Determine styles, colors before decorating new home

Dear Gail: We just moved into a new house and we’re really stuck as where to start on the decorating. When we moved we decided not to take anything with us since what we had was dated and we were just tired of it. So now we are a bit overwhelmed. We went with all neutrals in our selections, which we are happy with, plus figured it was the best way to go. But now what? — Pete and Cindy

Dear Pete and Cindy: Having a neutral palette is a good start. It allows you to take your decorating into any direction. Since you didn’t bring anything with you, you now have a start fresh to decorate this house any way you want, which can be overwhelming.

I would suggest the first place to start is with determining your style and colors. Because it seems you’re not looking to decorate in the same style as your last house and want something new, start by gathering up pictures. Don’t limit yourself to what you’ve been drawn to in the past. Go online and just start looking at pictures.

Or go the old fashion way, which I still happen to like, and pick up at least one of every style of magazine — traditional, country and contemporary — and see if anything new grabs you. Don’t forget to look through all the mail order catalogs you get.

Take your time when you’re doing this and look at the whole picture. Maybe you don’t like everything in the picture, but you like the style of the sofa, the color on the walls, an accessory, the window treatment or a piece of artwork.

Print the pictures or pull them out and write on them exactly what you like about it. I know you can create an online folder, but by being able to see all the pictures placed out in front of you will make your decorating process easier. Sometimes we can save so many pictures we lose track of what we saw and more importantly where we stored them.

Start a folder with dividers and sort them out. Have one for color, furniture, walls, windows, flooring, artwork, lighting, plants, bedding, accessories and a “just like everything about it” folder. Because right now you’re just trying to get a direction, don’t make separate folders by room, you will do that later after you know what your style and color scheme will be. At that time you can re-sort through the pictures and have one for each room. Then when you’re ready to do the guest room, you can pull the pictures you liked for inspiration to complete that room.

Once your folders are getting full, take each one and look to see if there are any common elements in the pictures. Have you pulled a lot of pictures with yellow in them? What are the lines on the furniture pieces? Are they more straight and streamlined or curvy and ornate? Are there lots of patterns or solids in the fabrics? What kind of accessories were you drawn to? In your pictures, is less better than more?

Now you may have a lot of different things in each folder, but you should see that you have more of one than another. So, do you have more pictures of walls painted bold colors or neutrals? More modern art than landscapes?

Now take those pictures you are most drawn to and do a living color board. This is as simple as buying a piece of foam board at the craft store and start tacking them up. I like to tack them versus tape so that you can play and move things around, take off and or put others up. A magnetic board also works well.

Yes, you can also create your own online board. But by having one offline, you will see it throughout your day. You will want to have this up for a little bit to see if your direction changes and to start getting inspired.

Just because you just moved in doesn’t mean you have to immediately go out and start buying. You’re going to be in the house for a while, so take your time.

Once you start looking at your color board and like what you see, you will be ready to start decorating, as now you have your color and style direction. Take those pictures and place them in a notebook or take pictures of them so you have them on your phone.

By having them with you when you’re shopping, will help keep you focused. It’s easy to get side-tracked or talked into something that is not the direction you want to go. Spur of the moment buying is good for small items but not any investment pieces.

Have fun decorating your new home.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a bookon the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is:

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