One Week to Major Change

By Lesley Myrick

How to use free tools to transform a room

Hands up if you’ve ever watched a home design show on TV and been inspired by a complete renovation that happens practically overnight. It seems like magic. Maybe you thought to yourself, “I can do that!” Well — brace yourself — you probably can’t. (Cue the sad trombone sound.) Reality shows often fudge reality and leave homeowners with expectations of grandeur that are unattainable in the presented timeline.

Keep heart, though, because your home can change in a week. Dramatically. And while it may not be the overnight whole-home reno, the fact is that with a little DIY spirit and the right resources, there’s a lot you can do to transform one room in a short time. It’s all about knowing where to look for inspiration, learning how to find the pieces you want and having the tools to keep your ideas organized.

There’s nothing like cracking open a gorgeous hardcover design book or glossy home magazine to start your search for inspiring ideas. Seeing what others have created can be a springboard to a fresh perspective.

Don’t be shy to tear out pages from a magazine or dog-ear your books.

I know, I know — for some people, tearing out pages would be blasphemous. For the rest of you, keep tear sheets in a folder and mark book pages for future reference. Design books and magazines are invaluable tools if we make them work for us. If not, they’re just pretty things that sit on a shelf. But you know what? It’s totally OK to have pretty things that sit on a shelf. Goodness knows I have plenty.

If you prefer the convenient, interactive screen of a smartphone, consider starting your inspiration search on Pinterest. This is my favorite way to collect and organize design ideas and keep track of furniture and accessories I’ve got my eye on for a particular project. I make Pinterest a more effective tool by including an item’s cost in the description so I can evaluate my budget at a glance.

I also use Pinterest to interface with long-distance design clients. I recently completed a master bedroom makeover for a client in New York and being able to pin items to a virtual pinboard and quickly share my ideas was a godsend. It’s one thing for me to say, “Let’s wallpaper your ceiling!” and wait while my client forms a less than attractive picture in her head of what that might look like, but it’s another to be able to show her a photo that communicates my offbeat, totally chic idea by simply emailing a link.

Pinterest is a genius tool for design collaboration.

If there’s someone else who needs to have their voice heard in your one-week transformation project, like your spouse, it’s easy to loop them in on the decorating process by sharing the link to your Pinterest board or inviting them to join your board and become a collaborator. Even with this wonderful online tool, you’re bound to hit a snag in which something doesn’t feel right. And in order to make major changes in a week, there’s no time to waste trudging through design dilemmas. Sometimes the best way to deal with a challenge, especially when the timeline is tight, is to bounce ideas off others. You never know what kind of creative solutions you’ll find. Design shows rely on a team to get big results in a short time, so consider the same strategy and enlist your favorite people in your project.

Once you have a sense of your design direction, it’s time to start sourcing the furniture, rugs, artwork, paint colors and accessories that will make this one-week transformation a reality. It’s easy to source what you need online if you know what you’re looking for and where to look. But of course, it’s not always that easy. That’s why people hire professionals! What if you have an idea of what you want — say, a midcentury-style gray sofa — but don’t know where to find it? One of my secret weapons when sourcing specific items is a simple and free tool: Google’s Shopping search. It pulls results that match your description as shoppable photos with prices and customer reviews. While you may not find exactly what you’re looking for, you may see similar styles that you love even more or discover stellar new shopping sources. As you search, develop your own sourcebook of go-to shopping sites to save time on future projects.

I’m also a fan of creating a spreadsheet to keep a running list of each general item needed, each specific item you’re planning to purchase and each item’s price. It’s easy to forget to source something — lighting and hardware are often overlooked — or lose track of your budget when making over an entire room. Keeping an organized to-do list ensures that nothing gets missed and that you’re aware of how costs are adding up. Google Docs is great for creating a spreadsheet. It’s a free online tool that you can access from any computer or smartphone. But of course, I’m someone who kind of loves organization and order, so if this idea doesn’t work for you, then don’t freak yourself out with a spreadsheet.

When pulling together a quickie design project, you’re usually shopping retail, and budget is a major concern. So how do you make the most of retail shopping in a short timeline? I recommend that clients sign up for the email list from stores they’re planning to use. Most online retailers not only offer frequent discounts and coupons to their subscribers, but they also give a generous one-time discount for new subscribers. To keep your inbox from being overwhelmed by a deluge of store emails, create a filter that automatically moves shopping emails out of your inbox and into a folder you can check periodically. Email filters and color-coded folders are my best friends. Again, I live for this stuff. If this isn’t your jam, skip it and move on.

If this all sounds a little overwhelming — design books! magazines! Pinterest! emails! Google docs! spreadsheets! — I totally understand. Interior design combines art and skill, and if it’s not something that excites you, then it won’t be an enjoyable process regardless of the awesome free resources available. If that’s you, then stay tuned to this space next month because I’ll share a unique way to work with an interior designer.

But if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work of design (which, thankfully, is not actually dirty and can be pretty darn enjoyable), then take advantage of the available free tools to keep your project on track and collect ideas and inspiration. Design doesn’t have to be a mystery. It’s definitely doable to redecorate a room in a week without a television crew. You’ve totally got this — no magic needed.

Are you using Pinterest too? Let’s connect. I’m @lesleymyrick.

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