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big w blue cushions on tlc interiors

How to Decorate a Room using my Three-Layer Principal

All designers have a philosophy. OK, maybe they don’t, but they should.

When you work with a designer to make over your home, they should have an approach to decorating it, so you know what their vibe is. So you know if you gel with them. So you can grasp how they would make over your space, and how they’d go about it.

I want to share my overarching concept on how to decorate a room properly with you today. It’s how I approach any room design, regardless of style or budget. Because I reckon if you adopt this approach at your place, you’ll be able to pull off your own amazing space without even having to call me in to help (but do feel free to do that here if you need to!).

kmart 2017 homewares and furniture grey sofa jewel tone cushions kmart black marble table

Love this scene via Kmart

How to Decorate a Room

My advice when it comes to how to decorate a room successfully is to focus on the three-layer principal.Β The simplest way to explain the three layers you should have in a room is as follows:

  1. A base layer of investment pieces
  2. A middle layer of affordable decor
  3. A top layer of personalised memorabilia

Below I’m going to take you through the three layers and what you need to do within each, so you can consume the whole concept bit-by-bit. I hope you’re hungry!

The main goal here is to give you a room that feels amazing, functions well, and feels like YOUR home, not a display home or movie set. Because, seriously, there’s nothing worse than walking into a house and having no idea who lives there.


This moment from Globewest has everything done right.

1. Start with the Base Layer of Investment Pieces

So you have an empty room to work with – fantastic! Nothing excites me more than working with a space with nothing in it and exploring the possibilities. And don’t be daunted by an empty shell, either. When it comes to how to decorate a room, a blank canvas means loads of potential!

The easiest place to start in an empty space is to bring in the base layer of investment pieces. These are the pieces you’re going to spend the most money on. The furniture and decor that’s going to last for decades.

Examples of the investment pieces in a room would be:

  • The sofa in your living room
  • The mattress in your bedroom
  • The dining chairs in your dining room
  • The rug in your living room
  • Armchairs in multiple pockets of a home

Generally, anything that your butt is going to touch needs to be invested in. Comfort is the ultimate luxury in life, and you want these pieces to go the distance.

Nothing makes me sadder than a cheap sofa that starts sagging after six months. Or dining chairs that lose their puff and padding too quickly.

PS: if you need tips on what to look for when buying dining chairs, this post has you covered.

The one exception to the rule here is around armchairs. If it’s a chair you won’t sit in a lot (like in the corner of a room rather than one you’d watch TV in every day), you can go cheaper. The longer you sit in something, the better quality it should be. And the less you use it, the cheaper it can be.

black and grey minimal living room ideas featuring Vittoria Lewis sofa from Globewest

Via Globewest: a gorgeous, long-lasting neutral base.

Ensure the Base Layer is in Neutral Tones

If you invest money in the above pieces of furniture you can decorate around them forever, providing you’ve chosen them in a neutral, versatile finish.

Now, I’ve never been one to shy away from using colour, but I’d not recommend you apply it to a larger piece like a sofa. Over time, it will become incredibly hard to live with as your tastes change. Instead, go with a neutral tone like black, white, grey or beige (even navy blue) and you can add colour through the second layer (more on that coming right up!).

Comfort First!

People often say you should spend a lot of money on a bed, but I don’t agree. The mattress is far more important than the bed it’s sitting on.

As long as the bed is sturdy and ties in with the style of room you’re going for, buy it budget and put more money into the mattress; you’ll be lying on it for years. Again, nothing is more important than comfort (and a good night’s sleep).

kmart dining room furniture in blong timber and white

Kmart dining room goodness.

2. Then Drizzle in Affordable Decor

Now that you have the larger investment pieces down – and you’ve been sensible about it – you have my full permission to go crazy with the decor. That is, of course, if you’re doing it on a budget.

I believe that the investment pieces in a room will stay for years, but the second layer of affordable decor is going to change each year (or each season if you love decorating as much as I do).

Here are examples of decor I don’t advise you put too much money toward:

  • Cushions, throws, and bedding (soft furnishings are fun to change up!)
  • Side tables, coffee tables and TV units (as long as they’re sturdy, go cheap)
  • Lighting; have lamps at multiple levels, but don’t spend a fortune
  • Artworks; providing they’re not limited edition or originals
  • Candles, coasters, and other pieces on tables

It’s in layer two that we get to jump on trends, which come and go all the time. Love the millennial pink trend this season? Awesome; buy a cushion (not a sofa) in this tone. Want to jump aboard the tropical trend? Fabulous; purchase a tropical print instead of installing leafy wallpaper across your living room.

A note about art: I love original art. I love supporting local artists. I think it’s worth paying big bucks for one-off pieces or limited edition releases. Won’t I don’t advice spending hundreds of dollars on is prints that a brand is churning out thousands of. So if you find an expensive piece of art you just HAVE to have, invest in it (more on that further down!).

You don’t need to spend much on dinnerware, via Kmart.

Go Colour Crazy

Layer two is also where you get to experiment with colour and figure out which combinations you love.

Often you might think two colours go together, but when you place your new cushions side by side in these shades, it becomes apparent that they’re not friends after all. The most you spent on this lesson is under $100, not thousands had you decided to team a pink sofa with a yellow armchair.

Side note: don’t ever pair a pink sofa with a yellow armchair! πŸ˜‰

Experiment like you’re 21 again!

Layer two is completely fun and experimental, so please be brave and don’t worry about making mistakes. We live in a world that’s telling us to embrace minimalism and stop being so wasteful with our purchases. But I firmly believe that you have to have one great love in life, and mine is interior design. So buy away and have a play.

Life is short; buy the candle! If you don’t like it, give it to a friend or family member. I don’t advocate hoarding by any means, but I’d much rather you try, fail and learn than get struck down with the condition I call SSTD: Sh*t Scared to Decorate. Aint nobody wanna to live with that.

Etsy Design Awards 2015 Finalist

Etsy is a great place to find handmade items. This is via Vanessa Bean.

3. Finish with Personalised Mementoes

If you’re wanting to know the most important part of how to decorate a room, this layer might just be it.

This third and final moment involves tapping into your history, your family, your precious keepsakes. It often involves celebrating the things that other people might consider gawdy, off-trend, or downright ugly. To those people you can say, you don’t live here, biatch!Β 

Layer three is not about what other people like. It’s about what reflects you as a person.Β So don’t be afraid to go into your cupboards, or those boxes in the shed or garage, and pull out stuff you’ve had kept hidden away for years.

Examples of layer three personal mementoes might include:

  • Old photographs of your family from when you were little
  • Things your kids made you at school from decades ago
  • Art you might have created a while back that you’ve buried away
  • Travel souvenirs you’ve forgotten you bought when overseas
  • Any keepsakes given to you from loved ones who’ve passed away
  • Vintage decor you’ve shopped for in second-hand stores

The great thing about finding these items is not only the memories they bring back, but the celebration of who you were and how these objects shaped you.

They don’t even have to make sense or have meaning to anyone else apart from you. In fact, I think it’s better when they hold meaning to you only, or remind you of a moment you shared with a lost loved one that nobody else knows about.

Check out this post for an in-depth look at where you can get layer three products from.


The Liatorp from IKEA is awesome for displaying memories.

Displaying your Memories

I implore you to spend some time gathering these things from hidden cupboards and drawers. Once you have, you then get to figure out how to display them!

Think outside the box here and look to interesting display ideas. Shadow boxes on walls are a great way to display items that are three-dimensional. Coffee tables with drawers like this one from IKEA are a great way to display loads of memories that you can change up all the time.

Even something as simple as a gallery wall of art and old photos down a hallway wall is a genius way to showcase your life.

That piece you just have to have!

In layer three, it’s OK to include an item in here that might be a little pricey. Sometimes, in your shopping adventures, you might see an item that literally makes your heart race. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.

If you find a decor item like this and it’s a little expensive, splurge on it! As long as you think you’ll have it a while, it’s not a waste of money and you’ll look at it fondly every single day. It actually ends up becoming a keepsake or heirloom because you’ll have it forever and likely pass it onto your kids.

Etsy at the Cullen in Melbourne

An art moment via Etsy that makes a room feel unique.

Need more tips on how to Decorate a Room?

Hopefully this has given you some ideas and inspiration on how to decorate a room. If you want more tips on the daily, why not join my private Facebook group?

Coming into the group let’s you chat with other interior lovers, get design advice from me and other members on the daily AND I share exclusive discount codes with you for your favourite retails.

Join hereΒ and come have some fun with us!

Chris Sig

Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

Comments (9)

  • Debbie

    Hi Chris,

    Great reading about the layering process. Does feel and look more homely.
    Love the Kmart pic you posted. Do you know if these round black tables be available from Kmart soon?


  • Adam Smith

    Quite a wonderful article, you have shared here. Glad I know the right method to decorate a room. Thank you.

  • carolyn stobie

    Perfect timing, l am furnishing the lounge room in our new house from scratch. Just bought the sofa in a blue/grey.

  • ANNA

    Wonderful advice – thanks for sharing all your great tips and your sense of humour, makes my day and cracks me up everytime, have learnt not to drink coffee while reading —- except for the heading – DRizzle in affordable Decor – my accessories, cushions throws etc have become a serious addiction and probably could replace a sofa a year with the amount spent, but as Marie Kondo keeps saying, if it brings you joy keep doing it, have told my husband, he better keep bringing me joy or he’ll be donated LOL

  • ANNA

    Wonderful advice – thanks for sharing all your great tips —- except for the heading – DRizzle in affordable Decor – my accessories, cushions throws etc have become a serious addiction and probably could replace a sofa a year with the amount spent, but as Marie Kondo keeps saying, if it brings you joy keep doing it, have told my husband, he better keep bringing me joy or he’ll be donated LOL

  • ANNA

    Great ideas and tips — except for the heading – DRizzle in affordable Decor – my accessories, cushions throws etc have become a serious addiction and probably could replace a sofa a year with the amount spent, but as Marie Kondo keeps saying, if it brings you joy keep doing it, have told my husband, he better keep bringing me joy or he’ll be donated LOL

  • ANNA

    dont know what happened here everytime I tried to post kept saying duplicate, but I kept amending it but had obviously already displayed – 3 times lucky

  • Helen

    Great advice Chris, going by your tips I think I got it right, its good to know hearing that come from you. I love your style & approach to interior decorating and that your not afraid to shop at stores such as Kmart, I love shopping there! They have some great decor and make it very affordable to update your home with the latest trends… and yes I love decorating that as much as you do πŸ™‚
    I was in Target earlier today and they have some really nice home wares and great quality too for the price πŸ™‚


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