Moving is bliss… at least for someone who loves home design. I’m utterly fired up at the prospect of doing an entire house. Of course, much of it will be exactly like my existing home, moved to a new place and shifted slightly. In such cases it’s an opportunity to get a few things right that weren’t so perfect the first time, such as paint colors or vignettes that could use a fresh perspective.
But much of it will be new. There are things I’ve been wanting to re-do that I’ve held off until I knew where we’d be living. There are grown kids’ bedrooms and a den sofa that’s a few years past its prime, as well as new rooms or differently configured ones that require a fresh approach. The scope of the project calls for astute organization, not to mention close monitoring of the budget. As I plow through my plans, it occurs to me that my curious way of working might be of some interest to my like-minded readers. Hence I give you my design process, how I approach a space.
The very first thing that I do is map out a room – literally. As an artist and a mathematically minded person, I enjoy doing my own floor plans. I like to work to scale, and the floor plan provided by the real estate agent doesn’t quite capture proportional realism. So I very primitively measure and sketch until I have an accurate floor plan done on graph paper. I know there are CAD programs you can work in, but I go very old-school with a pencil, paper and removable tape.
My next step is to measure my existing furniture, as well as the pieces that I may want to add. Each piece is then represented in scale on a piece of graph paper that I then cut out and move around my floor plan. This is all very simple and logical, but I’m amazed at how many people are surprised by the thoroughness of the process. I use removable tape, as various obstacles crop up causing need for changes.
Once I have a fairly good idea of how I want a room laid out, it’s time to address the specifics of design. Here is where my process is unwavering in its consistency with how I’ve always approached the design of anything (a sportswear line, a page layout, a logo, a table setting, a room, etc). I first determine my concept, the defining look I want to capture in the space. I like to “think” first and then find the components that satisfy my dream, rather than look for visuals first and let them drive my final design. I do this to ensure that the room most closely fulfills my ideal, instead of working with the limited choices that are current and widely available. This requires some deeper digging when sourcing the items you would like, but it also tends to offer a more honest and personalized result.
So I spend some time dreaming up my ideal for each room and then set about searching for items that would deliver that vision. For instance, in our guest bedroom I decided I would like a blue and white French cottage look. Once I have the concept, I next select 3 or 4 patterns that would define that look, as well as furniture pieces that might work in the space. This is mostly done online taking screenshots to be pieced together until I wind up with a rather unrefined version of a mood board for the room. This is an essential step for me and one that can never be cut out, because it becomes a veritable road map that will be followed unrelentingly. If it doesn’t work on the mood board, it will never work in the space. It must capture the concept and convey it at its essence or the design will end up losing its way or getting sidetracked down a different path.
Still, at this stage it’s just a road map documenting major colors and patterns primarily. Rarely will the mood board get into details and accessories because those must follow the essential design theme that’s been established at this early stage. Once I have my roadmap, the rest is all about sourcing. In my blue room I may know that I’m looking for a blue toile, a blue check and some white cottage-y looking pieces, and then I begin the hunt to find the solutions to the challenge I have posed to myself.
With a detailed and well-defined plan established, I can comfortably move on to shopping with the confidence that my selections will bring me closer to an ideal that was very intentionally set.
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