A Complete Guide to Decorating

A Complete Guide to Decorating

Decorating the home is probably the biggest do it yourself trade in the world. Decorating covers a large range of topics involving improving the home. We are principally looking at painting and wallpapering.

What starts out as a simple idea of painting a room in the home can easily slide into frustration and bewilderment. It’s not just the vast range of paint that can be found on the market, the sheer volume of colour choices is staggering. It’s no longer green but Emerald delight 5 or Kiwi Burst 2. And the colours vary so subtly that you can feel the knot in your stomach tighten as you spread out your choices on the table.

So the question is where do you start?


There are some steps you can take to make the task of choosing the colour scheme a little easier. The first thing to remember is to decide on the soft furnishings before you chose your paint colours or wallpaper. The reason for this is that there will be a much narrower range of choices for things such as curtains, carpets or sofas. These are also the items you will be spending the most money on so you will want to get them right first. Start with your sofas and work your way down the list. Neutral carpets are usually the best way to go as they cover a large area of the room and will have the greatest impact. They will also blend with most of the colour schemes that you choose.

Why not hire professionals to decorate your home?

Why not hire professionals to decorate your home?

If you are painting the walls then you can place the colour swatches against the sofas and/or curtains to help choose the right shade from the range of colours. Once you have a good idea of the colour you like it’s always a good idea to get a match pot as the cards are never quite the same as the real thing. By painting the colour on a piece of card first you can place the card against the furnishings to determine if you are happy with your choice, just make sure its dry first.

Remember that darker colours make a room feel smaller whereas lighter colours will lift and expand the walls helping the room to feel bigger. You may wish to go for shades and paint one wall in a slightly darker version to the main colour, or maybe your colour scheme will allow for contrasts. In either case it is usually better to accentuate one wall with the darker colour. Again, if you are applying wallpaper to some walls and painting others then choose your wallpaper first and then match the colour to that. We will be expanding on these ideas in future articles.

Decorating adds your own touch to a house.

Decorating adds your own touch to a house.


If you are decorating the whole room then are some ways to keep the work to a minimum by doing a little extra work at the start. And be prepared to take a little time over details. By that I don’t mean how many sugars you want in your tea.

It goes without saying that you should cover all of your furniture carefully to avoid paint splashes etc, not to mention the wrath of your partner. If the room has not been decorated for some time then it’s a good idea to wash the walls and ceiling before you do anything else. Sugar soap is ideal for this and will leave the walls ready to be filled and decorated. Fill any holes that are no longer needed and try to put just enough filler in to do the job. By putting a little effort into being particular you will cut down on the task of rubbing down once dry. Once all of this has been done it’s a good time to stand back and look at what you have.

Now is the time to ask a couple of questions.

Are they old walls? If so then be prepared to seal them with mixture of PVA and water to act as a stabiliser. This is the same as the white glue your kids used at school to glue bits of paper and wood together and is readily available from DIY stores. Brush the watery mix over the wall and wait for about an hour before lightly rubbing down and then you will be ready for painting.

Have you taped around any light switches and sockets? Make sure that you have cleaned the switches and sockets first so that all of the old paint and dust is removed. You don’t want to do this once you have painted.

Have you marked holes left for pictures? etc. It’s a good idea to leave a small screw in existing holes that you want to reuse once painted so that you can find them again.

It should go without saying that quality tools will help produce a quality job. You don’t have to buy professional, top of the range decorating equipment, but if you purchase cheap rollers and brushes from the Sunday market then you are guaranteed to leave most of the hairs on the walls. And as long as you clean then out well, then good decorating tools can last you for years.

The Best Order to Decorate

Floors, walls, ceilings. Where should you start? Basically you should begin decorating from the top down. Paint the ceiling first as any splashes on the walls will not matter. Walls painted before woodwork will mean it won’t matter if your roller or brush strays onto the woodwork. Then you can leave the cutting in of the woodwork until last and it will look crisp and clean.

Try and find colours that suit each other.

Try and find colours that suit each other.

Wall Papering

If you are wallpapering then it will be the last item on the list. A good idea when you are painting an adjacent wall is to bring the paint colour over onto the wall to be papered some 2cm or so. This will mean that when you paper to the corner you will have a clean line, and any slight imperfect in cutting the wallpaper will not be visible. There are several types of wallpaper on the market today, and whilst some will require you to paste the wall only, most will be of the type that requires you to paste the paper. You can use a small roller to paste the paper as this will help spread the paste evenly and is a lot quicker than using a brush.

Good preparation off existing walls is essential they need to have all imperfections filled and be fully sanded. For a pro finish first use a heavy grade min 1000 gauge lining paper before applying your wallpaper.

face filling wall

Use a powder/ water mixed filler for facing walls and then sand down

lining paper

1000 or 1200 gauge lining paper will provide the best results- Make sure you do not overlap at joins – In fact a very small 1-2mm gap is best then carefully fill with filler and gently sand down with 120g sand paper.

Apply  2 coats of well mixed quality branded cold water paste to the walls before both lining and wallpapering this is referred to a sizing – It ensures a complete bond between the surface and papers.

Patterned wallpapers will need to be matched up, and manufacturers seem to only just allow enough to get the most from the paper so a bit of care is needed. Depending on the pattern and the height of the ceiling you will usually get 4 to 5 pieces from a roll. Remember also that wallpapers are made in batches and so they are coded to ensure that the colours are uniform. Sometimes different batch numbers match up perfectly, sometimes they don’t.

With light Wall papers it can be difficult to hide all the joins -Using darker papers will help with this problem.

When working out how many rolls of wallpaper you need, just divide the width of the wall by the width of the roll of wallpaper and then decide how many pieces you will get from each roll. It’s always a good idea to get an extra roll, even if you don’t need it. For no other reason that if your wallpaper is ever damaged then you can relatively easily replace the section. When you are ready to hang the wallpaper it’s always a good idea to start hanging from the centre of the room and cut into the corners. Run a plumb line or spirit level down the wall and mark a line for your first piece. If the walls are not square and you are wallpapering two adjacent walls then rather than struggle with taking the paper around the corner it may be a better idea to cut the paper into the corner from both directions. Sometimes on older places it is simply a case of the lesser of two evils.

If you did not need to coat the walls with PVA then make sure that you size the walls. This means simply making up a weak mix of paste and coating the walls beforehand and allowing them to dry. This will pay dividends when papering as the paste will not dry on the wall before you have finished working the piece.


We have already mentioned buying good quality tools for the decorating and the same applies to the materials you use. You will also find that there are a range of paints for different environments. A common mistake for some is to pick up a silk emulsion instead of matt. Make sure you read the tin before you make your way to the checkout.

Buy quality expensive paints – cheap paints contain less pigment ( that’s the expensive bit the glug its mixed in is the cheap bit) Really cheap paints will not last as long before they fade and will take far more coats to cover.

When it comes to the woodwork there are several different finishes to choose from. Satinwood has become very popular over the past few years, but may not be as durable as gloss, although gloss sometimes chips very easily. If you look carefully you will notice that many gloss paints are now water based. Oil based paints are gradually being phased out and it will soon be impossible to buy them. So make sure that you check on the tin so that you clean your brushes correctly.

It’s good to remember that the top coat of any paint surface should not be used to fill holes or cover indents or other problems. Make sure that you do all of the preparation first and treat the top coat as the icing on the cake.

Decorating need not be daunting or filled with mystery. There is plenty of advice available, but the most important thing to remember is to not rush anything. You only want to do it once, and you want it to last for several years.