10 Ways to Start Decorating a Room from Scratch

Ballard Designs Winter 2017 collection

For our Decorating Dilemmas column, we can’t even count the number of times we’ve gotten this question: “I just moved into my new home, and I have no idea where to start!” That’s because decorating a room completely from scratch is intimidating! You have no where to start and yet so many choices to make. We pulled together some easy jumping off point so you can start decorating your room from scratch:

1. Find a Piece of Artwork You Love

When we design the rooms for our catalog, we have the same dilemma. We have a completely blank canvas with endless possibilities. More often than not, we’ll use a piece of artwork as a starting point. If you look closely at this piece by our Exclusive Artist Rick Reinert, you’ll see there are some persimmon oranges and lots of different shades of blue. We wanted to emphasize those colors in the painting, so we used them for our upholstery, pillows, and a bright blue rug.

Use a colorful rug as a starting point when you're decorating a room from scratch

2. Start with a Rug

Our Catherine Rug is one of our all time favorites because it’s subtle but has some really pretty shades of light blue. We wanted to really draw out those icy blues for this living room, so we chose complementary fabrics and artwork. Our new Cleo Glacier and Minsk Glacier fabrics pair perfectly.

Use a bold fabric as a jumping off point for your room

3. Find a Fabulous Fabric

Large scale florals, especially ones with a black background, are really trending for 2017 so we used our new Beatrice Black Fabric as our guide for this space. Just like the fabric, we chose mostly black and white pieces, but if you look closely, you’ll see shades of purple in this fabric. We brought out those touches of lavender in the fabric with our Shiloh Spool Chair and pillows.

Use an inspiration tear as the jumping off point for a room if you're starting from scratch

4. Inspiration Elsewhere

An inspiration tear is a great way to give your room some direction. Whether you love it for the color palette, the layout, or just the general vibe, use a room you find as a reference when you’re starting from scratch. We loved the way designer Jonathan Savage used a pair of our Isabella day beds in his small guest room at the 2016 Traditional Home Southern Style Now Showhouse. We wanted to share his fabulous idea in our catalog, so we used his space as inspiration for this bedroom in our Winter 2017 catalog.

Suzanne Kasler decorates this living room with accents of mandarin orange

5. Choose a Color

Color can have a huge impact on the way your room feels. Every color has it’s own personality, so if you find a hue that evokes the feeling you’re after, go to town with it in your space. Suzanne Kasler masters this strategy in the space above. Everything in the room is neutral, but she strategically brings in accents in her mandarin orange linen to give the room a coziness and warmth.

If you have a small space, first choose a layout, then use that as your inspiration for the rest of the space

6. Land on a Layout

If you’ve got an oddly shaped room or a very small space, first decide on a layout that works in your favor. Needing specific furniture pieces will narrow your options and help you get started in the right direction. In this small living room, for example, we knew we needed two settees that would face each other, and the small footprint meant that a light, bright feel would help the room from feeling cramped. From there, we chose neutral pieces with contrast and texture but minimal color.

Black and white living room with metallic gold

7. Start with a Statement Piece

One dramatic piece can inspire an entire room. In this living space, our Kent Dome Pendant was our starting off point, so we echoed the black exterior and gold interior in the rest of our choices. A black and white geometric print on the sofa played off the modern black silhouette of the light, as did the black and white wall art.

Mark D. Sikes' living room at the 2016 Southern Living Idea House in Mt. Laurel outside Birmingham, Alabama

8. Neutral Need Not Be Boring

Neutral rooms get a bad rap, but if you don’t have an inspiration point for your empty space, consider doing an allover neutral color palette. Choose one neutral shade, be it gray, white, or beige, and bring in pieces that are neutral but in different textures. Linens, leathers, velvets, rustic wood, metallic pieces, and wallpaper can all work together beautifully in they’re in one shade. Designer Mark D. Sikes did just this in his living room in the 2016 Southern Living Idea House. Hey, if it’s good enough for Southern Living, we can dig it!

Use something you already have to inspire the furniture pieces in your empty space

9. Work With What You’ve Got

Consider using a piece from somewhere else in your home as a starting place. Maybe it’s an family heirloom, a children’s piece of art, or a collection of blue and white porcelain. Reinvent something you already love by using it in a new way, and let that one standout piece (or piece) guide all of your choices for the space.

Ariel red fabric on Louis dining chairs in dining room designed by Eddie Ross

10. Collect As You Go

For some people, not having a plan is a plan in and of itself! If you can’t come up with a direction, let the inspiration come to you. Hit an antique shop, flip through your favorite catalog ;), or go to a local home store, and inspiration may just strike you when you least expect it. Layer in new pieces as you find them, and simply let your room evolve over time!

Psst — Eddie Ross is a master at collecting and layering, see how he used that strategy in this dining room.

For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards, or find more gorgeous rooms in our Photo Gallery

Did you like this post and find it helpful? Rate it below and share your thoughts in the comments.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    PATRICIA Motzheim

    April 2, 2021

    I have seen many design ideas, but none as beautiful as these

  2. Reply

    Julie sherman

    March 25, 2021

    Hi. I love the Catherine rug in you design idea page but the 3 choices to purchase do not look the same color tone. Can you verify which Catherine rug is in your design picture in this article. Thank you. In love with all.

    • Reply

      Abbey Nolte

      April 30, 2021

      That is our Catherine Rug in Sage. So glad you like it!

  3. Reply


    July 6, 2020

    Where can I find the chairs from the first picture? I love that burnt orange colour and the style of the chair
    Thank you

  4. Reply

    Baylee Frost

    June 27, 2017

    Any idea what the wall color is in #3?

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      July 6, 2017

      Yes, that color is a Benjamin Moore paint called “Half Moon Crest” #1481. You can find all of our paint colors from each catalog here:
      Hope this helps!

  5. Reply


    March 4, 2017

    Can I ask where to find the large orb chandelier with ball crystal?

  6. Reply


    January 14, 2017

    Have same tall cabinet displayed in Lay of the land display.How could I decorate it for a dinette area off the kitchen?

  7. Reply


    January 14, 2017

    Thanks for the advice.

  8. Reply


    January 11, 2017

    If it were only that easy. You make it look so effortless. Just beautiful!

  9. Reply


    January 11, 2017

    All of these rooms are SOOO incredibly gorgeous!! Wow, so amazingly put together.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      January 11, 2017

      Thank you so much, Phara!