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How to Decorate a Room : 7 Lessons from HGTV Stars

In this article: Learn from the pros and find out how to overcome decorating paralysis with these 7 lessons from HGTV stars!

I’d like to say I do room makeovers in a snap and ALWAYS make design decisions quickly and confidently. But, that would be a lie.

I once painted an entryway 6 times before I landed on a color I finally liked.

There was also the time when I tried a new “modern looking” decorating scheme that just didn’t feel like home.

It also took me a week to decide if I like the new rug I ordered online. (Update: I kept it and still love it years later!)

I know I’m not alone with the overwhelm of choices that come with doing a room makeover. But, after completing more than 28 of them in the past 28 years, I’ve learned that a beautiful ending begins with one decision after another.

I take great comfort in watching how the process goes for designers on some of my favorite HGTV shows. They are all professionals who have many, many successful room and home renovations under their belt, and yet they, too, sometimes struggle with indecision and hesitation regarding choices.

Here are some practical take-aways regarding decision making that I learned from the HGTV pros.

How to Decorate a Room: Overcome Decorating Paralysis ( Lessons from HGTV Stars)

1.A deadline encourages decisions to be made in a timely manner.

With tv crews, contracts, and money on the line, HGTV stars have only so much time to waffle on design decisions. Although I don’t think it’s helpful to rush yourself into a stressful panic, it may help move the process along if you keep an end date it mind.

Kortney and Dave’s fun and colorful show Masters of Flip often shows how the timeline is a huge part of the process. It moves and motivates them to work and make choices so they can get the house back on the market as soon as possible.

Masters of Flip | Picture Source

Case in point? My most recent Farmhouse Hallway Makeover was done in partnership with a company. The date of completion was set months before I began. Without that deadline, it probably still wouldn’t be started!;)

2. When starting a room makeover, make decisions with the end in mind.

Bryan and Sara Baeumler did a huge renovation project of an island resort. (You can watch it on Island of Bryan.)As they worked through the multitude of buildings that need to be renovated, they first chose how each space needed to function and feel. Every decision they make is with future guests in mind.

Island of Bryan | Picture Source

The same should be done when we fluff up our own homes. Ask yourself these two crucial questions before you begin:

  • How does this room need to function?
  • What 3 words describe how I want this room to feel in the end?

3. Start with one decision and build on it.

If you stop to think about it, doing a room makeover is sort of like baking a cake. Ingredient after ingredient is added together until it all comes together in a pretty presentation.

It may help you to think that an entire room makeover is accomplished by just one decision at a time.

Start first with a key element that you love.

It can vary from room to room, and can be big or little. Sarah Richardson from Sarah off the Grid often starts with fabric as the jumping off point. She pulls fabrics for furniture, curtains, & throws and then often builds the rest of the room design around it.

Sarah off the Grid | Picture Source

On a recent episode, she designed an entire kitchen around the marble that would be an accent on a focal wall. The cabinet color, hardware, faucets, lights, and furniture all were coordinated around that.

4. Use tools so you can “see” the room elements all together before you begin.

I used to love Candice Olson’s show Divine Design. In each episode, she would place samples of all the elements of a room design on a beautiful tray. Each element was carefully laid out so her clients could see how the room would look once it was all put together.

Divine Design | Picture Source

Most of us, though, don’t have an office full of design samples on hand. Some great alternatives to the concept are putting together digital mood boards (like this one) or using 3d computer programs. Or, if you prefer, you can use an actual cork board, cut out pictures of the elements you like, and play around with them until it feel like something you love.

5.Pick the paint color in the room you are painting.

Although paint color is probably my absolute favorite budget friendly room makeover element, it’s usually the last thing to pick. Nothing is more disappointing than getting a master bedroom all painted only to discover you can’t find any bedding to match!

Also, even though I would define ALL of the HGTV stars color experts in one way or another, do you notice that some of them still/ often buy multiple samples of paint colors and try them out in the rooms before they make a final decision? That taught me that even though them may be experts at envisioning a beautiful outcome, paint colors still need to be done onsite.

(Related Article: How to Pick a Paint Color You’ll Love)

6. Buy more than one option when choosing decor. Return the ones you don’t like.

When it finally dawned on me that this was happening, I gained SO MUCH more courage when purchasing home decor items.

Since I am such a visual person, I need to see an item in the room before I can commit to it. Instead of fussing and fretting over whether I was buying the “wrong” item, I’d buy more than one and return the one I liked the least. It has made the process SO MUCH easier for me!

7. Research, learn new trends, and ask the experts

I love how Joanna Gaines from the Fixer Upper often incorporates a unique item that is built by a local shop. She showcases unique craftsmanship and sometimes learns how to do a part of the process herself.

Clint Harp’s Table Design on Fixer Upper | Picture Source

I think that’s a great lesson for all of us. Even if our budgets are tight, we can still be researching and learning from experts in their fields. We might discover a new product of technique that we want to incorporate in our own homes, and maybe even learn a new hobby in the meantime.

Want to start a Room Makeover in Your House?

Then, I have just the thing for you! I put together a  free 4 part video series called “Recipe for a Room Makeover” that can help you get that project started – and finished!- no matter what your budget is.

Click the image below to get started.


*This post was originally published August 13, 2019 and updated May, 2022.

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  1. Hi Rita! Thank you for these insights! They come at a perfect time, as we are planning to do some renovating. I have always loved your farmhouse style, and hope to bring that style to my house. 😁
    Cheers, Wendy

  2. Such great ideas for those of us suffering from decorating paralysis! Thank you for sharing these ideas!

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