by Nicole Matthews, Owner at Thirteen Main and Furniture (Deer River, MN)

It's easy to get caught up in the latest trends and colors, or to be overly inspired by the latest episode of HGTV's "Fixer Upper." But I've learned the best way to make your home a place you love is to identify and cultivate how you want your home to make you feel.

1) Where to start? The best place to start is the room your family spends the most time in. By starting here, you will find motivation to finish the project quickly. It will also help you see the transformation being made and encourage you to keep going.

2) What's your budget? How much are you willing to pay to create the space you love? But you should also factor in what's realistic... The last thing you want is to over spend, end up with regret, and be reminded of it every time you sit on your new couch. Get real with yourself before you get in a store and fall in love with pieces out of your price range. Setting a budget early in the process will help you make faster decisions and eliminate unnecessary disagreements. 

3) What works now? Before you start posting everything you currently own on a swap and sell site, think about how you can make it work. A coat of paint can change everything and end up saving you a lot of money. These days you can easily find a DIY video on how to refurbish nearly everything. Use what you have to create what you love.

4) What's on your Pinterest page? Odds are long before you step into a store, you've been piecing together your dream space one Pinterest board at a time. Go back and look through your pins and look for patterns. Have you always loved the color green or leather sofas? Do floral patterns or more simplistic design elements show up often? Looking at your preferences over time shows you how long you have been interested in them, or if they are just a trend. This will ensure you buy what you've consistently leaned toward and not just something you'll tire of quickly.

5) How much space do you really have? Save yourself from the guessing game of, "will this fit?" Have a notes page in your phone with the measurements of the room and the sizes of your current furniture. Don't forget to take pictures! A quick pic of each wall will pay off when you're trying to make decisions. Finally, if you just aren't sure, tape it out; use painters tape to layout the measurements so you can get a visual of the pieces in your space. 

6) What should you bring? Before you head to your local furniture store, grab a tote with paint colors, tiles, a floorboard, anything you have that will help you make a better decision about what to bring into your space. I've had cabinet doors, couch cushions, table legs, and more walk into the store and I've never heard someone say they regretted bringing them. 

7) What should you ask? You have to know your desired timeline. How long will it take to get a certain piece of furniture? If you aren't on a time crunch, great! If you are, remember not all stores sell models off the floor. It can take months to get a custom order in, so be prepared and make sure that the places you're shopping can meet your needs. 

8) How do you get it home? Having your furniture delivered might make sense, but not all delivery services offer set up. Find out if your new furniture will be dropped off curbside or carried in. Knowing the easiest way to get it into the room and what needs to come off the walls to make that happen will save you loads of time. 

9) Be proud! Telling your family's story will never go out of style, so boldly display pictures of the people you love. Don't hesitate to hang handprints and your tiny Picasso's latest work of art. There is a heartbeat to any home; the love and life that fills it. Maybe you change the frame around the family photo, but place it back on the mantle and gather with the people you love to really enjoy the space you've created.