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A new-build property provides the perfect blank canvas for creating a home that’s a true reflection of you, your personality and your lifestyle. After all, you’re not inheriting anyone else’s tastes, and you won’t have any stressful structural works to contend with before you can start on the décor. But knowing where to begin can be daunting when you’re faced with plain walls and empty spaces. To help, I’ve teamed up with David Wilson Homes, one of the UK’s leading builders of high-quality housing, to share a few tips on how to approach decorating a new home.

Find your style

Before you start, think carefully about how you want your home to look and feel. What atmosphere do you want to create? What style of décor will make you feel happiest and most comfortable? Collect images, textures and materials that you’re drawn to and make a mood board that you can refer back to as the project progresses. Pinterest, Instagram and magazines are great sources of inspiration for this, but be realistic about what will work for you and remember that rooms shot for editorial purposes often don’t reflect day-to-day life. You might love the idea of a bohemian, vintage-inspired look, but it’s not going to work if, deep down, you know you can’t stand clutter.

Of course, one of the benefits of buying a new-build property is that you can choose many of the design features before you even move in. David Wilson’s ‘Expressions’ service, for example, lets you customise fixtures, fittings and finishes to suit your needs. It takes a lot of the hassle out of the design process, but make sure you think beyond fleeting trends and choose things that will stand the test of time.

Take your time with colour

Once you’ve decided on a style it can be tempting to rush into painting or wallpapering, but it’s not recommended during the first 12 months while your home will still be settling and drying out from the construction process. So, use this period to get a feel for the light and how it changes during the day, and have a think about what colours might work where. When the time does come to pick up a paintbrush, make sure you apply a test patch first, as the same shade can look very different depending on the direction in which a room faces. North-facing spaces tend to have bluish light, for example, while south-facing rooms get warmer, more golden light.

Play around with furniture and layout

Buying a new build means you won’t have any pre-conceived ideas of furniture arrangements from the previous occupants, so you have the opportunity to create a layout that works perfectly for your needs. Start by identifying what activities take place in your home and how you want to use each room. Would you like an area for dinner parties or family meals? Or a cosy nook where you can curl up with a book? Large open-plan spaces can seem particularly daunting, so think about how you could ‘zone’ them to create defined areas for different things.

Once you’ve done this, you can start creating a floorplan for each room (either with a pen and paper or a dedicated app). It helps to start with the largest and most essential item – the bed, the dining table, the sofa etc. It’s normally the biggest investment, and often the focal point for the whole space, so get that right and then position smaller pieces around it. But avoid the temptation to over-fill your home – you’ll want to leave enough space for people to move around freely.

Get the lighting right

Lighting has a huge impact on the way a space looks and feels, and it can make or break an interior-design scheme. Lighting generally falls into three categories: ambient lighting, which mimics daylight and illuminates the space as a whole; focused task lighting to help with certain activities; and accent lighting, which can be used to create pools of light or to highlight specific features. The great thing about a new build is that you can choose whether you want pendant lights or down lights, so think carefully about how you’ll use each space. Once you move in, you can then add floor and table lamps to complement the built-in lighting and create a cosy, relaxed feel. Seating and dining areas in particular often benefit from softer light sources that can be used in addition to or instead of the main overhead light to vary the mood.

Add colour and texture with accessories

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of smaller touches such as soft furnishings, artworks, plants, window dressings and vases. They really do help to set the tone of the space and they’re a great way to add instant colour and texture, long before you can start painting or papering. Just stay mindful of the finished look and feel you want to achieve (a mood board will come in very handy here) so that you don’t waste money on something that doesn’t work further down the line.

See David Wilson Homes for more advice on decorating a new-build property, including my tips on quick and easy ways to bring your home to life when you first move in.

Images four and nine by Abi Dare; all other photography via Shutterstock