How To Decorate a Room Over Time


When I posted my recent interior decorating blog, reader Allison left a comment asking me how to decorate a room over time. It’s a great question!

I am a firm believer that a room should not be finished in one fell swoop. A truly unique room grows over time as you add to it. That said, we all want our rooms to look as chic as possible from the get go. Here are some tips for designing a room over time:

To keep a room feeling fresh while you accumulate accents and objets d’art, try rearranging the furniture. If you have your furniture lined up around the perimeter of the room, bring it to center and create small groupings.

Decorate with flowers. A vase of fresh flowers adds a beautiful pop of color to any room, and it’s a relatively inexpensive way to accessorize a room while you save for a more permanent centerpiece or focal point.

While it’s lovely to display original art, it’s not at all necessary for tying a room together. Find a print or poster of one of your favorite paintings or photographs and buy a wooden frame for it at a store like Wal Mart, Target, or Ikea. You can even try lacquering the frames in a high gloss for a more modern or regency look. Or, for a more antique look, try painting the frames white or off white and then try sanding them in areas. You can also print out and frame a favorite family picture or a great still life. I’m loving the pictures I’ve been taking on my iPhone with the cross process, or instagram app, which give photos a retro finish. Or try a family shot printed in black and white, or even sepia. When you’re hanging your photos, cluster them in groupings on the wall.

Make a point of buying one thing for the room you’re decorating each time you travel. Your purchases can be as small as a beautiful coaster or as large as an antique mirror. Over time, the objects in your room will remind you of all the places you’ve been and the fond memories you’ve made.

What’s your most recent addition to a room in your home? How did it change the room?

More in Dwell:

Redecorate a Room in Five Steps

  • carina klunder

    How can you make a boy room look WOW: My son noah 4 year old doesn’t have any interest, we have built a house 3 years ago and I still think it’s boring and rreally could use some inspiration…. Please help.

  • Lemon Meringue

    My most recent addition in our livingroom is an antique sideboard buffet with faceted mirror from the 1920-1930 era which I love: lamps, furniture, fashion, BBC-costume drama’s and so on. I’m completely with you on the decorating over time. When we first moved in our house 7 years ago, our home looked like an Ikea annexe. I learned a lot about antiques when I was an au-pair in Florence, Italy for a year and the family I stayed with shared their love of furniture from the past, pieces with a (family-)history with me. Over the years I was able to share that love with my hubby (and more recently my kids) and we got better and better at the game of bargainhunting, carbootsales and charityshops. Now we have a livingroom with a few big items in the Amsterdam school style (google it) and smaller things from that era (think glassware, china, lamps and kitsch knick knacks) combined with a few contemporary things. Together with a creamy white wall and light wooden floor we created a light, composed and original room with loads of stories, a very homely feeling to it but not too much ‘old stuff’ to look like my granny’s house! And not likely to be found in an Ikea catalogue. The fun thing is: we have four bedrooms, a bathroom and two big corridors to proceed! By the way: the Persian carpet in the picture above is to die for!

  • Suzanne Brown

    I LOVE this room your living room is one of my favorite rooms ever!!! It is hard for me to be patient but knowing collecting the perfect things along the way sometimes helps me hold off. I love picking classic pieces and adding bits of trends in and out.

  • Eleni G

    I love the sectional sofa in the family room. Where did you buy it?

  • Courtney Walsh

    I love your floor and those curtains!! We just moved a few months ago (for the second time in a year) and I need to dive in and get the house put together…we did so much work getting it move-in ready that once we actually moved in, I’d lost all my motivation.

    Hard to find the time, for sure! Thanks for this…I’m so glad I found your website.

  • Ramie Roberts

    My four year old daughter is obsessed with super hero’s we waited a year hoping she would grow out of it but no dice so we want to do her room the way she wants but girly so does anybody no any good ideas to make super heros girly and incredible hulk aka chunk is her favorite so the color palet will be purple and lime green and ideas?

  • PackersTX

    We moved from Europe to the USA recently. It’s such a different style norm in Texas that it’s wonderful to have this site as a style guru reference :)

  • Laura Liss-Tabor

    Beautiful room, love the hardwood floors.

  • Dekota Marie

    I love interior design and hope to own my house one day to decorate it how I want it… in the mean time, it is renting for me! I love those pictures, they are very inspiring!


  • Britni Higgi

    Hi. Does anyone know what type of chicken Coco is?

  • Adrienne Ivsan

    Love te Missoni fabric, I hae this covering a chair in my home office.

  • Adrienne Ivsan

    Ok, I can’t type well on iPhone. Meant to say, love the Missoni fabric. I have this on a chair in my home office. :)

  • Nina Holter

    Style, I do not have a style. Mostly it is IKEA, wich is ok but it does NOT match my Rainbow sofa!!!! My house is 310 kvm big and the interior is a lot of everything….HELP!!!

  • Eleni G

    I LOVE your style Tori…

    Please tell me where you purchased the sectional sofa…I have a very large great room that desparately needs a sectional of this size. I’ve looked EVERYWHERE and can only find sectionals that have one half a full sofa and the other half a love seat. Plus I love that the seat cushions are all one piece…NO GAPS to fall through.

  • Jennifer Potratz

    I just painted my living room olive green. Courtyard Green by Benjamin Moore to be exact. I love it. I have a small home so it made a big impact and my artwork (currently obsessed with birds and owls) pop off the walls.

  • Michaela Garrison

    A bouquet of fresh [grocery-store] parsley in an old Ball jar, the kind we used to can jam back on the farm. Looking over this wintery desert landscape (CO), I am reminded of lush springs in my east coast home town.

  • annemarie58

    bonjour tori

    How is your new to interior design

  • Elisha Gardner

    Your absolutly right, a family makes a room not furnisher!smiley-tongue-out.gif

  • Cia Mansfield

    Tori, we have been in our home 17 years. When we moved in, jewel tone colors were popular….so our house was painted in lots of jewel tones. But now I am slowly replacing those colors with brighter, happier colors. I (my dh, that is!) just repainted our sunroom, breezeway, laundry room and laundry room bath. Oh, and dining room! I am now looking for colors for the foyer, hall bath and my bedroom. I’m stuck! LOL! But hopefully, I will find some nice colors before the others go out of style.

  • cathy santbaha

    your taste is so phenomenal. i love the way you tie things in that i woulda never thought could “go”. thanks for the tips.

  • January Jones

    Thanks for the Iphone app tips. Just downloaded them and can’t wait to use them. I love taking photos myself and somehow turning them into wall art. What a cheap route to go plus it is completely chic & unique!!

  • MidniteSunLtd

    LOVE this one!! For me I can picture what the room is going to look like and I start looking for those pieces. I too build up the rooms piece by piece but I am someone who can visualize how it is going to look and then the search begins.

  • Sherry

    Tori you are a genius. Great ideas.

  • Genevieve

    Why can’t you be my best friend? lol I need a Tori in my life to inspire me!

  • Jarron

    We just bought a house and the kitchen, breakfast nook, and living room are all one room separated by a large island counter with bar stools. The living room has a built-in cherry wood cabinet that covers an entire wall and a fire place on the other wall. My question is how to change the room with limited options? We have WAY to much cherry wood and big bulkly furniture! I need HELP!

  • jamador

    This room is cozy and inviting! I love every bit of it, though I wouldn’t dare have a white sofa with my kids & dogs :)