The Secrets of Design: Top Ten Tips for Beginners

So you want to re-decorate. Armed with clippings from magazines you search for the perfect fabric, armchair or paint colour. Days (weeks) of searching and you're feeling more frustrated than fabulous. Don't despair. Here are 10 designer-worthy tips for creating magazine quality décor, even if you don't have the budget for professional help.

1. Set the mood: The first step in creating a designer room is setting the mood. Are you dreaming of calm and restful or opulent and indulgent? Along with the mood you want to create, consider who uses the room and for what. A room's use determines everything from colour palette to fabrics and furniture so be realistic; antique silk upholstered chairs look terrific, but don't sit well with children or pets. Once you determine a room's mood and function, plan what new elements you'll need to introduce. Designer Tip: Colour is key to setting a mood. Icy blues and creams combined with mirrored accessories say sleek and sexy. Warm, earth tones say inviting and family friendly.

2. Check your wallet: Set a budget that's realistic for what you want. If you'll need professional painters or craftsmen, factor their costs into your overall budget. Be smart about when to redecorate. Winter is typically a slow time for the carpentry/renovation business, so renovating then can mean big savings. If money is tight, take your time building a room filled with quality pieces, they'll last longer than buying several inexpensive pieces just to fill the space. Designer Tip: Keep a running tally of all your purchases. Avoid impulse buys and you'll be more likely to stay on budget. Shop around and ask for discounts if you're buying multiple pieces from one store.

3. The eyes have it: When planning a room, think how it relates to other spaces in your home. Well-designed homes have rooms that effortlessly flow into one another. This creates a sense of continuity that makes for clean sight lines, good flow and will make your house seem larger. Designer Tip: Creating flow in your home can be accomplished by using similar elements in spaces that relate to each other. This can mean using the same wall colour throughout one level or complementary colours, textures and patterns in different areas.

4. Get creative: Designers often create sample boards to illustrate what mood and items they envision in their clients' space. Treat yourself like a prized client and create an inspiration board that displays elements you want in your room. Include fabric swatches, paint chips and pictures of furniture and accessories. Don't forget snapshots of existing items (carpeting, artwork, furniture) you'll be keeping in the space. Designer Tip: Bring a re-sealable plastic bag filled with paint chips, fabric swatches and inspirational clippings on shopping trips. This will prevent you from buying something in the wrong colour or style.

5. Space Planning/ Furniture layout: A room may look beautiful but if it's not functional, no one is going to enjoy it. If your room is a gateway to another room or outside, leave enough space so people can walk around the furniture. If you're not sure a piece of furniture will fit, take its measurements and put a cardboard box with similar dimensions (or lay a piece of fabric on the floor) in the area you want it to go. Designer Tip: Think about how many people you want to accommodate in the room. If you have a large family that watches TV together, make sure your family room has enough seating for everyone. Check the TV is visible from all seating areas.

6. Go Shopping: Even if they're not in your price range, visit upscale furniture stores for decorating inspiration. These stores put together beautiful vignettes that will give you ideas on furniture groupings, accessorizing, scale and balance. Designer Tip: Know when to shop. Many stores clear inventory in January to make room for spring merchandise. Shop now and score major discounts on furniture, linens, dinnerware, appliances, lamps and more.