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How to Decorate a Room with a Mood Board: Bringing it all Together

Updated on April 23, 2012
janikon profile image

I'm a thirty-something writer who lives in downtown Toronto. I've been an online writer for over seven years, focusing on health trends.


When I first told my friend B that I was moving into my first apartment she was excited for me, she thoughtfully sipped her coffee, mulling over the design potential, before asking, "are you going to make mood boards?" The idea was not a foreign concept to me, I've used them before when I'm writing short stories or penning screenplays but, for some reason, had never associated them with designing a room. I've poured over the numerous design books my mother hides in a woven basket in my parents living room and flipped through O Magazine (I know - it hurts me too) in lines at grocery stores - mood boards have been mentioned in, nearly, every one and yet, being the Cletus I am, I've never adopted them into my own design plans. But I picture you - a regular design god(dess) - as much smarter than me.

Let me be the first to warn you, they are addictive. The general concept of the 'mood board' is to fully actualize your room before you start down the evil path of mixing leopard print with gold-leafing. Don't lie, you've thought about incorporating prints at one time in your life - aren't you glad you didn't? And for all those who had the animal printed wall and matching bedding, I am so sorry for you. The best part about creating a mood board is to avoid these decorating faux-pas and later, having not touched your space yet, burning it; which is cleaner and you can burn it without having to fill out the pesky insurance forms.

I would suggest putting together a mood board for anyone who is having a design dilema or wanted to see a glimpse of the finished product before all the sweat-work begins. I can't stress enough how much work redecorating can be, especially after you've finished decorating the first time - redecorating leads to thoughts of failure and emotional fights with spouses, friends and RONA employees; the 're' should be avoided at all costs.

wall and fabric colours: best friends or mortal enemies?

There is always someone who feels it necessary to match the fabric colour on the furniture to the colour they painted the walls, what is suppose to be avant-garde and new-age comes across feeling like the designer snorts cocaine in the back of an eighties revival club. I would suggest instead of matching the fabric of the couch - being a large focal point and, often times, the main piece in the room - you match the walls with large decorative pillows or a soft throw you can sling over an ottoman. If you can't find the exact colour of the walls - it's okay - most people won't notice as long as they are in the same family. You want to create a tied together look within the space - no matter where it is in the house - in no way do you want to assalt your guests with the fact you've learned to match colours; like Robert Fulghum, we too learned it in kindergarten.

No matter what room you're designing the importance of accents is fundamental to the design process, having a mood board - like a bride planning her wedding - allows you to visualize what works and what does not; which colours compliment each other and which clash; it also allows you, if you're a democratic designer, a tangible collection of ideas to discuss with the person you happen to be sharing the space with. My mother use to paint the house when my father was away on business trips, every time he went away the foyer was a new colour; it's happened so frequently our extended family discusses it on holidays and I think there was mention of this habit appearing in my mothers obituary (which is still a hundred, or so, years away from being penned)

chachkies are not just for the elderly anymore: personal touches safe for the masses

My grandmother collected Royal Doulton figurines which she displayed on her living room fireplace and throughout the piano room, these delicate figurines gave the room her own personal touch. I never thought about this until my cousin M and I were instructed to pack them into boxes in preparation for the move, once they were gone the room no longer felt as homey or quite like it had. These small personal touches are what makes the room your own and turns a beautiful room into a beautiful room you, and your guests, feel comfortable in.

You never want to create a space so devoid of personality it becomes a cold space in your home, sometimes even photographs cannot save a room from this polarizing effect. I've been in many rooms in my life and there is always something which gives away the personality of the person living there; my mother loves wicker and expensive teddy bears; my other grandmother hung Norman Rockwell decorative plates in her dining room; my sister drapes thin coloured fabric over her lamps to create ambiance; and I collect volumes of Alice in Wonderland; my favourite story - the small collectables become synonymous with our personalities and therefore people feel comfortable in your space.

I wouldn't suggest too many chachkies in each room; a total of five to ten, depending on the size of the space, in each room is a good rule of thumb to live by; there is a fine line between personality and the beginnings of a hoarding problem. For example, if there is some space on a bookshelf - say you needed another five books to fill it - you could split the books down the middle and display a chachkie between them; this creates the illusion of an intentional space and is pleasing to the eye.

Personally, I find semi-pornographic statues and phallic shaped objects displayed on coffee tables or side tables to be somewhat uncomfortable. So, here is a mantra to live by, if you would be horrified to have your parents or grandparents or religious leader come across a specific collection of whatever, you've decided to proudly display in shared space, if they were given the task of packing up your apartment or house after you died in a freak bus accident; do NOT decorate with them.

curtains, blinds or privacy shades? how much light do you really require?

I've always been partial to curtains or drapes - depending on who you're talking to at the fabric store - and have only ever happily agreed to blinds recently; I'm living in a main level apartment and bedroom window overlooks a public park (of sorts). Unless you're living in an apartment, in the basement or on the main level, I believe drapes look neater and a little classier than blinds or privacy shades. If you absolutely feel it necessary to dress your windows with blinds, I would suggest going with splurging on venetian ones - they look nicer and come in a variety of styles to suit any room.

Privacy shades? Unless you're one of the Salvatore brothers on days without his magic ring, you do not need privacy shades. I would go as far as to say privacy shades should not be used in your home unless you are, a) in witness protection; b) a drug dealer and therefore, have a meth lab in your kitchen; c) you are the uni-bomber; or, finally, d) Marie Barone happens to be your mother in law (and even then I would just suggest moving, far away).

The colour of the drapes should always be a neutral colour which compliments the colour of the walls, if you've chosen a neutral colour for the room then I would suggest a dramatic colour for the drapes. If you've chosen gray as the wall colour then try a bright white for the drapes or, if you've gone purple for the walls try soft teal for the drapes. Another cool design trick is to match the accent wall - if you're brave enough to try one in your space - to the colour of the curtains; this is another interesting way to tie the room together.

finishing touches: yes, you're nearing the end

When my friend suggested drawing up a mood board to me, over coffee, that fateful day in April, I was thankful - so, of course, I hope you're as thankful for the idea as I was. The importance of tying the room together, completing the space is paramount to the overall comfort and aesthetics of the space you've taken the time to put together. Painting the walls and moving in the furniture is only half the battle, it's not until you add those small personal touches does the space finally become a completed room. It could be as simple as creating a photo wall or deciding to brave the challenge of an accent wall or even simply adding some chachkies to the bare surfaces in your room. But if there is one thing I hope you've learned is the need for completion and dash of personality; I've always found the worst rooms - the most uncomfortable to be in - were rooms decorated simply to impress others.

A completed room should make you feel comfortable, calm and want to lounge for hours, it should never cause panic, dread or for you to wonder if the pillow, on your armchair, was once an animal from the local zoo; five words to live and decorate by, 'mood boards are my friend '.


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    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 

      7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      I like your tone and of course the decorating tips are cool too!

    • janikon profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      @ vocalcoach those who decorate on a budget are often the ones with the most interesting spaces and get the biggest bang for their buck // @ prairieprincess i'm telling you; mood boards are the greatest inventions for any decorator

    • ournote2self profile image


      8 years ago

      Haha! Cute hub...and very good tips. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      What an excellent and helpful idea, the board test is. I love it!Decorating (on a budget) is my favorite hobbie and you have given me some good tips. Thanks and rated UP. :)vocalcoach

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      8 years ago from Canada

      This is very funny, and useful, too! I love the idea of an board to test your ideas first, and your examples are hilarious. Great read!


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