When you’re updating your home in the new year, it pays to plan.


Don’t get me wrong, I love decorating for the holidays. Draping garland on the mantle and filling our home with glowing lights seems to cast a magical spell that we look forward to at the end of every year. But as much as I enjoy putting these decorations up, I like taking them down in the new year even more. January turns our thoughts toward springtime in the not-too-distant future, and the promise of renewal that comes with it. This shift in mood also means the ring of holiday bells is replaced with the ring of my office phone, as clients eagerly begin exploring renovations and refreshing their homes. To help kickstart your new year’s refresh, here are four helpful guidelines for a successful design plan.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Regardless of whether you’re planning a major renovation or doing a seasonal refresh, the first step is to have a plan in mind for the finished product. When you know ahead of time how you want your home to look when the project is finished, you can take the project in smaller steps if needed, while maintaining focus on the overall design. Knowing what furniture and accessory pieces you want, what paint colors and fabrics, and what the finished room will look like also helps you avoid costly impromptu purchases that end up clashing with or detracting from your vision.


Plan with two questions in mind: What’s your style? and How do you live in the space?

While you’re working out your ideas, collect photos of rooms, furniture, accessories, rugs and fabrics that feel good to you—that speak to your soul. Not all of them have to be related to home design. You might include a photo of a zebra lounging on the Serengeti, or an old herringbone sport coat that you can’t get enough of. Pull these items together into a collection or “mood board” and ask yourself what qualities draw you to each one. Do you like the zebra photo because it elicits thoughts of exotic travel destinations? Because the photo’s warm sepia tones give it a warm feeling? Or is it both? Does the herringbone jacket sooth you because of the texture, the color, the feel from the weight of the fabric, or all three? Does a photo of a living room captivate you because the rug is thick and textural? Or is it because you like the patterns of the fabrics on the furniture and how the colors play together, or the way the paint color on the wall absorbs the light and makes it feel soft? Understanding what you like about the images and objects you gather is a helpful step, whether you’re working on your own or with an interior designer.

While you’re defining your style, it’s also important to think about how you live in a space. Do you like everything to be open and connected? Do you prefer a few smaller vignettes that serve different functions, such as a desk to write at, a chair sitting in a corner by a floor lamp for reading, and a cozy sofa to curl up on and watch a movie? Do you like to entertain and want flexible seating that can easily be reconfigured as needed? Do you have children who need play space and storage for their toys, arts, and crafts? How do you want traffic to flow through the room?

Design tip: When changing the color in a room, put large samples of a paint on the walls and live with it for a couple of days. See how it looks and feels at different times of day and in different light before committing to painting an entire wall or room.


Take Inventory

Once you feel confident about how you want your space to look and function, it’s time to take inventory of your stuff. Updating your home usually involves a mix of existing furniture and new pieces. Make a list of what you already own, what you want to keep using, what you want to remove and what you want to add. If you have a piece of furniture that you love but don’t think it will work with your new design, keep in mind that reupholstering or refinishing that piece might also be an option.

Begin building your room with foundation pieces that are trend-resistant and suit your needs

Furniture can get expensive, so when you buy it you want a good value. That doesn’t always mean the least expensive option, especially when it comes to the foundation pieces for a room—the larger items like the sofa, dining table, master bed, dresser, and so forth. Think of these purchases as an investment that will pay dividends for more than just a year or two. I advise my clients to select more timeless/trend-resistant foundation pieces (neutral colors, durable fabrics, classic lines) and save the trendy or seasonal touches for accessories that are easy to swap out, such as pillows, throw blankets, coffee table books and smaller accessories.