Interior Design Basics with Joanna Thornhill

Whether you’ve just got the keys to a new place, or are stuck in limbo in a space you just don’t know where to even begin with, starting from scratch can seem a somewhat daunting task, even for the pros. But before you resort to desperately flinging up some statement wallpaper and hurriedly ordering the first pieces of furniture you stumble across online, take a step back, work out a plan and think like an interior designer. No idea how? Well luckily, that’s where we come in! Read on and you’ll have your own home makeover blueprint sorted, ready to hit the shops confident you won’t be making any costly mistakes.

light location on chesterton road

Credit: Light Locations

Let it be

As tempting as it can be to go in all guns blazing with a design firmly in mind, it really pays not to rush. Try living in your space without changing anything for at least a week: note down how you are using each room, and at what times of day – how does the light fall in the space; would you prefer it to feel cosier or more light and airy? Does your furniture help the room to flow or is it obstructive? Do you have enough storage to stop it becoming cluttered? Think objectively, whilst taking your own preferences into consideration at the same time, and be realistic – yes, we all wish our rooms were bigger but if an extension is off the cards, keep things constructive and instead think about how you can improve the feeling of space within the four walls you have.

home stories book image

Credit: SF Girl By Bay

Work out your vision

Once you’ve got a clearer idea of how you want to use the space, you can then move on to the fun bit of thinking about how you’d like it to look. At this stage, it can be helpful to create a ‘vision board’ – less constrictive than a moodboard, this is simply a place you can play around with to try and work out your personal style. Print out any saved Pinterest pins you love, and pull them together with anything else you really like, but try to think outside the box – it could be a pretty feather, a food wrapper you are drawn to the pattern of, a holiday photo of a gorgeous sunset where the sky was the most glorious colour combination – anything that gets your creative juices flowing. By physically compiling everything together in one place, you will quickly see some common themes emerging which you can use to help you determine your interiors direction.

wooden floors and accessories

Credit: Happy Interior Blog

Take things forward

With a (slightly) clearer idea of the general aesthetic you’d like to achieve, think about how you could apply this into the various rooms you are looking to decorate and start to research samples and swatches you could actually use in these spaces. Think outside the box – if you’ve realised you’re really drawn to Moroccan-style tiles, this could be something to install in your kitchen or bathroom but equally it would translate to a gorgeous patterned rug in your living room or a statement throw in the bedroom. Hone down what you would like the key elements of each space to be – a bold sofa or some vibrant floor-length curtains, for example – then use these as your starting point for selecting elements which will play a supporting role to these, such as wall paint or carpet.

spring bright colour palettes from little greene blog

Credit: Country Days

Plot it with paper

Once you’ve moved on to thinking about particular items of furniture within each room, make yourself up some templates from paper (newspaper sheets taped together works well for blocking out larger items), put them on the floor in the relevant places, then move around the space for a bit. Does this work? Could you actually squeeze in a bigger sofa than you thought? Is that coffee table taking up too much room and would a nest of tables in the corner be a better option? Place any furniture you’re planning to keep in the room to give an idea of how this fits in, too. While you’re at it, tape paper to the walls, too, with your paint colour choices added to them, as well as any wallpaper designs or fabric samples from soft furnishings. Make sure your swatches are a fair size and view them at different times of the day, and on different walls, to see how the natural light affects them.

scandi boho bright and light room

Credit: Fabric Of My Life

Finalise your plans

Now’s the time to make those all-important final decisions before placing any orders, and it’s also a good time to run through some basic interior design rules to see if everything tallies. Is the scale working – is anything looking like it will be too bulky for the space, or have you gone the other way and ended up with lots of little bitty pieces of furniture? Generally speaking, fewer items of a larger scale can trick the eye into thinking the space is larger than it is, as there is less visual clutter. If your room is a funny shape or multi-use, think about whether you’re envisaging your furniture in the right spots – would it feel more dynamic to have your sofa pulled away from the wall to break up the space a little, or could you use a bookcase almost as a room divider to separate different functions of the room in an open-plan space?

monochrome scandi room

Credit: Tanja Van Hoogdalem

Add your accessories

Decorative items really do act as the icing on the cake when it comes to interiors, and are just as important in creating a gorgeous finished space as the main furniture pieces themselves. Layer up lighting by ensuring you have a selection of lamps as well as overhead lights, for both atmospheric and task lighting, pile on the soft furnishings onto sofas and beds for a cosy, sumptuous look, and bring in ornaments and decorative objects, arranged in interesting vignettes, to add character to shelves and alcoves (top stylist’s tip – always arrange things in odd numbers and play with scales and heights, to keep things interesting). Artwork really does make a space feel complete, and it needn’t blow (whatever’s left of) your budget. Sites like Etsy have a wealth of affordable, quirky prints on offer for reasonable prices, or think outside the box and frame up some pretty wrapping paper or even some ephemera such as old maps or vintage knitting patterns. If you’re keen to create a gallery-style wall, use the same paper plotting technique as you did with your furniture, taping paper mock-ups to the wall with masking tape until you’re happy with the arrangement.

mantis light display unit

Credit: Oak Furniture Land

Bring it to life

Flowers and foliage are a must in any space to really help it feel like a home. And with houseplants still such a huge trend, there are plenty of great options readily available. If you’re not green-fingered, try some succulents or air plants or even invest in a few fake plants and flowers for the ultimate maintenance-free option. Just a few dotted here and there throughout the home will add impact, or go to town and create a stunning focal point by loading up a corner of the room with trailing plants and terrariums, for a show stopping centrepiece to your space.

Now that you know the basics, let us know how you get started over on InstagramFacebook or Twitter!

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