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Six questions you need to ask yourself before you start a room decoration...

Kate Watson-Smyth is the journalist behind the blog Mad About the House. Here she shares an edited extract talking us through her six questions taken from her new book 101 Interior Design Answers

If you want to get the interior design right you need to plan it. But it’s not just about choosing the colours and picking out the bits of furniture you like. If you really want to create a room that tells the story of the people who live there, and works for everyone who uses it, there are six basic questions you need to ask before you go near a paint sample. Answer these – honestly – and you will have a complete plan. Ignore them and there’s a good chance you will be redoing the space in a year or two and not because you’ve gone off the colour on the walls.

WHO This might seem obvious but take a moment to really think about it; the requirements of a room for a couple with a kid are very different from those of a couple of downsizers. Make a list of everyone who needs to be in that space. Is your kitchen for a cook or an eater? Is it a functional high-tech space because you have a separate dining room or does it need to have a family table for meals and homework and the odd WFH day?

WHAT Once you know who is in the room you need to work out what they are doing in there. Is your sitting room mostly for lounging on comfy sofas and watching films? Does it double up as a playroom – that’s going to require a lot more storage – or is it a grown-up space away from the TV where you can sip cocktails and chat while listening to music?

WHEN Now we’re getting into the décor side of things because as soon as you have decided who is doing what you can ask yourself when it is happening. This will give you answers about the colour of the walls – if it’s a dark room used mostly in the evening then go dark and dramatic with the paint. If it needs to be available from first to last thing you might want to keep the walls paler but go dark (and practical) with the furniture. And don’t forget the lighting. Dimmers, if you are starting from scratch, are a must, but always check paint colours under both natural and electric light.

WHY It is as helpful to know what is wrong with the room you are planning to decorate as what you want it to be like after the work is done. Making a list of all the things you want to put right will help you focus on the end design. It can be helpful to ask a friend to unload your dishwasher, for example, as fresh eyes are more likely to notice storage issues that you have put up with for so long that you have forgotten about them.

WHERE This question is about where you want to shop. Can you buy everything from the place you want or do you need to juggle and make compromises?. Make a list of your dream stores and work out what really must come from there and what you can source elsewhere.

HOW How are you going to pay for it and how are you going to carry out the work? This is the budget question. Do you need a project manager? What order does the work need to happen for the job to run smoothly – the electric fix comes much earlier than you might think and custom-made pieces need to be ordered well in advance. Sort out the how to help you with the where.

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