How to be your own interior designer

A practical and inspiring introduction to interior design to help with a home project, provide the first step towards an interior design career or just for general interest

Whether you're designing a space for a specific project or just for your own interest, this handy little guide is ideal for anyone with little or no knowledge of interior design, looking for a practical and inspiring first step into the wonderful world of interior design.

If you love the stylish schemes you've seen in magazines, but aren't sure how to transform your own room, we're here to help.

Browse design blogs and magazines for inspiration

magazine book with white wooden door and pencil

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

All great looks start with inspiring images, so indulge in a research session with a selection of your favourite interiors magazines.

Create a moodboard or scrapbook

orange notebook yellow flower and orange plastic glass

(Image credit: Dominic Blackmore)

Cheat your way to a professional finish by designing a moodboard. Use one of these as a starting point for a stylish new scheme.

Choose your base colour first. Whether it's flooring or a wall, the base colour will be the largest area of colour in your room, so place a generous sample onto your board. Including carpet and floorboard samples will help you thing about texture, too.

Add an accent tone. Use your mooboard to play with options and layer it with swatches of fabric, scraps of wallpaper and paint colour charts.

Find the right accessories. These will really set the tone in your room - go for ones that share an accent colour and stick to a single theme. Don't mix styles, or your finished scheme will look messy.

Follow these golden rules

The 70-20-10 rule

living room with photoframe on white wall and flower on vase

(Image credit: Rhapsody)

For a balanced scheme, keep 70% of the elements (say, walls and floors) as one colour, then add 20% in a second colour (fabrics) and 10% in an accent (accessories).

Consider pattern

When mixing patterns, use large with medium or medium with small, never large with small. Pick prints that share a colour in common.

The painted box rule

room with paint chart on wall and glass jar with paint brush

(Image credit: Ania Wawrzkowicz)

The look of paint changes according to the time of day and the amount of light that is in a room. Paint the inside of a large box with a tester to create a miniature 'room' and see how the colour changes within a 3D space.

Don't forget about the fifth wall

Your ceiling has real potential - think of it like a blank canvas. Decorating your ceiling can help you elevate a simple room. Even a fresh coat of paint can make the world of difference.

Be mindful about placement

living room with white sofa set with printed cushions

(Image credit: Dominic Blackmore)

Don't push all your furniture up against the walls. Pull your sofa out at least a foot from the wall. Show off the back of the sofa and arrange decorative items, a console table or a lamp for reading behind it. Move seating out of corners and you'll have a more open, airy look in your room.

Leave enough room for you to walk through

You should have about 3 feet of walking space around the room. This is what you need to be comfortable, without knocking into furniture and bumping into walls.

Add an element of surprise

room with photoframe on green wall and wooden table

(Image credit: TBC)

A focal point - whether it's a feature wall or a piece of art - is a short cut to a 'wow' room.

Lastly, throw the rulebook out the window. Don't be afraid to try something new. You can always change it if and when you desire. Remember, this is your home, so create a space that inspires you everyday!

Thea Babington-Stitt
Managing Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Managing Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for around 10 years.

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.