Decorating A Room


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Lots of people have written to me recently, asking for tips on decorating their bedroom or their new apartment. While I am definitely not an expert — & a lot of the time my interior design “skillz” make me cringe — I do know a little bit, which I am more than happy to share!

I love bedrooms. I think it is part of my voyeurism. They are infinitely interesting to me. It is fascinating to me to see the way people put things together — the arrangement of furniture, the colours, the knick-knacks, the atmosphere. It is equally fascinating to see how people don’t put things together — haphazard, mis-matching, strange placement, old food in the corners.

I think bedrooms say a lot about their owner. If you don’t believe me, think about your own room (or even cast a glance around it). Is it dark & messy? Do you ever make your bed? Do you keep the blinds open at all times? (I’m guilty of that. Does this correlate with the fact that I’m an exhibitionist as well as a voyeur, or is it mere coincidence?) Are all your clothes stuffed in a closet or do you take care of them? Do you have anything pretty up on the walls or is your room pure function? You get the idea. I have become much tidier as time progresses, which I think is a pretty accurate reflection of my mental state. As I get it together, my environment follows suit. It makes sense.

So, how can you create a room that makes you feel comfortable, happy & at ease?

Choose a look
The easiest way to do this is to get your hands on some interior decorating magazines or books & start flicking. Take photocopies of the things you like best & create a mood board. Tricia Royal has some great tips on doing this (hers is about a fashion mood board but it is equally applicable to interior design!) & you can see thousands here.

If you find it hard to choose — & I always do — instead make a list of adjectives that describe your dream bedroom. For example, I would probably write: warm, light, colourful, juicy, inspiring, soft, quirky, vibrant. There are no wrong answers, so write anything you can think of. “Juicy” doesn’t have to be translated into something tangible, but it definitely gives me an idea about atmosphere, so it is a valuable thing to have on the list.

Think about what you will & won’t be able to live with. I love love love that overwrought super-excessive major-colours Moroccan look, but I know that living with it would drive me crazy. All that dusting & visual noise, argh! Similarly, the Marie Antoinette look might be a bit extreme if you’re on a budget. Work out a middle-ground that you’ll be able to achieve.

Pick a colour scheme
This is entirely up to you & the colours you choose will probably depend greatly on your mood board or theme. I advise caution for those of you who instinctively go for the dark colours — you old goth, you! Royal purple & inky blue are gorgeous but do you really want your entire room that colour? Maybe it would be nicer as an accent, say, along the skirting boards or on furnishings (lamps or cushions). As an example, my last apartment had white walls, while everything inside it was either black, white or hot pink. The bedspread & half of the chairs were black, half the chairs were white & so was the Flokati rug, & the throw on my bed as well as the lamps & cushions were all hot pink. It looked great, but an entire room that was black or hot pink would have been waaaaaay too much.

You also need to consider how those colours are going to go with the carpet, walls & the furniture you already have (if you don’t want to get rid of it).

Soft furnishings
Ooh, this is where it starts to get fun! Soft furnishings include things like duvet covers, rugs, blankets, cushions & curtains. You can go totally nuts on these & they add so much to a room. I personally think that shopping for bed linen is one of life’s pleasures, but then, I am a bit kooky like that. If you can afford to splurge on amazing sheets, you definitely should. It seems indulgent but the difference is palpable!

I love the way a throw looks over the end of a bed or a couch — it just adds another layer of colour & texture & deliciousness. Ditto lots of cushions — they’re comfortable & squishy & decadent. You can get such fun cushions these days. I have a sequinned one which I adore. Cushions are great because you can get all different sizes & types in shades of one colour, which looks brilliant. Not too “perfect” looking, a little bit mad but totally chic.

A rug cannot be underestimated if you have hideous carpet. It might be the one thing that saves your room from the Bad Taste Gallery O’ Horrors. They can be great under a coffee table & chairs, because it can help hold that area together while also seperating it from the rest of the room. It may also save your carpet if your uncoordinated drunken friends spill red wine everywhere — yes, it has happened to me!

Choose a feature
In any room, there is usually a focus. For most people it’s the bed, but if your room is large & contains your entire life, you could make it about something else. Say, your collection of typewriters or a beautiful chair. Work out how you can best display these things to their advantage. If you have a long, low bookcase, maybe your typewriters could go along the top, organised by colour. Or you could put a nice lamp next to your favourite chair, & a rug underneath it. If your room is relatively plain with not a lot of furniture, you could make the emphasis one of your walls. You could hang a huge mirror, put up lots of art or just empty frames of different shapes. It’s entirely up to you!

Organise your room according to feng shui
I wrote an article on it, you know! Click here!

Make a plan on paper
Draw an outline of your room, measure up your existing furniture & have a think about how you could rearrange your room to make the most of the space. Maybe you could swap the position of the bed & the couch, or the stereo & the computer. If you are really anal, you could make little cut-out pictures of the items (to scale) & then move them around your paper room to see what works. Moving furniture around can COMPLETELY transform a room, so spend a little time thinking about it!

Hit up IKEA
If you need a new bed, couch, rug or closet, IKEA is your best friend. (I had never been to IKEA before I moved to Melbourne, & it blew my mind!) Get one of their catalogues & use your room plan to see whether things would fit. I did this obsessively when we first moved into our apartment, because we had — literally — NO furniture. All we brought over were two beds & a stereo cabinet! We now have two couches, two armchairs, three desks, two chests of drawers, two bedside tables… & that’s just the large items! One thing I would advise, however, is that you go to IKEA with a list & a budget! It’s so easy to spend more than you were expecting.

Little things make all the difference
Beautiful candles, stacks of magazines, sequinned cushions & framed pictures all help to make the space more individual to you. I really believe you can never have enough of these things.

Scented candles, incense & essential oils are really important in a bedroom, seriously! The place where you sleep & dress & daydream should always smell fantastic — not like sweat or mould or stale air! How depressing! Candles are my favourite of these three things, because they look beautiful at the same time as diffusing a fabulous scent. I definitely have a soft spot for Nag Champa incense, though! Essential oils have different properties & effects on the mind, so find something that works for you. Even if you are using all of these things, I still recommend opening your windows & letting the place air out regularly!

If you’re after lovely vintage prints, there are people on Ebay who sell really gorgeous ones at reasonable prices. Have a gander at ImageSelect Framed Art & First Art Source. I am a sucker for old Vogue covers & they both have lots on offer. is another one worth checking out. Remember to look at the size of what you’re buying, though!

Other little things that can spice up a room include: fairy lights (I like the clear ones), flowers & plants, antique bottles, paper crane mobiles, blackboards, decorative boxes for holding trinkets, aquariums, mosquito nets, beaded curtains, cookie jars full of sparkly treasures, pretty squabs for sitting on, folding screens, a nice tablecloth, hanging crystals (dancing rainbows, yay!), lanterns…

To avoid looking too cluttered, only display the things you really love.

Come up with innovative ways to display (or hide) things
If you’re an obsessive Polaroid fan, don’t just hide them in a drawer! Hang them from a mobile or cover a wall with them. Just think a little bit differently. Use pretty dresses you never wear hooked over the curtain rail to block the light. Similarly, when it comes to things that aren’t so attractive, work out a way to minimise their effect on the room. Hide your television in a cupboard or put your laptop in a fold-down writing desk. This will make your environment look much cleaner & more pleasant.

Other ideas:
If you’re allowed to (landlords/parents/grumpy partners), use a lick of paint to tart things up. You don’t have to live with hideous wood panelling — paint it white (or eggshell)! You can also use paint to counter a lack of natural light. If you have tiny windows & a dark purple room, it will look like Lord Gothyck’s Über Dark Chamber Ov Dark Gothyckness, no matter how many stuffed toys you have on your bed! If you suffer from dark furniture, you can paint that too.

It’s nice to have things in pairs if you can manage it. On either side of your bed, have a bedside table & a lamp. It looks very polished & balanced.

If you have a couch which you love but is starting to look a little worse for wear, consider having it reupholstered.

The one thing I think every bedroom needs is a great stereo. I would choose music over chairs every time (if I had to, though I’d rather not). Without my sub, I’m nothing!

If your room is little or dark, hang a mirror — other than the full-length one you use to look at your outfits in! They help create the illusion of space & bounce any light which comes into the room, so it will look much brighter.

Flea markets are a fantastic place to pick up furniture. You can get all sorts of things to suit your taste & budget. Remember to go early, wear sunscreen & comfortable shoes, & take cash!

Seek inspiration online. There are some great groups on Flickr — try Bedrooms, Domino Magazine, Interior, Interior Inspirations & Eclectic Interiors!

My number one tip for anyone who wants to dress up their living quarters is to experiment & not take it too seriously! If you approach it with a light heart & the attitude of a mad scientist, you’ll have so much fun as well as learning boatloads about what works & what doesn’t.

Making a space your own is something that develops over time, & seldom comes together in a day. Visit homeware shops & flea markets & browse Ebay regularly. Add to it continually & it will really start to feel like home.