DIY Interior Design: where to start



After spending years working on the floor plan of our new house, then working on exterior elements like roofing, siding, and windows, I’m finally turning my thoughts inward to the interior design and decor of our home. There are many choices that will need to be made over the coming months, and with the exterior work behind me, I was eager to get started.

I began by considering the finish for our concrete flooring. There are endless options out there, from standard colours to custom blends. You can have your concrete tinted, acid-washed, or stained. You can have aggregate added to give a pebbly look, you can choose marbling effects, or you can have a smooth finish that is uniform in colour throughout. You can also choose the degree of shine from the polishing process.

This stained, acid-etched, and high-gloss finish make the floors look like marble.

This stained, acid-etched, and high-gloss finish makes the concrete flooring look like marble.

However, I soon realized that the finish I choose for the flooring will need to coordinate with other design elements in the house, such as kitchen cabinets and countertops, window and door trim, and the overall colour palette for the home, most of which have not been selected yet. Clearly this was not a decision I could make in isolation. I needed to take a step back and consider the overall design style for the home.

I soon found myself overwhelmed by the number of decisions I had to make, and drowning in an endless sea of options with no idea where to start. I knew I didn’t want to hire a designer to “do our home” – that kind of expense is outside my budget – but also, I really wanted to do this myself. I was looking forward to this new avenue for creative expression, one that I’ve denied myself for so long because my ugly mobile home just wasn’t worth the effort. I wanted the result to be an expression of myself, not something that someone else put together for me.

While I was searching for information on how to choose a colour palette for my home, I found some really cool home design blogs. And I soon discovered that there are some great options out there for people like me who want to DIY their interior design, but need a bit of help.

My first great find was Kylie M Interiors. I loved Kylie’s blog articles on paint colours, and I soon found myself reading pretty much everything else on her blog. I liked her style and the personality that came through in her writing, so I was delighted to discover that she lived close by.

Importantly, Kylie is one of a growing number of design entrepreneurs who are using the Internet to provide home design services in a whole new way. She offers e-consulting services at very reasonable prices, and the bite-size portions of expertise she offers are perfect for people like me who want to do it ourselves, but could use some helpful input at various points along the way.

Because Kylie lives about an hour away, we decided on a consulting appointment in person. We met at a coffee shop, and I came armed with floor plans and a laptop bulging with Houzz ideabooks and Pinterest boards. In two short hours Kylie settled many design dilemmas for me, and I no longer felt like I was drowning in options with no idea where to start.

In regards to flooring, she helped me see that a cool colour would provide a great balance to my warm colour palette. And because the living room is relatively small and part of an open concept kitchen/dining area, she advised me to keep the finish simple. I will likely have rugs scattered around the place, so keeping the floor neutral and uniformly coloured will avoid the space getting visually overcluttered. She didn’t say “you should pick THAT finish”, instead she pointed me in a direction that greatly narrowed down my options so that I could make a choice myself. THAT is what I wanted in a designer!

The cool pale grey of the flooring provides a nice contrast to the warm blonde woods and warm colour palette of reds and oranges.

The cool light grey of this flooring provides a nice contrast to the blonde wood and warm colour palette of reds and oranges.

The aggregate finish in this floor provides great detail and depth in a room with a large exposed floor area and minimalist design elements.

The aggregate finish on this floor provides visual interest in a room with a large exposed floor area and minimalist design elements.

The smooth, almost matte finish of these floors doesn't distract from the beautiful wood elements.

The smooth, uniform finish of this floor doesn’t distract from the beautiful wood elements.

Kylie also helped settle a number of other outstanding issues. For example, I wasn’t sure where the polished concrete flooring would end, and what I would use instead in those rooms. She encouraged me to simplify – the house is not huge and too many different flooring choices would break it up and make it look choppy and small. I was happy to hear this, as it reduced the number of decisions I would have to make.

For example, I was thinking of putting cheap linoleum in the kids’ bedrooms since they tend to be pretty hard on their surroundings. She suggested I use laminate flooring continued from the adjacent family room and small hallway area to pull the spaces together. Laminate flooring can be inexpensive but still look good, and it means one choice will take care of several areas of the house.

For the bathrooms and laundry/mudroom she suggested I stick with polished concrete, which was another big relief for several reasons. First, it saves me from numerous tiling decisions (size, layout, materials, colour); second, it maintains consistency in the overall home decor by simplifying the number of floor finishes; third, it’s a great material for “wet” rooms; and fourth, the cost will not be much more given the concrete guys are already there. I can even get them to put lines in the concrete to make it look like a tiled floor, and for the master ensuite, which is north facing, I can add a tint to warm it up a bit.

The look of this tile could easily be achieved with concrete, and no grout!

The look of this tile could easily be achieved with concrete. And no grout to clean!

This tinted concrete floor would warm up a bathroom.

This tinted concrete floor would add needed warmth to a north-facing bathroom.

Kylie also helped me narrow down my choices for the kitchen countertops. Due to budget limitations, I may end up with laminate, and she showed me some great options that would go well with my flooring and the blonde, natural wood cabinets I want (her blog post about laminate countertops really impressed me: not everybody can afford expensive countertops, and she made it feel like a legitimate and positive option).

If the budget allows for more, she recommended quartz, which was nice to hear because (a) I’m sick to death of granite, and (b) my best friend recently redid her kitchen – she did tons of research and loved the quartz she chose as a result. I like the smoother, more uniform finish of quartz, and there are even some that mimic poured concrete countertops (which have a great aesthetic but are somewhat high-maintenance).

Caesarstone in Raw Concrete

Caesarstone in Raw Concrete


Caesarstone in Shitake

Caesarstone in Shitake

Based on photos I showed her of colour schemes I liked, Kylie suggested some paint colours for the walls that she thought would help me get the look I wanted. Choosing paint can be so overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a starting point. With Kylie’s guidance, I know what colour families to start with, and that will make choosing shades and tints much easier (stay tuned for a future blog post with links to great resources for learning about interior paint colours).

I'm madly in love with these creamy wall colours.

I’m madly in love with these creamy wall colours.

Aside from helping me narrow down my paint colour choices, Kylie also made a suggestion that had never even occurred to me. I have a narrow dining area (10 feet wide) with a door at one end that leads to the outside. Because part of that wall with the door is an interior wall (there’s a laundry room on the other side), the door cannot be centred on the dining area, which kind of bothered me. It also bugged me that when the dining set was centred in the room, the door was not aligned with it. I figured it was a minor irritation and I’d just have to live with it since I didn’t want to make the house any bigger.

Dining area is open on the left side to the living room. Along the top wall are three huge picture windows with a pretty view of the property. A kitchen counter runs along the bottom edge from right to left, ending with an eating bar. On the right is a door to the patio. On the other side of the wall 9where the "1000" is, is the laundry room, so the door cannot be centred on that wall.

The dining area is open on the left side to the living room. Along the top are three huge picture windows with a pretty view of the property. A kitchen counter runs along the bottom edge from right to left, ending with an eating bar. On the right is a door to the patio. Below that, on the other side of the wall, is the laundry room.

I had considered putting in bench seating on one side of the table: Sarah Susanka recommends this in her Not So Big House series as a way to reduce the space taken up by a dining set. For some reason, I assumed such a bench would naturally be placed along the exterior wall, topped with windows, and I didn’t like the way it looked in that space.

But it didn’t occur to me to put the bench on the other side, up against the kitchen counter. I suppose I had it in my head that there would be shelving on that side; after all, the room was inspired by this photo:

The inspiration for my dining room and kitchen layout.

The inspiration for my dining room and kitchen layout.

But when Kylie suggested putting the bench against the kitchen counter, I immediately saw the benefits. First, it creates a clear passage to the door, and that prevents the dining suite from appearing to be off-centre in the space. Second, because the bench will be longer than the dining table (at least when we don’t have it extended for guests), it provides easy access from either end of the table.

Having the bench open at both ends means less scootching along for guests.

Having the bench open at both ends means less trouble getting in and out.

Third, it provides a lovely place to sit and admire the beautiful view out the windows while I sip my morning tea. And finally, it provides a great design opportunity: fabrics and throw pillows are a fun and inexpensive way to add colour to a space.

Built-in bench seating allows for use of fabrics and throw pillows to add colour to the space.

Built-in bench seating allows for the use of fabrics and throw pillows to add colour to the space.

It was genius, and I hadn’t even asked her about it! She just saw it while looking at my plans! That right there was worth the cost of the entire session.

I left my session with Kylie feeling so much lighter. With her help and expertise, I’ve narrowed down my options and I know where to start when it comes to the flooring, countertops, and paint selection. Undoubtedly as we progress through the build, I will have more dilemmas I need help with. Knowing I can hire Kylie for a short session, when I need it, rather than committing to having someone doing my whole home, is really nice. I feel like I have an expert resource in my back pocket that I can turn to when needed, and the cost is super budget-friendly.


Before I go, I also want to give a shout-out to another great home design blog that I found: Teal and Lime. Jackie has some great free resources on her blog, and I signed up for her newsletter to get them. That’s how I found out about her online courses. She is currently offering a 50% early-bird discount on her latest course, the Defining Your Style Lab, and I decided to snatch it up (offer expires Feb. 9).

The course starts on March 1st, but she has already given us some preliminary exercises to work on. I’ve been nursing a bad cold, and yesterday with the kids at learning centre and hubby off in the big city for work, I had the house to myself. I was able to lie down with my laptop and work through the first few assignments. I’ve really enjoyed them so far, and I can see that being able to define my own personal style in a way that will help me make choices moving forward is going to be really helpful.

So hooray for brilliant entrepreneurs who are finding a way to get professional design help out to the masses in small affordable chunks of instruction and advice. I’m super grateful to have these resources at hand, and I’ll keep you posted as I make choices and try to make this new house into a home!


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