Redecorate a Room in Five Steps

Interior decorating is a vast subject, and there are countless ways to approach any design project. Some people start with a color they love; others design an entire room around a small object or a swatch of fabric (more on that in a second!). If you’re a design newbie, or even if you have a lot of experience, it’s helpful to create a framework that will guide you through the process. That said, don’t let your process feel restrictive. Ultimately this is about channeling your creative vision.

The swatch of fabric that inspired my living room

How I Designed My Living Room

My whole living room was inspired by one fabric swatch. I knew the layout that would fit the room, so I’d already mapped out where the sofas, sectional, chairs, and ottomans would go, but I was at a loss for what direction I wanted to go in, as far as color and style went.

I took a trip to the Pacific Design Center here in LA, and just spent an afternoon looking at fabrics to see what inspired me. After four hours there, I felt hopeless. I decided to go into one more show room, and that’s when magic happened! I saw one fabric swatch that literally took my breath away. I knew instantly that I wanted it, so I took it home and sat in the middle of my empty living room with it for about twenty minutes. From that, a “Room was Born!”

My finished living room


Your Turn!

Sometimes you just have to search until you find that one inspiring element that unlocks your creative vision. If you’re feeling a little lost, study up on design – YoungHouseLove.com, HGTV.com and ApartmentTherapy.com can help you get a handle on the basics. Once phrases like “étagÃ�¨re” and “accent lighting” start rolling off your tongue, you’ll know you’re ready to get to work! And don’t think you have to invest in pricey pieces to create a beautiful room. You can create a totally chic space by mixing great finds from estate sales and flea markets with brand new pieces from stores like IKEA and Target. Remember, you can upgrade everything over time.


I made this mood board for a living room with a grey, yellow, and dark rose palette with organic pops of wood, stone, and shell. I used Pinterest.com – try it; it’s addictive!

Step 1: Start with a Mood Board. This is an extremely useful tool that will help identify, visualize and refine your design vision. In fact, a mood board, or vision board as I sometimes like to call it, should be the first step in any design process, from planning a party to curating your wardrobe. The beauty of a mood board is that it provides you with a space where you can lay out all your favorite design ideas without making any final decisions. So don’t be afraid to let it all out here – this is where you can mix styles, colors and patterns with abandon! Once you have it all in front of you, you will be able to hone in on what you respond to most, until a theme emerges.

Start your mood board by clipping pictures from your favorite design magazines. I love Elle Décor, Vogue Living, House & Garden, House Beautiful, Town & Country, and Architectural Digest. Also, be sure to include fabrics you have in mind, as well as color swatches, patterns, prints, and photos of objects, homes, museums, or buildings that inspire you. As you’re working, look at design books for inspiration. Some of my favorites are Parisian Interiors by Barbara Stoeltie, and a book by the same title, Parisian Interiors, by the editors of Elle Décor, HUE by Kelly Wearstler, More is More by Tony Duquette, High Style by Woodson & Rummerfield, A Life of Design by David Hicks, and An Affair with a House or Point of View by Bunny Williams. All of these designers also have websites (click on their names to view each of their sites), so if you don’t feel like dropping cash on a big ol’ coffee table book, just browse the web!

A mood board works best when you do a couple of drafts. Your first one will probably be a little schizophrenic! Leave it for a day, then come back to it and reassess: what colors and patterns do you love? What can go and what absolutely has to stay? Is there anything that looked brilliant yesterday but leaves you cold today? By the time you’re done with your second mood board, you should have a clear (or at least, clearer) idea of the colors, patterns, prints, and styles you respond to. For an in-depth exploration of mood boards for all types of projects, check out my recent blog here.

For the bedroom in my house, I chose a blue-grey palette for a subdued, yet elegant feel

Step 2: Pick your palette, print or pattern. Hopefully your mood board has helped you identify the colors and patterns you’re responding to most. Sometimes an existing print will help you determine your palette, as with my living room, or sometimes you’ll work off a palette that you really love. Generally, you want one to two primary colors and two to three secondary colors. Once you decide on these, choosing a color for your walls and a pattern and print for your drapes will be easier. Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns and prints, as long as you keep a couple of rules in mind: patterns stand out best against a solid backdrop, and mixing solids, florals, and geometric patterns works as long as there is a common element that unifies them, as in color, line, or scale.

Here’s a sumptuous color palette – completely different from what I chose for my calming bedroom!

When it comes to choosing colors, remember that color strongly influences mood. As a general rule, cool colors are ideal for rooms in which you plan to relax, and warm colors are better for rooms where you plan to entertain or do a lot of activity. For rooms in which you need to work or concentrate for long periods of time (like your home office), cool or neutral colors work well. Of course, these are just guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules! Once your mood board is done and you’ve chosen colors, patterns, and prints, the next step is to translate your concept into a room that flows nicely.

The staircase plays a major role in the floor plan for this foyer!


This photo of a room designed by Kelly Wearstler shows how you could block out a living room, placing furniture so that the room flows, with spaces within spaces for different areas of activity.

Step 3: Block out the room and create a floor plan. The first active portion of your design process should be blocking out the room, or figuring out where furniture would go. This is a step that people often forget, but it’s not as daunting as it seems. If it’s done ahead of time, it will really move the design process along and give you a clear idea of the pieces you need to make the room come together. This process will help you determine the key pieces you need for the room.

The salmon couch and zebra print rug make major statements and add a hint or pop of color in this living room

Step 4: Choose key pieces. With your mood board and blocking in mind, it’s time to go shopping for key pieces. These are the larger pieces in a room: think sofas, ottomans, coffee tables, club chairs, consoles, or bureaus. When shopping for key pieces, don’t be afraid to mix styles. Mixing modern and vintage is one of my favorite things to do – there is a whole style dedicated to this, which I like to call “modage.” For example, if you’re going for a modern or more contemporary room, it’s nice to incorporate a few antique or mid-century modern pieces. French country and coastal chic are a couple of other styles I love. Hopefully, what your mood board has allowed you to visualize is that contemporary styles and influences from past eras can live together harmoniously (and chicly). In fact, different styles often balance each other. As you add accents and smaller objects, your room will take on a style all its own!

A rug designed to look like my favorite stone, malachite

This room beautifully incorporates malachite elements – it’s pretty over the top, but photos like this are great for inspiration

Step 5: Accents, objets d’art, and tchotchkis, oh my! Once you’ve got your key pieces in place, the real fun begins. I’m a girl who loves details (okay, I’m a little OCD), so I’m all about the finishing touches. Think of your room as an ensemble – it’s not complete until you accessorize! You probably already have framed photos, art, dishes, or other sentimental items that you can display in your new room. This is the stuff that makes the room uniquely yours. Create groupings of your favorite objects on surfaces like the mantle or coffee table and experiment with stone accents like malachite or agate.

Finally, remember that adding detail to a room takes time. I never believe in knocking out all your small pieces in one shopping spree. Add over time, so your room starts to tell the story of you! Some rooms take years to completely finish, but when complete, they contain small objects from every trip you’ve ever taken, or various flea market excursions you’ve gone on.

Enjoy the Process!

Keep in mind that your taste will evolve, so any redesign should be approached as an open-ended project. You’ll pick up trinkets and photos during your travels, and gradually your home will be filled with items that both fit your taste and remind you of past adventures.

Unless you are designing for a specific purpose, like selling your home or hosting an event, you don’t have to perfect a room on the first try. Have fun, be bold, and let your creativity shine!

Do you have any design dilemmas or questions about your own home? Share them in the comments below, and I’ll choose a few to answer in a future blog!

  • Leigh Ickowics




  • michele mcpherson

    Ummmm… Please come redecorate my home!!! smiley-laughing.gif

  • Julie Light

    Mood boards are so fun! Love your living room and enjoyed watching you re-decorate it during your show 😉

    I’m obsessed with Pinterest, its’ soooooo addicting!!! I could “pin” for hours and hours, LOL

    Check out my Pinterest boards here:


  • Stacia Ellermeier

    i just ADORE your bedroom. always have even back when you had the same look in that house you renovated right before you had stella. i tried so hard to mimic it but had so much trouble finding bedding (that i could afford!). so i went a different route and though i like it i don’t love the look as much as your bedroom. have i mentioned how much i LOVE your bedroom? lol

  • She Said G Said

    Pinterest is so addicting! One thing that I have always appreciated about your style is you are not afraid of wallpaper! I remember Stella’s baby room back on an old Tori and Dean episode had the most sheek pink wallpaper. I would also love for you to do a blog entry on photo walls! Photo walls are so cool and it would be fun to have a Tori how to! Thanks!

  • Samantha Preston

    Do you have Pinterest page? I’d love to follow you! Mine is http://pinterest.com/samip/

  • Danielle Guinta

    You are profoundly more talented than people give you credit for… and I wasn’t even a huge fan of 90210… I am your fan!

  • Stacia Ellermeier

    Samantha I’m following you! Mine is http://pinterest.com/printgirlink/ i just love all the creative ideas!! now if i could just find time to MAKE the stuff!

  • Sarah

    I love that you put up this today! My husband and I are building a house and I’m having such a hard time staying inspired to decorate an entire house and actually have it make sense. I know what I love, but man it’s a lot of work!

  • Allison Lane

    I’m absolutely inspired. Our challenge isn’t the big stuff – we have a great big piece of art, awesome dark grey swirly curtains and a dark chocolate chenille couch. But the big challenge is the smaller stuff that will pull everything together and lighten things up (pillows, side tables, rug) and the fact that we (like most people) decorate a little at a time. I wish we could do a big unveiling like those decorating shows – but our budget limits things. Help please with doing things over a longer time period!

  • Stephanie Fernandez

    Absolutely love this! So helpful, as always. Thanks, Tori! <3

  • Suzanne Brown

    I love the mood board! I am starting one for my daughters new room I am having such a hard time finding a starting point but this will help give me direction. BTW out of all the pictures and I love them all your living room is MY FAV!!! I remember watching your show when you were doing it years ago :)

  • tnic

    I absolutely LOVE the living room you put together!! I would also love to try Pinterest, but have been waiting on an invitation forever. I just bought my first home and am at a loss when it comes to starting the decorating. Any chance you would make my year by inviting me to Pinterest and helping me get started? Putting together my own beautiful living room because of an invitation from Tori??? I think I would die!

  • Mishy Oz

    Wow, I am thoroughly impressed. I love design – and these rooms are absolutely gorgeous! I’m interested in getting a malachite-looking tablecloth like the one in the last picture. Where can I find one?

  • victoria silva

    Love your bedroom…so elegant…and soothing…good for dreaming!

    I get my inspiration from magazines… books…and design shows…but more often than naught… just looking in flea markets and antique stores get’s my insiration going.

    And I never purchase just anything…a piece has to feel right…and go with my vision… and tell a story… which I feel makes any home… unique and tasteful.

    happy decorating…

    Victoria Silva

  • Janie Wilson

    what is the curtain fabric called?

  • carina klunder

    WOW… LOVE the way you mix the colors. It shows that you shouldn’t be affraid of mixing:)

  • Tracy Smulligan

    HI Tori!! I have been looking for the right color to paint my bedroom for like over a year!!! Please if you get the chance I would love to know the color on the walls of yours!! It is perfect!! My inspiration piece is a gorgeous original floral watercolor. I know your busy if you cant answer. Love ya no matter what!! Tracy

  • Angela McKeown

    I like that you help other do-it-yourselfers, keep the suggestions coming!

  • Amy Bishop Cole

    Tori I think you should put together a decorating book. Maybe something similar to the Domino handbook? Your approach is so much easier to understand for design newbies.

  • Kristen Lagassie

    Tracy Smulligan, I did my bedroom in the same paint as Tori’s. It is called Parma Grey by Farrow and Ball.

  • Dekota Marie

    I never even thought about using a mood board for inspiration to decorating a room. I will have to do that! I just always started with an idea, and would just wing it from there! I love interior design.


  • Channing Baylard

    ah! I just saw that you do use pinterest! can we follow you!? I’m obsessed with that site, I even have the iPhone app. And HGTV is very helpful….I am looking for tips on how to get a room organized in a chic way and KEEP it that way!!! But something a little more fung-shway (sp?) than bins with sticky note labels! HELP a hoarder in need smiley-sealed.gif

  • Cia Mansfield

    All right! I’m inspired!!! I love pininterest and have to go find your boards. And I would love to do a design board!!! Thank you so much!!

  • amanda bosch

    Pinterest is such a great suggestion for almost any project! Love it, in fact I just started my new board. I need to redecorate my condo – specifically living room/ dining area. Unfortunately I’m stuck with a sage colored sofa…not my favorite color but I have to work with it…looking for suggestions on how to play against the sage. I’m thinking a royal purple + some jewel tones? Off to Pinterest I go! Wish me luck!!!

  • Elizabeth LeDoux

    Just saw Tori’s headboard fabric on ebay. I wouldn’t have known it was the same but they used a picture of the family from the show. http://www.ebay.com/itm/SILK-TRADING-COMPANY-KOPLAVITCH-PETITE-BLUE-LIRIAN-SILK-CUT-VELVET-FABRIC-/220948312334?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item33718bb10e#ht_500wt_1346

    The maker is Silk Trading Company, and Koplavitch and Zimmer. The pattern is Lirian and the colorway is Petite Blue. This website sells it for $195. a yard. You would never know how pretty it is as a tufted heaeboard from the swatch. http://stores.walshdesignsinc.com/Detail.bok?no=6

    In case anyone is interested!

  • Mary Wolfe

    Tori, are you on Pinterest! Would love to follow you! If you are not, you’re missing out on a lot – it is so “pinteresting” and very addicting! LOL…

  • Dana Croxford

    Tori, I am at a loss. I have an open floor plan where the kitchen, casual dining area and living room are all open and each room can be see. My husband built our house and this is our first house living in together but I don’t get that cozy, comfortable homey feel when I walk in. I am ready for a change but ot sure how to decorate these rooms to make the “flow” feel like home. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

  • suzanne riviere

    In just your five easy steps I have made leaps and bounds with my own decorating plans thanks to your easy to follow suggestions for my own project, which by the way Tori have closelyt paralled my own desires for neutral backgrounds with florals to bring fresh life to my rooms. I enjoy your blogs so much.

  • Renatta Doerksen

    Tori, I am useless when it comes to decorating. We just moved into a new house and I would love to branch out from my conservative beige, brown and, go crazy, copper with a bit of black thrown in. My living room is so safe, I would love to add some color, but have a very limited budget and am simply not a decorator. Any suggestions as to a color or piece of furniture I could add to spice up my of groom, without breaking the bank?

  • Renatta Doerksen

    Oops…the last sentence is supposed to be “…spice up my room, without breaking the bank?

  • elizabeth

    who makes the fabric she has the drapes made out of???