Our essential decorating guide

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Great decoration starts long before you pop the lid off the paint tin. Ask any professional and they’ll tell you that planning and preparation give the best results. So if you’re thinking about smartening up your home, here are our tips to do it properly:

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Plan your paints

Take some time to really think about the room: even if that’s just sitting down for a few minutes with a brew. Do you want it to be a relaxing, tranquil space? Warm and cosy? Vibrant and eye-catching? Whatever you want, hunt out some inspiration. Look at friends’ houses, Pinterest or magazines and brochures. You’ll soon work out what you like and what you don’t.

Now it’s time for the fun bit: picking your colours. Our favourite approach is to make your own mini colour palette with a mix of three or four shades to use for the room. You’ll find plenty of palettes and ideas online from calming and relaxing neutrals to rich and luxurious shades.

Once you’ve chosen your colours, check in with your decorator before you buy paint or paper. After years in the game they’ll know what works - and they might be able to pass on trade deals too. They’ll often be able to colour match your choices with professional grade paint which is durable, good value and easy to apply.

It takes a bit more thought than slapping on brilliant white or basic magnolia, but it’ll help you create a space you’ll love for years to come.

Think about the details

Decorating a room is the perfect time to sort out those little details you wouldn’t normally get round to. So before you start, think about anything else that might be worth doing:

Woodwork: Are your skirting boards, doors and windows getting a bit tired? Then give them a coat when you’re doing the walls. A good decorator will fill in dents, holes and gaps before they repaint.

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Lighting: The right lighting can make a huge difference, whether you want to add uplighters, put a pendant lamp over your dining table or wire in some picture lights. Plan it out first and by the time you’re done, the new cabling will be invisible.

Switches and sockets: Don’t let broken sockets or grubby old light switches distract from your new décor. It’s a simple job for an electrician to swap them out – and it’s a great chance to add extras like USB charging and smart lighting controls.

Flooring: Plan on getting the decorating done before you get new carpet, laminate or wooden flooring. The exception is if you’re getting new skirting boards: in that case your decorator can paint the fresh woodwork while using protective sheeting to keep your new floor clean.

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Carpentry: Have you got any awkward spaces that are crying out for some shelving? Or badly hung doors that don’t shut properly? If you get it done before you decorate your painter can finish things off neatly.

Is everything ready?

There’s an old saying that ‘decoration is preparation’ – and we couldn’t agree more! The better prepared you are, the faster the job will be and the better the results.

Most decorators can do the prep work for you. And that’s a good idea: it’s messy work that can ruin the whole job if it’s done badly. So what might your decorator need to be done before they start slapping paint to plaster?

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Get it stripped

If you’ve got textured wallpaper or a dodgy pattern you want to get rid of, it’s time to get stripping. It’s a messy and time consuming job so why not get some help from a handyman? They can do the job properly so your new paint or paper will look amazing.

Plaster before paint

Has stripping the paper pulled off chunks of plaster? Or does your old and lumpy plasterwork need freshening up? While decorators can fill small holes, you’ll need a plasterer for a proper re-skim.

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Sand the woodwork

Painting straight on top of yellowing gloss paint is a big no-no: it needs to be keyed up first. This can range from rubbing it over with sandpaper to stripping it or sanding it back to wood. It can be quite a big job if you’ve got lots of old paint, so think about getting a handyman to help.

Mind the gaps

If you’ve got any gaps around window frames, skirting boards, power sockets or internal corners, it’s not necessarily a problem. Just tell your decorator and they can seal things up before they paint.

Clear things out

Clearing a room out is a hassle but your decorator will thank you – especially if they’re doing the ceiling. Ideally, you’ll move everything into another room or, if that’s a problem, you can move furniture into the middle and cover it up with decorators’ dust sheets.

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