A house evolves over time. I’ve said this numerous times to my clients to reassure them when they feel their home is not “finished.” Instead, think of your home as a work in progress. Due to time and budget, it is rare when all changes and improvements can be made all at once. Not only that, but you probably have noticed that your tastes change over time too. What really gives a house a finished, designer look is the thoughtful selection and placement of accessories and furnishings. And the good news is that this work can be done in stages, as your time and budget allow, and as your tastes become more defined.

Let’s begin with a basic living room: white walls, wall-to-wall beige carpeting, blinds on the windows, a fireplace, sofa, loveseat, coffee table and end tables. Once you’ve got the basics, you can start with Stage 1.

Stage 1: First, you paint. Wall color immediately adds interest, and also makes a room feel more complete. Next, find a great art print to hang over your fireplace. Select a color from the art print and purchase some throw pillows for the sofa and love seat. Place a few accessories on your coffee table, such as a nice book, green plant and some candles. Some framed family photos and a small vase of flowers is plenty for your end tables. Do you have enough lighting? How about a floor lamp next to your sofa?

Stage 2: You’ve lived with the first layer for a little while, and now you are ready for more. The beige carpeting is looking bland and worn in places, but you cannot afford to change it yet. Try placing a colorful area rug in front of your sofa and loveseat. This will give the room an instant punch of color. Then turn your attention to the windows. The blinds are great for privacy, but hanging stationery curtain panels on a decorative rod will really give the windows a finishing touch. Select a color that will complement the area rug and the art print that is still hanging above your fireplace. An indoor tree will give the room a nice touch. And some ledges hung on the wall will provide space to display some family photos.

Stage 3: You’ve saved up some money and are now ready to replace the carpet with the cherry hardwood floor you’ve been wanting. The same area rug will look great on the new floor. An upholstered chair in a coordinating fabric or leather will add extra seating, and also provide another texture and pattern in the room. Replace the overhead light with a hanging pendant or chandelier. This will look beautiful and also anchor your seating area. Add a piece of furniture that makes a statement: a gorgeous oversized clock, or an antique chest, or an etagere to display treasured collectibles, for example.

Over time, as you add your personal touches, your house will evolve into a beautiful, comfortable home.