, naked windows and unfurnished rooms, that cool sense of achievement slowly morphs into heart-throbbing panic. This is a whole entire home and it’s just for you, meaning it’s up to you – and you alone – to get it furnished and decorated completely from scratch!
Before you frantically call up the estate agent to tell them there’s been a terrible mistake, we’ve got just what you need to calm those solo decorating jitters. Our step-by-step guide to decorating your flat looks at everything from the biggest pieces of furniture to the smallest touches that make a house a home.
And, with only yourself to please – plus no more taste clashes or back-and-forth compromises to deal with – you might even enjoy the process more than you think.
1. Soak up some inspiration
Being more than a little eager about moving into a place of your own, your mind has no doubt been buzzing with ideas ever since you signed on the dotted line. But, before you rush to the nearest furniture store with your long list of items, take some time to plan everything out.
The first step to bringing your decorating vision to life is to soak up some inspiration from homes done beautifully. Gather interior images of homes and rooms you love, pick out colours, features, furnishings, textures and materials that appeal to you, and figure out the styles and designs that interest you most. Creating mood boards is great fun.
2. Decide on the bigger basics
Once you’ve analysed your mood boards and figured out the general vibe you’d like to go for, it’s time to pick out the bigger items in your home.
Your basic furniture – which includes the living room sofa, your bed, dining table, and any large kitchen items that aren’t already in place – can serve as useful pointers throughout the interior design process. You can then work the rest of your décor around these larger, statement pieces.
Of course, this means you should have your preferred style pretty much nailed by now, so if you haven’t yet, go back to your inspiration or mood boards and see if any common themes pop out at you. Whether you go for minimalist monochrome, country-style wood or rustic metals, giving yourself a clear interior design direction using the biggest items in your home can help keep your décor cohesive as you add more layers.
As for colours, they can drastically change the way the room feels, so it’s important to choose colour schemes that evoke the right kind of mood for each room. We’d suggest going for a neutral scheme for the walls and main furnishings – whether you go for greys, whites, creams or browns – and bringing in more adventurous accent colours in accessories and other decorative pieces. Now’s the time to think about varying your textures and materials, again creating a playful feel that’s never boring.
4. Think about storage
The next thing to consider once you’ve got the larger items in place is storage. Planning storage now, from a blank slate rather than as an afterthought, makes it easier to make the most of the space you have with lots of storage but also plenty of room to move around.
From cabinets and display cases to wardrobes and sideboards, these functional items give you ample space to store your things, and are an integral part of your home décor. Use those bigger items from Step 2 as inspiration as you pick out your storage options, matching the style or colouring as close as you can to maintain a cohesive look throughout.
And, before you go online or embark on an all-you-can-buy trip to the furniture store, make sure you measure out your space so everything you choose fits seamlessly without feeling cramped.
5. Work within restrictions
The next step is to get your hands on a floor plan, if possible, or just walk around your home and sketch out a rough layout you can work with. A floor plan or layout helps you translate your favourite ideas logically into the space you have, and will make it easier to see how much space you have to work with when it comes to larger furnishings, accessories and decorative items.
Using a plan means you’ll soon find out whether that opulent four-poster bed is just slightly too high for your bedroom ceiling, or whether that large wall mirror you’ve had your eye on would be more suited in your hallway than your living room.
Setting these parameters early on – together with a realistic budget for your overall decorating project – helps keep your décor dream grounded firmly in reality.
6. Work with what you have
Next comes your soft furnishings such as curtains, rugs and cushions, as well as accessories, artwork, decorative pieces, ornaments and other little touches to reflect your personal taste.
While it can be tempting to buy everything completely new, why not take the opportunity to take an inventory of what you currently own instead? For each item, decide if it works with the aesthetic you’re trying to create for your new home, and (unless they have important sentimental value) consider donating or selling any items that don’t fit.
Keep items that match as well as clash (tastefully) and you may find that there’s very little actual shopping you need to do.
If you would like to shop, though, try to limit your purchases to ony a few items every few months. As you get to know your home, how you use it and how all the items connect and flow with each other, it’ll be easier to pick up pieces that can enhance the space. While this will take a little bit longer than going “all-out” at once, you’ll end up with a lovely layered look that feels deliberate and well-designed.
7. Allow space for company
Although you might be relishing the prospect of living alone, inevitably you’ll need some company – if only to help admire the wonderfully decorated new home you’ve created. Make sure you’ve included enough furnishings, dining sets and room to share your space with visitors, whether that’s getting a larger couch in your living room, investing in a sofa bed for overnight guests, adding extra dining chairs for dinner parties, or buying some comfy armchairs so people can lounge comfortably on lazy afternoons.
So, there you have it. From starting with the very basics, planning out everything stage by stage, and thinking strategically about how to make the most of what you already own, that daunting empty flat can be transformed into a beautiful home that’s all yours.