Thinking of tackling an interior design project on your own? Before attempting to become an interior designer, it’s important that you first understand how we approach a design project.

Here are some steps on how to think like an interior designer:

Know Your Style Identity

There are a wide variety of interior design styles prevalent today. Do you lean towards modern, contemporary, traditional, transitional or eclectic? Maybe you’re a fun mix.

Here is a breakdown:



An ever changing style that encompasses the latest materials and modern products. Contemporary styles can often seem “dated” in 10 years.



Unlike contemporary, modern style is timeless. It is characterized by straight, clean lines and open floor plans. Minimalistic, and edgy!



A traditional look that is all about balance and symmetry. It is calm and orderly. This looks takes inspiration from the past, but it’s truly about comfort and predictability, in a good way.


East Coast Transitional Interior Design

Blends the comfort and warmth of traditional style, with the clean profiles and current colors of a contemporary look. Most people seem to fall into this category. It affords you the warmth of traditional, with the freedom to update as you see fit.



Allows you to play with the rules. Many items from the East and West. It’s a little fancy, and a little boho. It allows you to fill a space with unique finds. It is a home curated…by you! What makes this style so appealing is also what makes it tricky. You must find the line between chaos and perfection!

Want to explore some designs and see which rooms fit your style?


Results will be sent via email after designer evaluation.

Willingness to Try Something New and Out of the Box

outside of the box interior design - heather ryder design

This is something I see over and over again with clients, and it’s my job to help my clients explore new possibilities. Home owners are afraid to take a chance. They feel as if any interior design decision is a final decision that can’t and shouldn’t ever be changed. We don’t wear the same clothes forever, do we? Our clothing style changes and evolves, as does our interior design style. Have you ever purchased a piece of furniture and looked at it 10 years later wondering what you were thinking?

Go into your design with the attitude that it’s OK if this isn’t “forever”. Allowing that mental freedom will allow for a greater range in your style and boldness. Try something new, try something bold. You may get tired of it in 5 years, but then you have the opportunity to try something new and fun again. Take the chance in order to create the home that friends walk away from and say “Wow, this is fabulous!” I guarantee you will not get that from playing safe.

Plan and Budget

plan and budget

Now for the less fun part. Most often when I meet with clients and ask for a budget, 9 times out of 10, the response is “I don’t have any idea”. Which is ok, that’s what I’m here for. But, if you’re planning on tackling this yourself, it’s important to know what you can spend so that you have a plan! There is nothing worse than getting mid-way through the planning of your living room and suddenly realizing you ran out of money for the rugs, lighting and accessories.

Do some research, find out the general prices of a custom furniture room, or a room from a big box store. Do you want wallpaper, paint? Don’t forget to always leave money for accessories and art. All too often people blow their budget before these items are purchased and these are the very items that pull a room together and give it a curated look.

 Expect the Unexpected

expect the unexpected

Inevitably, something will come up that wasn’t expected. This usually ends up taking additional time and/or money. You always hear people going through a renovation or new construction project complain about what a “nightmare it is”. It is important that you know what to expect. There has yet to be a project that I have been involved in or heard about through friends that didn’t have something unexpected turn up.

Most times, it’s not for a lack of care of the professionals running the project, unless you own a crystal ball, there is no way to ever know the unknown. Set your mind that something may not go the way you expected, and as long as the issue is rectified, then you can call it a success!

 Shop Smart

shop smart

In order to stretch that budget, know how to shop smart. Understand your spending habits, your needs vs. wants, and where you could save money. For example, spend your money on the items you sit on (i.e. sofa, chairs) and save some money on accessories and lighting.

Many discount stores now offer great knock-offs of the things we designers see at market every year for a fraction of the price. Also, spend your money first in the rooms that your guests will see the most. If you have a limited budget, don’t blow it on your master bedroom at the expense of your living room.

Accessorize and Execute

Contemporary East Coast Interior Design - Heather Ryder Design

Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize! This is what makes your home uniquely special. The special little touches and accessories are what make a house a home. So, how do you do it?

  1. Go with what you love.
  2. Group items in odd numbers and vary their size and height.
  3. Consider using objects with the same hue. Various shades of any given color really pull a room together without making it look too matchy-matchy.
  4. Don’t go overboard. Remember most often, less is more.

Stay tuned for more interior design style tips!

Heather Ryder