What do you do when you start from scratch?

Starting from scratch can be so exciting (so many possibilities!), but also extremely stressful (TOO MANY possibilities!!).  How do you know what to get first? How do you know that you won't make a mistake- can you make a mistake? 

Don't stress. We got this. 

I'm going to break down the 5 best steps to take when you are starting from scratch in a room. I want to be able to take away the stress and leave you with just the excitement- that's way more fun anyways :) 

Photo courtesy of My Domaine

Photo courtesy of My Domaine

1. Ask the question: What are you going to do in this room? 

Are you going to only hang out, or do you also need a place to work occasionally or a place to put your un-ending collection of books? Do you need to squeeze a bunch of people in here or is this going to be a TV room that also becomes a guest room? By starting with how the room needs to function, you won't get distracted by all the possibilities that are fun but won't be the best fit for you (for me that means I have to stop looking at cool accent chairs I find on Craigslist because I don't have a need or place for them!).

2. All the possibilities!

Start with a master list of all the items you think you need to buy based off the function of the room. Don't get into accessories (like pillows or bookends), just stick to the big stuff. You can deal with the accessories later (one less thing to do!). If you want, you can have "either/or" items like a console OR buffet for the dining room. Make sure if you do this, you don't put down "ottoman or a coffee table", if you really you don't want an ottoman. Just put down what YOU want, not what's popular. I've even made two or three lists that represent options in a room to help me break down my ideas further. Here are examples of two options for a living room: 

Option 1

  • One Large Art Piece
  • Sofa
  • Two Club Chairs
  • Accent Tables
  • Floor Lamp
  • Ottoman 
  • Rug
  • Storage for Records (Bookcase?)

Option 2

  • Two Medium Art Pieces
  • Sectional
  • Accent Chair
  • Stools (to go on either side of sectional)
  • Floor Lamp
  • Coffee Table
  • Rug
  • Storage for Records (Dresser/Chest?)

It's okay if you don't know which option your are going to pick, because you can take parts of each list. The important part is that you make at least one list. Now for the trickiest part...

Photo courtesy of Southern Living

Photo courtesy of Southern Living

3. Let's talk about style

The style of a room (or mood or "feeling") is where people get the most stuck. I can't meet with you in person to help you figure out what you like (at least not yet!), but I can give you a helpful insight regarding this sticking point. Look at what kind of clothes you wear. Emily Henderson also talks about this in her book called Styled (which is a great resource!), but your clothes can tell you about yourself. If your favorite store is J.Crew, then you probably have a more traditional style who needs to stay away from light fixtures that are super modern. It's not that you can't like that kind of stuff, but just like with clothes, even if you love something someone has on, doesn't mean you will actually wear it yourself. Just because you love something you see, doesn't necessarily mean you will love it if it's in your house. Pinterest, magazines and blogs are also resources to hunt for inspiration of what kind of style you want to emulate. So, if you can keep in mind your style and not only what you like but also what you would want to live in, then you can start picking out stuff! 

4. What do you get first?

That's the big money question, right? Start with the heart of the room. The heart is a 3 item list.

  1. Where are people going to be sitting/sleeping/eating? Whatever the answer to that question is, that makes the list.
  2. You need to get the supporting element to that first question. It might be a dresser to functionally be there for your clothes. It might be a rug so that your room is visibly defined and your kid can play on the floor. You will probably feel like EVERYTHING is a supporting element, and it is to some extent. But in order to make it in this top 3 heart category, it needs to be what other things are based on (like a rug) or very crucial to your function of a room (like a dresser). 
  3. Your room will always feel incomplete without art. Period. Why does it have to be in the top 3? Because I think that at the heart of a room is someone's personality and uniqueness and I think art expresses both of those things. I don't think anything else really compares to the power art can have in a room and I think that by prioritizing it, you won't settle for just something to put on the wall. You will fall in love with something that brings life to your room and make it really feel like you. It can also help you decide on the look of the other two options on the list. 
Photo courtesy of Katie Rosenfeld

Photo courtesy of Katie Rosenfeld

5. Wrapping it up

The last part to this process is acquiring all the other things in step 2. You might be still trying to figure out what to pick, but as you start shopping, let that be your guide. If you find an bookcase that you love (and is the right size) for the space, then get that instead of a dresser or group of shelves. Go back to step 3 if you are debating about two different options. One may be more of the style you want to live vs. the style you like. And I'll tell you a secret...sometimes both options for something are perfectly great. You just have to pick one. You won't make a mistake with either and it really comes down to which one you like the best!

I know that starting from scratch is intimidating and there is this hidden fear that you'll get it wrong. But I promise that working through master list and honing in on pieces you love and go with the style you want to live in, you won't get it wrong. In fact, you'll probably create one of your favorite rooms. 

What are your biggest fears about starting from scratch?