1. Please do not buy the display room at the furniture store. This is especially true of bedroom suite furniture. Just resist the urge. Often times, the composition is too large and too heavy for your room, can't tell you how many times I've seen a dresser and a tall boy right next to each other. The only time this makes the process easier is when you are selecting furniture. This choice limits you so much in the future.
2. Plan first - Keep it simple. Go get some graph paper and measure out your room. Be sure to draw in doors and windows. Next, how to you travel through the room? Draw the path on the plan, give it 36", if you can. (Remember, 1 square = 1 inch) . How much room do you have left? This is where your furniture should be.
3. Go 'Sit' Shopping. An exercise I do with my clients is to take them sitting. Often this is for my clients that can not articulate what they like in there furniture, they are the "I know it when I see it" group. You are not buying anything today, so let go of that pressure. Just sit. Do you feel comfortable or not? Then I look at what the client says they like about it, I look at the dimensions. Is it too soft (loose back) or too hard (tight back), too many pillows, not enough room to sit? Too low? Once we've sat in quite a few and taken the time to note the details of the piece - I can essentially say you like these details, this size, this seat depth & height.
This image is from the Denver Fabrics (http://www.denverfabrics.com/) And really illustrates all the different variables to which you respond to when you like a piece of furniture.
4. Plan again. Draw everything into your floorplan, remember you need at least 18" between furniture, like a sofa and coffee table. Does it fit? We will generally determine what the most important piece in the room is, is it the bed, the sofa, a lounge chair? Plan in the must haves and then find pieces that work with it.
5. Fabrics. Don't be afraid to order your furniture with fabrics that coordinate together. There are many ways to pull them together. Do you prefer texture, pattern, neutrality? Your home will be more cohesive if you go with the "special order" route versus the off the floor. You will also have furniture that defines you, not that looks like your neighbors.
6. Accent furniture. This is where we like to have a bit more freedom with our interiors. A piece of accent furniture is where you can show your personality, your travels, your heritage. A coffee table is generally in the 18" range, a side table is generally around 30" (just make sure it makes sense with your arm heights of your chair & sofa). These tables from Cyan Design (http://www.cyandesign.biz/) have an ethnic feel. They are a bit edgy and could help more traditional furniture feel more current.
7. Art & Accessories - While art that has a strong theme can create a beautiful display, sometimes the more subtle the relationship, the stronger the display. And please, resist the urge to buy all of your accessories from one place - again, you are decorating your home, not the showroom floor. Be willing to move things around and see how you like then. When we are installing, we might set up all the accessories and then let the room be. By walking by the room through the course of the install, I can adjust the placement as needed and let the room develop. It is like letting dough rise. You are still working with it, you just need to give it time.
Remember bringing luxury into your home is a process, but it is also a fun experience!