Step-by-step guide: decorate your home from scratch

Sarah Tolle—Homify Canada Sarah Tolle—Homify Canada
EF_Archidesign Modern living room
Loading admin actions …

Maybe you're moving into an unfurnished apartment in a new city, or beginning the process of decorating your newly-built dream home. Whatever the case, you'll be starting from scratch, building your vision from the initial concept all the way to the finishing touches. 

Whether you do the whole process yourself or you hire a professional interior designer somewhere along the way, here's an overview of the process with details about the steps you'll need to complete.

​1. Measure your spaces

It may seem monotonous or trivial, but the first (and admittedly, unexciting) step of decorating from scratch is measuring your spaces. If you're moving into a newly constructed home, your architect will be able to offer information about each room's specifics, but if you're moving into an already existed space, you'll need to dedicate some time to walking around with a notebook and measuring tape. Take note of specific details, such as the footprint of the radiator, the thickness of partition walls, or the depth of any potential niches.

​2. List the attributes, plan your changes

Again, you may want to jump right in with the paintbrush, but your future self with thank you for a little bit of premeditation. In this step, walk to each room and make a list of the things you like about the space and things you would like to change. In a narrow entrance hall, your list might look like:

Like: high-quality tiled floor, solid wooden door, vintage radiator

Want to change: too narrow, feels cramped, not enough light, need space for shoes

A simple list like this well help you balance priorities when you find yourself selecting materials at the store.

It's not enough to mentally walk through your decorating. At this stage, it's a good idea to sketch it out. Create several copies of the floor plan of the house and sketch out alternatives. Indicate where you'd place the main furniture of each room. There are several free programs online for designing and downloading home layouts that allow you to play with different versions of a room's decor. Spending time on this planning process will help you catch any inconsistencies and troubleshoot any major difficulties before buying anything.

​3. Explore your options

It's one thing to save an online collection of images that appeal to your decorating tastes; it's another thing to see, feel, and experience these items in real life. Take time to visit a few stores—hardware stores, furniture stores, thrift stores, etc—and explore these items in person. You may find that the modern, rectangular sofa that you had your eye set on offers a less-than-comfortable seat for watching your favorite movies. Try things out, and get physical samples of materials and colour options whenever possible.

​4. Start with the kitchen

Assuming that your plumbing and electrical wiring are already in place (this should be done before any decorating commences), you should start your decorating project with the kitchen. This room is often chosen first, giving attention to high-quality equipment and durable materials, as this room often sits at the center of family life.  

Beyond your budget requirements and style preferences, consider these important points:

-What three things matter most in this space?

-How much room I need for pantry and storage?

How many people will work together in the kitchen on a typical day?

​5. Add the basics

If you're painting or re-doing walls, they should be completed before you start in on the furniture. As you start filling up your home with your selected items, remember that your basic, functional equipment and furniture is more important that wall hangings and purely aesthetic decorations. Focus on cabinets, niches, faucets, permanent shelves, and other practical additions that will provide a landscape for your less permanent decor.

​6. Create a comfortable bedroom and bathroom

This part of the process is where you add your homey touches. Bring on the linens, curtains, towels, cushions, and pillows. Add reading lamps, toothbrush holders, towel racks, and all the other details that make comfortable day-to-day life possible.

​7. Add your personal artistic flair

In the end, decorating your home is all about creating a space that reflects who you are, a space where you can feel like yourself. Add artistic touches that reflect your personality—if you're outdoorsy, add plants. If you're a minimalist at heart, hanging a simple, unframed mirror on the wall. If you're a romantic, add soft ruffles and lace. Enjoy making the space into a reflection of your unique personality.

For tips on matching your decor to your personality, see this guide for matching your bedroom to your zodiac sign!

Discover home inspiration!