mindful living, effortless style

Blank Canvas: Decorating a completely empty space - love the list of apps and website in this post to help you plan.

The Forever Home Project: Decorating a Completely Empty Space

I had to laugh when Julee emailed to say this was the topic she wanted to tackle for her next contribution to The Forever Home Project. Why? Because we’ve been experiencing the same dilemma of having to start from scratch in our new dining room, seeing as how it’s the first (and likely only) dining room we’ll ever have – we have no furniture for it.

I was super excited to see how she was tackling the challenge and to pick up some tips.  Julee didn’t disappoint, either – I loved her process and you won’t want to miss all the clever apps and websites she’s rounded up to help with your future room planning.

And don’t forget to check back soon to see how we did with our empty dining room.

Decorating any room comes with challenges, and starting with a completely blank slate is no exception. I expected there to be something easier about starting from scratch and not being limited by existing pieces.

In designing the formal living room in our new home, however, I found this wasn’t the case. It was hard to get started, but now that I have, I thought I would share a few ideas about the process as well as some great apps and websites to help you along the way.

Step 1 – Get Inspired

Decorating a completely empty space. Step 1: Get Inspired.

My first step, not surprisingly, was to start collecting ideas of rooms and furniture I love on my Home Décor board on Pinterest. This dreaming phase is the fun part, and I could have continued forever.

After the first hundred or so pins, it was clear that I have a definite look in mind, which brings me to my next step.

Step 2 – Define a Style

Decorating a completely empty space. Step 2: Define a Style.

My collection of images was fairly consistent in terms of the general style. I love mid-century modern furniture, and my inspiration images reflected this. However, I also noticed a trend toward organic shapes, clean lines, green plants and natural woods.

I decided my style would be mostly mid-century paired with softer, cozy elements inspired by nature. I’ve been referring to this style as ‘Earthy Modern,’ and its definitely helped shape my buying decisions and steer me away from individual pieces that I like but don’t fit the aesthetic of the room.

Step 3 – Research Products

Decorating an Empty Space. Step 3: Research Products.

Once I had a style defined, I started to shop for furniture. I decided to select our sofa first but along the way I fell in love with a coffee table, so I ended up with two core pieces to build the room around.

I find selecting one or two of the large pieces up front helps the room take form in terms of both layout (since you can usually only place the largest pieces in a couple of places) and color (as they establish a primary color palette to work with). Since I was ordering both of these items online, I also requested that a few fabric samples be sent prior to purchasing so I could see the colors and textures in person.

Once I had a few pieces in mind, I created a mood board so that I could mix-and-match furniture and accessories and see how different colors, shapes and textures worked together. This also helped refine the style I was going for.

I used Polyvore for this step because it contains images from a large variety of brands, allowing me to place Room and Board products alongside those from IKEA, Crate and Barrel and more. Polyvore also lets you incorporate photos, color samples and text descriptions.

Step 4 – Plan the Space

Decorating a completely empty space. Step 4: Plan the Space.

Once I’d narrowed in on the main pieces, I also started to look for ways to plan the layout of the room. The room is large and somewhat narrow, so I wanted to make sure the pieces would fit in the seating arrangement I envisioned and also make sure that they fill enough of the space.

There are several websites and mobile apps to help with this step. I tried DWR’s 3D Room Planner and Crate and Barrel’s 3D Room Designer. Both were pretty easy to use but limited to the furniture within their own companies. My room, however, will likely be a mix of pieces from a variety of stores.

I found an app called SnapShop that lets you shoot or upload a photo of your room and superimpose furniture from different stores, but the selection is fairly limited. In the end, I decided to go ‘old school’ with this step. I taped outlines of the furniture dimensions on the floor and created a cardboard cut-out of a coffee table so I could experiment with layouts and determine how much space each piece would take up.

Having a real-world model of how the furniture will fill in the space (two-dimensionally, at least) really helped me visualize the room. We were able to determine the size of the rug and identify the additional spaces in the room that would need furnishings. I’ve also started using the Photo Measure Lite app to keep track of all of my measurements for the room and furniture pieces.

Step 5 – Put it All Together

Now that the major pieces are purchased, I’m waiting until everything arrives to add the finishing touches. Once I do, I’ll be sure to share an update. In the meantime, I’d love to hear suggestions about how you’ve gone about decorating a new space.

Sources for Earthy Modern inspiration rooms above: 1, 2, 3



P.S. Looking for more ways to simplify and save time? Follow these 3 steps:

1) Check out our Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life 2016 Printables and our Kids' Responsibility & Money Management Kit : over 50 pages of 2015 daily/weekly/monthly planners, cleaning schedules, meal planners, kids’ routine charts, budgeting sheets and much more!

2016 POYEL Printables
Kids Responsibility & Money Management Kit


2) Sign up for our newsletter:

sign up for the newsletter and get a free 6 week meal plan


3) Bookmark our famous Gift Guides for the next time you need the perfect kids' gift! (400+ detailed descriptions including age recommendations)- just click on the photos below

Our infamous kids' gift guides

The following two tabs change content below.
Julee is a designer and mother of two young children. On her blog, Warm Hot Chocolate, she writes about her family, photography, home decor and life in Texas.

Latest posts by Julee (see all)