5 Steps in Getting Started on Your Interior Design Project


When you are thinking of renovating or redecorating a space, getting started on your interior design project can be challenging. Things can spiral out of control faster than you know it! Having a good design process is so helpful.

Image of paint chips on top of a blue print for a residential project. This image is being used for a blog post related to the interior design process.

1. Create a Design Budget

Oh, we hate that nasty word “budget” don’t we?  It feels so restrictive. But this is a no-brainer. None of us strive to be house poor, do we? But don’t fret. A design budget doesn’t have to be your make-it-or-break-it deal. Instead, use it as a guideline so you don’t let your design project get out of control. Budgeting will help you decide how much you are willing to spend on your project. This will drive the finishes and furnishings you choose versus the other way around. And no matter how much we try to stay within budget, there may be unforeseen expenses that come up so don’t let this process discourage you from moving forward.

Get started and make a wish list of all the things that come to mind when you envision this new space. Let this process flow. If you have a partner, it’s important to do this process together.

Need some pointers?

First and foremost, you need to decide if you will hire someone to do the work or if you will do the work yourself or a hybrid of both. This will make a huge difference in your budgeting. Another option would be to be your own General Contractor and higher out your own subcontractors. That would save you a huge cost, but you are taking on the responsibility of a Project Manager as well. It could cost you your sanity (pun intended. LOL). You really must put some thought into whether you have the time or where with all to take on the job of a General Contractor/Project manager. My husband and I have done it both ways and I can share in a future post our personal pros and cons.

6 Steps in creating an interior design budget:

  1. Do a brain dump and list out all the things you desire. Dream Big. Go for it!
  2. Next, you will want to prioritize all the things you have listed. First, make a list of must-haves. This will be your (a) list– these are the items that are the core of why you want to renovate your space. There’s no point otherwise, right? These are your non-negotiable items.
  3. Next, make a list of would like to have. This is your (b) list – these are the things you really would love to have if the budget allows, but they aren’t the essential items you need.
  4. Lastly, make a list of things that you can save for later. This is your (c) list – these are items that you would also like to have but can wait for when a new budget allows or maybe they are things you truly can do without.
  5. Do research on your (a) list and (b) list of items regarding cost.
  6. Next, put your research on a spreadsheet in separate columns so you can see the cost difference between your (a) list and then your (b) list items combined, and you will see if you have wiggle room for more items, or if you’re way over budget or pleasantly surprised at the “just right” cost, whatever that is for you. And let’s face it, we can’t have it all, but there are some things we just won’t do without.

Download My FREE planner and get your project started!

Photo of interior with a orange upholstered chair, terracota vase with a plant in it, white side chair with accent pillow and a copper floor lamp

Once you’ve created your design budget, try your best to stick to it!  Don’t let that shiny object convince you that you need it. Unless you can absolutely afford it, don’t deviate from your plan. I know, easier said than done but the last thing you want is to be over budget. And remember, a design budget doesn’t mean cheap. In fact, you’re budgeting to get the best quality out of your design by prioritizing costs.

2. Assess Your Existing Space

Before you continue, assess your existing space and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this a complete makeover or just a refresh?
  • What elements of the room must stay?
  • Is there a focal point? Fireplace? Artwork?
  • What elements of the room can be removed, changed, or swapped out?
  • What didn’t work in this space?
  • How can you make this room better? Color? Lighting? Function?
  • What is the main function of the room?
  • Who is the room for? Kids, Adults, both?
  • Do you need to consider pet-friendly products and/or finishes?
  • What will make this space more efficient? Too much storage? Not enough Storage?
  • Consider the circulation of the room: Is there enough furniture or not enough furniture?
  • How do I want to feel in the room? Do you already have a color scheme in mind? Learn more about how colors affect you on my blog about the psychology of color.

Now that you’ve got all those questions figured out it’s time to dive into a very fun part of the design process.

3. Identify the Problem You Want to Solve

Now that you’ve surveyed your project with all the previous questions you should be able to identify the problem you want to solve by now. Focus on the limitations as well as the possibilities. This will also help keep you on budget.

Is it a space issue, a storage issue, a color issue, a safety issue or is it all of the above? Once you’ve identified the main problem, the rest of the project will fall into place.

4. Create a Design vision board

Whether you are doing a complete makeover or just a refresh, creating a design vision board is the most fun part of the interior design process! This will help you create a design concept that you can bring to life and give you direction on the mood or setting you would like to create for the space.

Two options: a digital vision board or an old-fashioned cut-and-paste type of vision board. If you’re opting for a digital vision board, my all-time favorite tool is Canva. I create most of my vision boards on Canva, personal and professional. Canva has great templates to create a vision board. I have the pro version that offers more fonts, images, graphics, and design tools. However, the free version will be quite sufficient for creating your vision board.

Here is a sample of one of my personal vision boards I created through Canva based off of one of their templates.

Here is a photo of a good old-fashioned cut-and-paste vision board.

One process isn’t better than the other, but if you’re asking me which one I prefer most, I definitely prefer the cut-in-paste method. Why? I love working with my hands. It’s just who I am. I love the magic that happens when I’m tearing through magazines and layering the images on my board. It makes me slow down and become more intentional about what I want to manifest. Do what best suits you.

Here’s a list of materials you will need if you’re going to create an old-school (LOL) vision board.

Tools and Materials to Create Your Vision Board:

  • If you’re opting to do a digital board Canva is a great tool. It’s simple, fast, and free. Canva has lots of stock images you can use for your vision board
  • If you are not choosing digital, then here’s the material list for you:
    • Poster Board
    • Scissors
    • Glue stick or Double-Stick Tape
    • Magazines-ask your friends for all their old magazines so you can cut out images, quotes, and words. Stop by businesses and ask if they are recycling any of their magazines.
    • Print images off the internet.

Let this design process be fun and free. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break. Once you’ve got your vision board completed, put it up. Step back. Take a look. I’m certain you will start to see some things coming together. Start to notice the following:

  • Is there a certain color palette you seem to be drawn to?
  • Is there a certain style that seems to be evolving? Modern? Traditional? Eclectic?
  • Are there certain finishes, patterns, or textures that you gravitate to?

Creating a design vision board will be a different process for each room. There is no right way to do this so don’t get hung up on the process. A design vision board is like a visual wish list dream away!

5. Refine Your Style

Use your vision board to start to refine your style. Once you’ve answered the questions above, you will have a better direction of what type of space you would like to create.

Find the anchor for your design. It will most likely be your color palette or your style. Perhaps a little bit of both. Once you’ve got a color palette going, it will be easy to choose other finishes and furnishings throughout your space. If you have a distinct style you are head over heels about, there generally is a color palette fitting to the style. Whatever it is, let’s start to narrow things down a bit. Pull off the main images that truly speak to you, narrow down your images, and create a new vision board.

If you’re really stuck, maybe this is where you need to bring in a professional if the budget allows. You don’t have to commit to hiring one for the entire project. A one-hour consultation might be all you need to get on your way. Here’s an opportunity to work with me! I would love nothing more than to help you bring your vision to life.

This blog may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through this link, your price does not change, however, I may receive a small commission which helps in the day-to-day running of Silver Lining Design Studio Blog

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