Whether you're tackling one room or your whole home, embarking on a makeover project can involve a lot of time, effort and expense. Which means you really want to get it right. To do that, you'll need to invest some energy in the planning stages. And that starts with inspiration.
Creating a beautiful home is not about ticking a bunch of design boxes. It isn’t about rules and formulas and copying exactly what the professionals have done. You can throw all the rules out the window if you like, so long as you end up with something that functions and that makes you happy.
But how do you even start creating a new look for your home? Where do you get ideas and how do you bring them together to create something that can be translated into a real-life interior design scheme?
Take inspiration from a few useful sources
Ideas: Some people seem to have hundreds of them, others struggle to get into that "blue sky thinking" space and come up with anything out of thin air. If you're the latter, don't worry. You're not sitting an interior design exam and no one is expecting you to create a groundbreaking design scheme that's never been seen before. Instead, you can look around and take inspiration from all sorts of places.
Magazines: There's nothing quite like flicking through a design magazine? The great thing is that you will find a mix of real-life homes and products that you can actually buy, so you can collect both general looks and actual shopping list items. Also, you can tear out pictures, which is ideal if you're planning on creating a physical mood board. Or, if you prefer a digital one, just snap a few pictures on your phone and upload them.
Books: A quick look at Amazon will confirm that there are literally thousands of books about home interiors out there. The advantage of a book when it comes to looking for inspiration is that you can be as specific as you like. Where magazines contain fairly varied collections of styles and "how to" guides, you can choose a book on small homes, art deco style or decorating for family living, depending on what you already know you need or like.
Friend's homes: Nothing beats actually being able to see how a design idea works in real life, so don't be afraid to nose around your friends' homes. They may well combine styles or colours or patterns in a way you wouldn't think of, or they may have different ideas about layout. If you have one friend whose style you particularly admire, ask where they got their inspiration from, and even whether they'd be willing to come round and give you their thoughts on your space and what you could do with it.
Nature: When it comes to colour, nature is the ultimate artist. From neon bright coral reefs to earthy desert tones and moody moorlands, every possible palette is represented in the natural world. Think two shades won't go together? You can bet you'll find an example of them in harmony in nature. A seascape could bring together greys, blues and neutral sandy colours with bright tones such as starfish orange or bold shades such as seaweed green. How could you translate this into your home?
Your wardrobe: There has always been a strong link between fashion and home interiors, but this isn't about keeping up with runway trends. Looking at your wardrobe with a designer's eyes will give you insight into what you are drawn to and what suits you. Do you wear a lot of patterns or mostly stick with block colours? Do you tend to go for bright tones or are you more into muted shades? Is your wardrobe stuffed with this season's hottest buys or do you keep a more classic collection of clothes that last for ages? Chances are, whatever you enjoy wearing, you'll enjoy living with in your home.
16 simple hacks that will make your lodgings look luxurious
Applying these five design principles to the home
Tips on how to create your own hotel-inspired home
How to make sense of all your ideas
By now you may feel like you’ve gone quite the other way and are brimming almost too full of ideas. To stop them all spilling over into a great big muddle, it’s important to collate them somewhere, so you can sift through them and actually organise your thoughts into a plan that you can follow to create that dream home. There are plenty of tools that you can use, from the highly technical to the reassuringly simple. Here are some to get you started.
Mood boards: If you're a craft-loving, creative, you'll probably get huge amounts of enjoyment from making a physical mood board – or several. It's best to create one for each room, using pictures, samples, swatches, sketches and anything else that helps inspire you. This could include such items as leaves, shells and beads.
Pinterest: Essentially a virtual mood board tool, Pinterest is great if you either don't have the time, space or inclination to create physical mood boards, or you just don't enjoy the whole cut and paste thing. You can create boards for different rooms, different looks, for aspirational images and wish list items that you actually want to buy – the sky's the limit.
Design apps: If you're at the stage where you want to see how your ideas might translate into your actual space, why not consider getting a tool such as Roomstyler 3D, which allows you to create a virtual plan? This might take some time, but it will be worth it if it helps you avoid making changes that you think you'll like, but that in reality, aren't quite what you imagined. You might find, for example, that the sofa you love so much actually looks quite cramped when you get it into your living room. Or that soft shade of sage you picked out from the sample sheets actually looks a bit garish when it's covering four walls.