DIY Interior Design: 12 Tips


For some folks, it’s a dream … a house where “move-in-ready” means just that: everything is perfect and the new homeowners don’t have to lift a finger to design or decorate. And then there are the rest of us. We prefer to struggle with choosing (perhaps even installing) our home’s features ourselves. Decorating blogs, Pinterest boards, and samples of upholstery fabric or ceramic tile are the stuff our dreams are made of. If you’re one of us, you'll enjoy these 12 tips for successful DIY interior design.

  1. Research. Learn as much as you can, as if you’re getting a certificate in countertops or a degree in drywall. The internet’s the obvious place to start, packed with ideas and available 24/7. But don’t stop there. Visit home centers and suppliers to view furniture, appliances, and materials in the flesh. Why? Well, you may read a dozen articles on say, quartz vs granite, and possibly even make your choice – in theory – but when you actually see and touch the two, that’s when you’ll fall in love.

  2. Take stock. Look at your home as it is now. What do you love about it? What features could you love? For instance: There’s a gorgeous view but no way to enjoy it from indoors. Can you possibly create a new window to frame it? Or to enlarge a minuscule bathroom, might you be able to steal some space from a linen closet?

  3. Decide whether you’re ready to renovate. “Renovate or adapt?” That is the question. What are your budget, time frame, and tolerance for chaos? Evaluate whether you’re willing to undergo a full-scale home remodel (or a minor one) to get the look and the functionality you’re dreaming of.

  4. Planned your intended use. Go through the house, room by room, deciding what you’d like to use each area for. Function is the foundation on which you’ll base every aspect of your DIY interior design, from traffic patterns to the right type of flooring.

  5. Find a focal point. Choose a central element to design around. This may be a feature already in place, such as elegant original wooden moldings, or something meaningful you yourself bring to the space, like a treasured antique carpet.

  6. Think furnishings. What furniture and appliances do you already own? How will various furniture pieces work together and fulfill your intended use of the room? Start with an accurate floor plan and take both measurements and clearance into account.

  7. Keep some empty space. The true purpose of a home is living, not display. So leave some empty space for your family to fill. A small hallway alcove can become a beloved “cave” for children to play in, if it’s not crammed with knickknacks.

  8. Coordinate. Balance elements without being too matchy-matchy; think a lamp in a subtle leaf pattern that harmonizes with your favorite philodendron. A unified theme in each room and throughout the house will avoid visual overwhelm. At the same time, a certain amount of contrast sparks interest – for example, that dainty vintage dresser on a modern concrete floor.

  9. Look at lighting. How much natural sun comes into the room? How much light will you need for the space’s intended purpose? To illustrate: A kitchen is likely to need more supplementary lighting than a home entertainment center.

  10. Choose colors. The Rule of Three applies here. Select a maximum of 3 colors as the basis for your DIY interior design scheme, and combine them in a proportion of 60:30:10. Be sure to look at all colors -- paint, upholstery, etc. -- in appropriate light, to see their true shade.

  11. Bring in a touch of nature. A natural element or two, like houseplants, rocks, or even a tree trunk will add warmth and charm. This could be a stand-alone decorative element (a tall vase filled with graceful branches) or incorporated into a larger whole – perhaps a slate fireplace surround.

  12. Delegate. Know your limitations. Indulge in hiring a contractor, such as a professional landscaper or expert flooring installer, for part or all of the project, to make your vision come to life in the best possible way.

Laura Firszt writes for

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