A beginner’s guide to decorating your room from scratch

By Rory O'Sullivan

A beginner’s guide to decorating your room from scratch
So, you've got four walls, a ceiling, a floor, some windows and probably little else. Here are the five, non-negotiable beginner tips on turning that empty dull shell into a comfortable, cosy living room.

How to decorate your living room

Get the measuring tape out

Before you even think about where the sofa goes, whip out the tape measure and jot down every dimension of your soon-to-be living space.

No doubt you’ll have a good vision of what you want to lounge on and where it goes, but what the human eye sees can be very different from what will physically fit.

What the human eye sees can be very different from what's practical. ISTOCK

So to avoid disappointment, measure up and be prepared to discover that the chaise longue you’re bidding for may end up “overcrowding” your space or, worse still, not fitting at all.

The same goes for height. When you go shopping for light-stands, full-length mirrors and curtains you’re going to need those exact dimensions up your sleeve.

Design: Be an architect for a day

Now that you know, mathematically, what size space you’re dealing with, the next step is to work out what will feasibly go where.

If you want to make the best use of those measurements (and this method will really come into its own for kitchens and bathrooms) then buy yourself a pad of graph paper and make a scale representation of your living room.

Playing the role of architect could be the best living-room decision you make. ISTOCK

This will allow you to map out your living room before you haul the bulky stuff in, safe in the knowledge you know that it’s all going to fit like a satisfying Tetris exercise.

Start with the biggest objects – so, furniture – and work your way downwards in size.

It goes without saying you should do this with a pencil and eraser. You will make mistakes and move things around!

With that in mind, and if you don’t mind your laptop getting dusty or dented, there’s no shortage of online room planning tools that will allow you to lay out your room and insert furniture to the exact proportions without feeling like you’re back at school.

Smartdraw and Roomsketcher are both good options and offer free room templates.

Get colourful

Before the precious shabby-chic coffee table goes anywhere near entering the room, take a step back and spend some time deciding what colour scheme you’re going to be, literally, living with.

It goes without saying you should consider what’s going to match your room’s contents, if you haven’t already decided on your furniture and what colours they made up of.

So grab as many paint samples as you can and throw some patches on the walls.

Think about it, sleep on it, talk about it.

It’s worth agonising over what colours and themes are going to make your living room bright, cosy, open or whatever “feel” you’re going for.

Above all else, settle on a theme that’s inviting and makes you want to spend time in there.


There are three main types of home lighting – ambient, task and accent. The type that’s most relevant to the living room is ambient.

Think about spreading your light sources in different points of the room.

Consider chandeliers or recessed lighting for your “main” source of light.

From traditional French to modern, chandeliers can come in all shapes, sizes and designs.
From traditional French to modern, chandeliers can come in all shapes, sizes and designs.

You should also consider placing some table lamps, wall sconces or other “localised” sources of ambient light for that cosy evening “snug” mode.

Finishing touches

Now that you know where everything goes, and that the feel, flow and colour scheme is just right, it’s time to add your personal touch.

A good place to start is wall art and other objects that “define” you.

The living room is where you’ll spend the most time hosting family and friends, so you want it to reflect your personality, character and your interests to whatever extent you’re comfortable with.

Decorating a living room is a fantastic opportunity to create something that's definably "you".
Decorating a living room is a fantastic opportunity to create something that represents “you”.

For some people a canvas painting that dominates one wall is what makes them happy, for others it’s some signed artwork from their favourite band, or perhaps a wall montage of family holiday photos.

For some inspiration, check out the hottest home decor trends for 2019.

For many living rooms, the centrepiece is the coffee table. Here are seven handy tips on how to make it really stand out in style.

Spring is just around the corner, so if you’re only just getting to your living room project now, here’s our guide to creating an open, airy and calm living space

Still not sure where to start? Check out MiNDFOOD’s full Decor Home section for a bounty of ideas and inspiration.


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