Is there that one room in your house that makes you feel just blah? You know, the room that needs more than just a new paint job—it needs an overhaul in furniture, décor choices, and a fresh jolt of personality? Us, too, but decorating a room, let alone a house, can take time… and lots of it. That’s why we’ve created a guide to make redecorating way less overwhelming by breaking it down into six digestible steps that you can follow. And, since we all have jobs, families, and lives to attend to, we’ve spread the home revamp over six weeks so that you can do it at your own pace. For inspiration, we hit up the best people for the job: the One Room Challenge alumni.
Twice a year, the One Room Challenge brings together 20 brave home décor bloggers and interior designers who take on the daunting task of completely transforming a room in just six weeks—and document their process along the way. The task is not an easy one (this writer can attest to it firsthand), but if over 700 rooms were created during this challenge’s 10 seasons of existence, you can do it too.
Ready to make over your own room in six weeks? Read on to get our top tips, and follow along this season of the One Room Challenge, which kicks off today.
Photo: Stephani Buchman, design by Vanessa Francis
First, you'll want to create a plan of attack. The most important thing when decorating a room from scratch is to have a clear vision of the finished product. Start pinning inspiration images, and identify your style. “I wanted my bedroom to feel like a Parisian hotel room,” says interior designer Vanessa Francis, “So I added wall moulding and went with a serene color palette.”
Make a list of what you’ll need, and create a strict budget for your project. Use an app like Polyvore to pin products, and create a design board. Lucidchart is also a very user-friendly online software tool that you can use to create a floor plan. Once you know where you’re going, create a project management flowchart with clear deadlines outlining each step of your design. Might sound intense, but this will help you stay on top of the project and prevent you from quitting halfway through.
Keep this in mind: Design might be all about creativity and style, but unless you know how you’re going to achieve the finished result, things will not get done within budget, and within your desired timeframe.
One Room Challenge Alumni Tip: “Six weeks fly by, and having your ducks in a row by end of week one is the best way to finish in time.” — Molly Miller, A Piece of Toast
Photo: Gabrielle Savoie
Larger items have longer lead times, so you’ll want to focus on bulky items first. This might include rugs, sofas, large furniture, but also custom-made items like curtains. Confirm the lead time for each item ordered, and try to give yourself a two-week buffer where possible, to make up for possible delays. You’ll also want to book trade appointments as soon as possible, because good handymen tend to have busy schedules. This might include electricians, plumbers, or wallpaper installers.
Keep this in mind: If a sofa fits in your living room, it doesn’t mean it will also fit through your front door! Avoid bad surprises by measuring the dimensions, and the delivery clearance for every large item before ordering. Most furniture stores can give you clearance dimensions, which usually involves measuring the width and height of all doors (building, apartment, and room), as well as clearance length between the outside and interior walls.
One Room Challenge Alumni Tip: “Timing needs to be your top priority. For example, if anything is custom (like draperies or fabrics), you need to make sure those are designed and ordered first. Time is of the essence, so don’t second guess yourself, and be decisive.” — Mandy Kellogg Rye, Waiting on Martha
Photo: Courtesy of Cassandra Lavalle
While you can create truly beautiful custom designs when you have all the time in the world, six weeks is not usually the time to order custom-made pieces or special-order fabrics. Steer clear of items that are backordered or have low stock. Look out for quick-ship sections when ordering online, and buy ready-made items that are available for shipping right away. Order everything from lighting to pillows, art, and accessories.
Keep this in mind: Buying vintage items at your local antique store, flea markets, or online on Chairish, Etsy, or One Kings Lane will give your room a more layered feel, so that it doesn’t end up looking like a furniture catalog.
One Room Challenge Alumni Tip: “I measured every square inch of my room and kept those measurements on my phone so that I could move quickly on purchasing items, starting with those that had the longest lead times.” — Cassandra Lavalle, Coco + Kelley
Photo: Courtesy of Erin Williamson
If you go back and read previous One Room Challenge stories, you’ll notice a pattern around week three or four: Items are delayed, discontinued, or arrive in the wrong color or size. Panic ensues. For better or for worse, this is a completely normal step of every interior design project (and project management in general).
Keep this in mind: Now that most items are ordered and you’re playing the waiting game, make sure you stay on top of every potential problem. Open packages as soon as they arrive. Work out alternative solutions with furniture companies if there is a problem with your orders. Most importantly, remember one thing: You will get through this.
One Room Challenge Alumni Tip: “Something will always go wrong, so the more prepared you are to roll with the punches the better.” — Mandy Kellogg Rye, Waiting on Martha
Photo: Mekenzie France, design by Holly Hollingsworth Phillips
As you start receiving items and laying them out in your new room, you might start noticing gaps, blank spaces, or small areas that need to be reworked. Most often this only involves buying smaller items—side tables, art, accessories. Make a second accessorizing plan to fill out those gaps and make your room feel finished.
Keep this in mind: You probably had things in the room before that will need to go back in: remote controls, books, board games, magazines… Find a new place for each item in your room, and buy pretty storage essentials to store every leftover miscellaneous item.
One Room Challenge Alumni Tip: “Determine which items you 100% want to keep, and which items must go. If some pieces fall into your ‘maybe’ category, hold on to them for now—they may just need to be reworked into a new vignette or corner of the room for you to fall in love with them again.” — Lauren Nelson
Photo: Courtesy of Christine Dovey
Scour your local stores for accessories and art that will make your room feel finished and layered. Think candles, coffee table books, throw pillows, and anything else you might need.
Keep this in mind: Depending on the room you’re working on, creating vignettes will make your room feel lived-in. So stock up a bar cart or appoint a bedside table with a pretty alarm clock and water carafe. These small details turn your house into a home.
One Room Challenge Alumni Tip: “One thing I wish I’d realized prior to decorating is that the little details matter as much as the big pieces. Even if the end result isn’t everything you envisioned at the outset, at the very least, it will look better than it did six weeks ago.” — Mackenzie Horan, Design Darling
Do you have invaluable tips for decorating a room in a time crunch? Share your wisdom with us in the comments below.