There’s no feeling like the thrill of your first big chance to decorate your space. Maybe you’ve had places before, filled with hand-me-downs and rented furniture, or perhaps you’ve been a life-long customer of IKEA opting to buy pieces as you’ve seen them in the catalogue. But now, finally, you’re starting from scratch. Decorating is a lot harder than it seems. There are tons of options, styles, and high with low items to mix. Even if you are an avid Pinterest fan, or have been known to stock up on interior decorating magazines while at the beach, here are a few tips to help you get it right.

1. Gather a lot of inspiration but then narrow it down to one image per room. Whatever your inspiration medium of choice is (we hope it’s Rue!), before you even get started, gather as much graphic information as possible. This is your time to explore and try different hats on without any commitment. Do your images trend towards American traditional, or mid-century Scandinavian or beachy minimalist? Here’s a guide to different design styles. Once you’ve collected all the images that inspire you, pick one per room. (Note: before making your final selection, consider tip #2). Put the selected images for each room (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc) and see if it’s telling the same visual story. Does each choice make sense together? This will be your framework upon which you can start making selections of furniture, wall color and accessories.

2. Consider whether your home’s architectural bare bones are similar to what you see in your inspiration images. The biggest mistake we see is people selecting the same items that they see in their inspiration space and then wondering why it doesn’t have the same effect in their own. Architecture and finishings interact with the decor and make a big difference on the overall look. If you are obsessed with how an oversized pendant looks in a loft apartment, understand that it will most likely look too large for your mid-century one story house.

3. Play the cereal box game with the spaces that inspire you. Do you remember those games on the back of cereal boxes where you had to point out what was different between two different drawings? We recommend doing the same thing with your inspiration images. Besides the overall look, what are the pieces that really stand out? How much of one color do you see in comparison to others? Ok, so you like a monochrome room, is everything made of the same material or are you seeing different shades of gray as well as textures?

4. When in doubt buy your main pieces (sofa, bed-frame, dining table) in clean and classic shapes. Unless you are very confident about it, big ticket items should be where you play it safe. Find something that really could go in many style directions and in a neutral color.

5. Something caught your attention but it’s a risky choice. Wait before purchasing. We’re for bringing in bold pieces into your home. By all means, interior decorating should be about expressing your personality and point of view. But we can’t tell you how many of our friends have purchased mirrors, consoles, pendant lamps that they ended up regretting because the design caught their attention for a hot minute. Maybe you will still love it in a year’s time, but wait a week or two before going for it.

6. Get test-size paint samples and try it on your wall. Wall color changes depending on how the light hits it. The only way to really tell how it will look is testing it in your space. Also remember to see how it looks during the day and at night.

7. Small rugs never look good. You may think that you have a modestly sized living room, but trust us, that 4 ft x 6 ft rug will only emphasize that. Most living rooms require at least a 6 ft x 9ft rug if not larger. A larger rug gives more elegance to a space.

8. Small photo frames on a wall looks amateur. Anything smaller than an textbook is too small to put on your walls. If you have a 4 in x 6 in photo that you love either have it professionally blown up or put in a frame to style on your bookshelf.

9. Good lighting is key. Just like a hair cut or makeup, if lighting is not done well it can make even the prettiest canvas look bad. Have multiple light sources at a low wattage. Check out this light bulb resource to help you handle the details of choosing the right one.

10. Invest in good materials. Faux walnut, an imitation silk rug, and cheaply made metal table lamps will always be hard to up-style. That’s not to say that you can’t find quality products at less expensive design resources – IKEA, Target, Zara Home all have pieces that not only have great design but are made well too. It’s just about looking out for materials that have a noticeable good quality to them. How they are holding up in the store is one good way of seeing how they will fare with time.