How to finish decorating a room


Your browser is out of date

This website will not look or function as originally intended in your current browser

We recommend upgrading to the latest version of Internet Explorer or Chrome or Firefox

How to finish decorating a room

By emily.bailey

Thursday, December 21, 2017

How to finish decorating a room

Got a half-finished space begging for a polished look? These solutions can motivate you to take some essential decorating action.



We've all been there — you want to get a room pulled together, but it's just not happening. When the paint swatches (none of them just right) have been on the wall for months, your pictures are still waiting to be hung or your space just doesn't feel complete, it's time to get to the bottom of the problem so you can finally finish that room. From color quandaries to clutter, we will take a look at five of the most common roadblocks and ways to overcome them once and for all.

Roadblock 1: Color is all over the map.

If your space is a hodgepodge of colors and patterns, the good news that is you are probably not afraid of using color. Really, that is good news — many of us hem and haw for months about which shade of white paint to use! The key to finishing your space is to tighten up the color palette in your room, zeroing in on certain shades and tossing (or moving to another room) what doesn't fit.

Use your camera

Try taking photos of each item in your room. Then print the pictures and play around with different arrangements on a big bulletin board, or spread them out on a table. Looking at photos will help give you distance, so you can make decisions about what looks best without letting your feelings for your belongings take over your decision-making process.


Focus just on color first. Then, once you've winnowed the pieces down to a color palette you like, note which pieces in your room no longer fit with the new scheme and make a list of things to add. Bonus: You can bring your photos with you when you are out shopping to quickly and easily match colors and prints.

Roadblock 2: I've lived here for years, but it looks like I just moved in.

This is such a common problem, and there are as many reasons for it as there are people — perhaps you are waiting to put up art until you've chosen the "perfect" paint color, or you are really busy at work and don't have the time to face decorating decisions, or perhaps this isn't your ideal home and you keep thinking you will wait to decorate when you move.


No matter the reason, it's important to understand that having a warm, welcoming, comfortable home is important to us all, and you deserve to have that now, not at some unknown future time. The first step is to simply acknowledge that you want a "homier" home and commit to doing something about it.

Design your room in layers

When you are trying to take your home from bare and empty to warm and inviting, the process can feel a bit overwhelming. Tackling one layer at a time can make the task feel more manageable. And if you get stuck on one decision (like paint color), just move on and come back to it later — don't let it paralyze you.


The layers:

  • Rugs, window coverings and paint
  • Lighting (aim for at least three light sources per room)
  • Furniture
  • Soft stuff: cushions, throws and bedding
  • Finishing touches: art, mirrors, books and plants

Roadblock 3: My family is so messy, I don't know where to begin.

It is possible to have a fun, stylish home with kids in the house, but there's no point in tackling any other decorating projects when clutter is spilling out from every corner. Set aside a whole weekend to pare down and donate unwanted items, or do a little bit each day — the important part is to actually get rid of some stuff before you try to organize it. When you are starting with less, the organizing process will be much easier.

Organize for daily life

When the clutter is (sort of) in line, try one or more of these strategies for minimizing the mess every day:

  • Add hooks behind every door
  • Swap out coffee tables and benches for versions with hidden storage inside
  • Try carpet tiles instead of a rug — you can easily replace individual tiles if they get stained or damaged
  • Choose slipcovered or stain-resistant upholstered pieces
  • Start a 10-minute tidy-up period each evening that the whole family participates in — put on music and try to make it fun, or do it after dinner with the promise of dessert as an incentive

Roadblock 4: An all-neutral scheme feels boring.

I count myself among the legions of people who adore neutral or all-white color schemes, because they seem so foolproof — and they are. But sometimes all of that beige and cream begins to feel a little too predictable. If you are ready to shake things up a bit, first take a moment to consider what it is exactly that is bothering you about the room now.


Do you like the neutral hues but want more of a wow factor? A single special piece, like an oversize mirror with an interesting shape or a piece of art you love, could be all you need to add. Or try adding accessories with metallic shimmer. Platinum, gold or silver will add a rich, luxurious quality that elevates the neutrals around it.

spice up your neutral scheme

When the clutter is (sort of) in line, try one or more of these strategies for minimizing the mess every day:

  • Choose one bright color to add in small doses — a few red pillows, a basket, a vase of flowers. Just enough to wake things up.
  • Paint a single accent wall a fun hue. It's easy enough to paint over one wall if you hate it, and that one wall could inspire you to keep choosing more color.
  • Deepen the neutral scheme with painted walls or a new rug. If it's the pale, washed-out feeling you are trying to avoid, bringing in deeper, richer neutrals like charcoal or espresso could be just the thing. The floors and walls cover the most area, so using color there will make a big impact.

Roadblock 5: Fear of getting it "wrong."

This is perhaps the most common fear of all when it comes to decorating. None of us is perfect, and even professionals sometimes make purchases they regret or have a tough time finding just the right piece to complete a space.


The important thing to remember is, this is your home. It does not need to please anyone but you. It feels good to move forward — you can always change things later.

Have you recently finished a room you're proud of? Share your photos with us on Facebook and Instagram.
This article first appeared on Houzz on December 10, 2012.


Laura Gaskill | Houzz contributor

I cover topics ranging from decorating ideas, product picks, Houzz tours, and interviews with designers and architects, to the monthly home maintenance checklist.