10 Steps For Your Design Do-Over

10 steps to get you started on the track to "recovery."

A woman mapping out a total re-do design project for the home

The realization.


If you're like most, you woke up and started your day like any other. Alarm, coffee, quiet time, let dog out, a crazy blur, get the kids to school and then BAM . . . out of nowhere you suddenly get hit. Bad. Like an unexpected dodgeball hit to the face.


Your whole home needs a complete overhaul!


I mean ev-er-y-thing. A spring cleaning and declutter session would only expose the shamefully outdated fixtures and styles.


What do you do?


Where do you start?


Well, rarely hiring an interior decorator to do a massive overhaul is in the budget. So, let's start with these 10 helpful steps. (And, feel free to add to these with your own below in the comments.)


1. Figure out what matters the most


Dad holding toddler daughter on dock while watching ducks pass by.

Most artists do not pick up a brush without having any idea what they're gonna paint. You, too, must start with at least a basic plan of what you're trying to achieve. And, I do mean it can be very basic.


When you take on such a massive project as an overhaul, a complete "do-over," always start first with the big picture. What is your home most used for? Living, entertaining, resting, creating?


Sketch out a diagram of your house and put 1-3 words in each room. Remember, this is your notebook, it doesn't have to be pretty or perfect. These descriptive words will be the basis from where you will start to create your new home.


What is each room's purpose? Write it down. And, don't skip any room in the house. Often, overlooked and unused rooms give you the most capability to maximize your square footage. Forgotten rooms can become your saving retreats to escape to. Laundry rooms can become mudrooms and extra pantry or storage space. A half bath can be a place where you display your latest collection. Guest rooms can store your library. Be creative and think functional.


This is a time take in the family's input. What do they see each room as? You might be surprised to find out that the formal dining room you see for entertaining guest is actually seen by the rest of the family as a storage room for fancy stuff you don't use. Now is the time to designate the unused formal dining room as your new office space. Or, perhaps the dark, dungeon in the forgotten den can now be the new boy's game room.


Setting these"boundaries" will be key for moving forward. One of the beautiful things about design is that we can determine what a space does for us. The catch-all corner becomes your favorite reading nook - simply because you designed it to be a reading nook.


Take your time on this - this is your foundation. Set a budget - it doesn't have to be big, just predetermined.



2. Clean House


Outdated furniture and toys piled up on side of the road for garbage pickup.

Now that you have defined each room in the house, begin to determine whether or not the things in that room belong. Do they meet that room's defined purpose? If not, move them to the room where they do fit the room's defined purpose. Don't worry about exactly where or how it'll work - just get it in there for now. We'll work out the details later.


For example, I defined my bedroom to be a place of rest and relaxation. That meant the TV went. As did the useless cluster catch-all chair in the corner and a few other things that simply did not set the tone for rest and relaxation. As silly as it might sound, I asked myself, "Does this [insert item] bring me relaxation? Does it help me rest?" If the answer was no, I figured out where else in the house it should go.


One of my key sayings is, "When in doubt, throw it out!" This may seem harsh, but many very helpful charities do their work in your community from donations of used goods - so don't be timid to toss stuff out. If you don't use it, it doesn't have a family significance, or simply doesn't fit into any room's purpose, donate it. Chances are, in your new home, you won't even notice it's gone.


Helpful Hint: You need to be relentless here, so seek your least sentimental family-member or friend's help on this one. They're much more likely to help you let go of the things that are burdens, not memories.

Tip: Leave an empty box by the front door for family to drop things in that they are ready to turn loose of - old toys, too small of shoes, read books, etc. Remind them that their goods not only help local charities but also make things affordable to those who may not be able to afford such things.



3. Color


A pile of worn paint brushes with various wild and bold colors of paint.

At this point your house went from a slightly out-dated home to a flaming hot mess. Every room has things moved around, empty spaces on walls, furniture piled into the middle of rooms - total chaos.


You know the old saying, "It's the darkest before the dawn."? Well, I like to say in terms of design, "It's total chaos before the design." You're at the worst point now, but there is no going back - and that, my friend, is a beautiful thing!


So, let's talk color.


Color is the basis for your design and for creating the spaces you've defined and determined in Step 1. Refer back to the terms you used to define each room. Those terms invoke feelings. Those feelings are reflected in color.


First, add two to three colors that come to mind or "reflect" the emotions or purpose behind each room. For example, the laundry room is the place you "clean" clothes - so a clean color is white. Simple, right?


Taken a step further, if you want a relaxing bedroom, think greens. But, if you want a bit of romance, add soft pinks. There you have it - greens and pinks.


Gorgeous deep emerald green walls in modern bedroom.

Now that you have gone through each room and determined the colors you want, you need to somehow intertwine them. This is where a lot of people get off track, but you don't have to have one of those crazy schitzo color schemes running through your house. You will find a neutral color that ties them together nicely. This neutral color gives a seemingly cohesive pallet throughout the home.


Also, see what colors you can cross over. The deep-sea green from the relaxing and romantic bedroom paired perfectly with soft pink. You may find the same green also works wonderfully against a white and black kitchen. Use as many of the same colors throughout the house as possible - just mix them with new, unexpected colors in new, unexpected places. Additionally, this cuts back on the number of paints you actually end up purchasing and storing.


Stunning modern kitchen with deep green kitchen cabinets and white marble countertops and wood floors.

Colors will look different in various lighting - so take advantage of using the same color in as many different ways as possible. Additionally, different sheens of paint will bounce light off differently - so be creative with sheens as well.


Dark and moody blue green powder room with modern details.

The hardest job is finding that one beautifully neutral color that looks great with all of your "defining" colors. This may mean a trip to the local hardware store to raid their color samples. Don't be timid - remember, colors appear different in your home and even throughout your home, so bring any color you are drawn to and test it out in each room.


Helpful Hint: Gray has made it in a big way for a reason. Gray is super neutral, clean and sophisticated - yet simple and goes with about anything. If you really don't know where to start, try checking out a soft gray.

That one neutral color will serve as your base and will be carried throughout your home. You want to be comfortable with this color. In some rooms, it'll be on the walls - in others, it'll be as subtle as a vase or pillow. This color should look fabulous with all of your vocal accent colors.


NOTE: Bold colors on walls look great in magazines, but realistically, you should be careful with the number of rooms you paint with a bold "defining" color. Too many strong colors creates confusion and disrupt transition throughout the home - even if they seem to go together. Reserve the bold colored walls for room that are well separated - like bedrooms and bathrooms. In open spaces, walls should be kept more neutral to allow more flow.


Painting remains one of the most affordable updates with the biggest impact. And, if you can do a good job yourself, you can stretch a tight budget! (Don't forget to consider painting furniture, floors, fireplaces, trims, bookcases and anything in the room that can take a coat of paint.)



4. Small But Impactful Updates


Bamboo separators for organizing kitchen drawers.

After deciding on your colors and during this state of total chaos, consider doing those small yet amazingly impactful updates.


Two things to consider:


First, updates are to bring fresh modern style into your home. They add to your current structure and don't require a total remodeling. Using the framework of your current home, think closely about the details that really bum you out. Is there something small you could do to change it?


For example, you could paint the kitchen cabinets and update the hardware as an update, whereas ripping out the cabinets and re-drawing the floor plan is a remodel. Well, duh?


But, maybe you could add some tile behind the backsplash and take off the top cabinet doors to create open shelving. Then, color coordinate your dishes and add a modern light fixture. Now, you have a completely NEW kitchen for under $500. Simple enough, but nowhere near a $20,000-$30,000 for a remodel.


Clean modern open shelving in kitchen with white subway tile backsplash.

Changing out light fixtures, updating door and cabinet knobs, simplifying or changing out the window treatments - all pretty simple projects but with BIG impact. This doesn't just help your budget, but your likely gonna want to change it all over again within the next 10-15 years anyway.


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