Baby-Steps Into Home Decorating

Home decorating doesn’t need to be expensive or overwhelming. Start small and see how you can personalize your house into your home.

No matter where we are in life, how many people live in our home or how old they are, we all want a home that fits what we need, want, and like! Often we don’t know where to start or what makes a room “work,” so we try to change everything, all at once—and often end up regretting it. It seems like interior decorators have some magic touch we’ll never have. But as a decorator myself, I’m here to tell you, it’s not true! Decorating is a skill you can learn, starting with learning some fundamental rules of decorating. And if you’re just starting out, one of the key rules is: start with baby steps! 

Start Small

One of the first pieces of furniture I can remember painting was our old dining room set. A huge black hutch, a large oval black table with two leaves, and eight black chairs were no match for me and this new stuff called chalk paint. By the time I was done with the hutch and table, I had convinced myself I could work with the black chairs because the thought of painting even one chair made me want to cut off my hands. Also, for some reason I started this project when our friend Scott was in town, so not only did I pick the largest pieces of furniture we had, but I started with an audience. The naivety. The nerve. The boldness. The fool.

When you are learning something about decorating and want to implement it, please do the exact opposite of what I did. Start with the smallest, least risky, least public thing you can and see what happens. Want to paint a piece of furniture? Wonderful. Go to the garage and grab that eight-dollar side table you bought last year from a yard sale and don’t even like. Start with that because you can’t ruin something you already hate. If it turns out awful, just drop it off at a thrift store. Nobody has to know.

When we start large and publicly, the pressure is on. There’s no room for error, learning, or quietly moving on.

Micro Changes and Tiny Risks

The third piece of furniture Chad and I purchased together was a custom sofa. We were so lucky, right? Yes, but sadly we were so dumb! I had never purchased an upholstered piece before. I really should have started with an off-the-rack chair so I could learn about scale and fabrics and colors and pillow backs. Instead, I learned the hard way by buying a sofa I hated from the moment it was delivered.

I do want you to take all sorts of fun risks in your home, but I want you to be smart about it so you aren’t painting your grandmother’s heirloom sideboard and regretting it. Or investing in a large piece before you truly know what you like and need. Begin with micro changes and tiny risks. It will give you a chance to learn what you like and why. You’ll get familiar with colors and materials and skills before it matters all that much.

Do I think you should paint your fireplace? If you don’t like it, yes. But I want you to practice by taking a baby step and painting something else first.

Keep learning, keep trying, and you will find your way to a home style you love! 


  1. What small change can you make in your house today to learn about what you need, want, and like in your house?
  2. What goals do you have for your home decorating? What small steps can you take to start working towards those goals?

For more insights on creating a home you’ll love, check out (and pre-order now for 40% off from House Rules by Myquillyn Smith. House Rules is an inviting collection of 100 memorable, universal decorating truths that apply to every house, style, and budget.

Read chapter one here! Visit Myquillyn at to get free gifts when you pre-order.

Myquillyn Smith, also known as “The Nester,” is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Welcome Home and Cozy Minimalist Home. For the past 15 years, she has been encouraging women to embrace their space–imperfections and all–and make it their own. Her home in North Carolina has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Cottages & Bungalows. She’s never met a home she didn’t love. Find her online at and on Instagram @TheNester.

For more books on home decorating, click here.

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