Every other week I’ll answer one of your interior design questions. Just send me an email with your question and I’ll reply right here. This week’s question:

I have a room that needs paint, carpet, and upholstery replaced. Which comes first? I’m guessing in the order I wrote it?

If you are referring to the installation of these three things, then you are correct. But if you mean selecting them, then the order is in reverse. This is due to the quantity of options in each category. The more you have to choose from, the easier it is to find something you like. So, leave the easier choices for last.

When you are looking for a sofa, for instance, you are limited to the styles and sizes available from a given manufacturer. You are then limited to that manufacturer’s fabric options. After you’ve chosen a fabric, you’d use it as your guide to look for carpet or a rug. By the way, the terms “carpet” and “rug” are sometimes used interchangeably but a carpet is considered a fixed, wall-to-wall application whereas a rug is an individual, movable piece.

Paint colors come last because there are thousands of them and many will suit your sofa and carpet or rug.

My above answer applies to most cases but there are exceptions. Some people have a strong interest in rugs and view them as pieces of art. If you feel this way, then you might want to choose your rug first, your upholstery second, and paint color third.

You can also choose your rug first if you are customizing your upholstered pieces. Even if the frames are not custom-made, some manufacturers allow you to supply your own fabric. Since this opens up a world of possibilities, you can feel confident that there will be many fabrics that will coordinate with your rug.

Although paint colors typically come last, there are times when you might design around them. If you have pigmented Venetian plaster throughout the house, it would probably be a good idea to maintain this flow, and in doing so, you’d choose your upholstery and carpet based on the wall color.

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These guidelines suit most situations but design inspiration can come from virtually anything, anywhere, and anyone. Once inspired, you build upon that spark. A few years ago, Kohler produced a television commercial showing an edgy architect, dressed in black from head to toe, guiding a couple on a tour of his avant-garde work. When he asked them, in his Teutonic accent, “What can I do for you?”, the couple pulled out a single, bathroom, Kohler faucet and said, “Design our house around this”. This does makes sense to me. The style, shape and finish of the faucet said volumes about the couple’s vision.

If you don’t have a faucet or any other source of inspiration, then follow my first suggestion: upholstery, carpet, paint.

Have a question? Send to plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net with “Ask a Designer” in the subject line.

Patti L Cowger is a Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com; call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net. Demystifying Design appears every other Saturday.