Define your environment
Spend some quality time assessing how you live in your home, not just the space you are looking to renovate. Good designers weigh how the layout, traffic patterns and needs of your lifestyle balance with the functionality of your home. How does the layout of your space psychologically affect your emotional well-being and life? More than you may realize. It’s hard to identify those trouble spots without spending some time analyzing all areas in the home.
Start by listing your general wishes for the house (a fully functional office, room to entertain friends, an inviting outdoor space, storage for your Boston Terrier figurine collection.) Just brainstorm, don’t think too hard or try to limit your ideas. Next list adjectives you want associated with your space (calming, inspiring, themed, glamorous, rustic, ethnic, urban, sleek, etc.)
Frequently, clients think they can’t have it all, but more often than not, design professionals are able to incorporate all their client’s wishes by thinking a little outside the box!
Scope of Project
This is a term you will hear the professionals using time and time again. Once you decide exactly what your project will be, you need to set some parameters. To define your scope of project you need to, not only answer the questions in the exercise below, but expand upon them into as much detail as you can. It’s like having a business plan: the more detailed you can be, the clearer your vision will be and the better your chances are of having a good experience and successful renovation.
Answer these questions with as many specifics about your expectations
- What is my timeframe?
- Do I need to hire a professional? (interior designer, architect, general contractor, project manager) See article Who are these people?! And what do they do?
- What is my budget maximum?
- What vendors do I have in mind for materials?
Do your style homework
Frequently, when meeting with clients, it becomes a designer’s job to be an interpreter, to read between the lines. Clients will show the designer pictures from magazines that exemplify what they believe to be their ideal look for the room. Sometimes it’s just the color scheme, the furniture arrangement or texture story that really speak to you. It’s very important to look critically at what you do and don’t like about photographed rooms to hone your vision and get exactly what you truly want.
Read design magazines, blogs and websites to find out more about what’s going on in the design world. Tear pictures out of magazines. Try to define what about each picture catches your eye. Is it the light, bright airy feeling, is it the furniture arrangement, is it the fabric and rug textures, or could it simply be the wall color? Get a binder and put those inspiring pictures together, jot down your thoughts about each room on a post-it affixed to each page. This will help hone your vision and give your project more focus. Create floorplans
Don’t want to waste time and money? Smart designers start their physical design process right here: with floorplans. After defining your desires for the space, it’s time to get down to the dirty business of laying out that idea. Retail furniture stores like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel can help you get ideas on various furniture arrangement possibilities just by visiting and looking at their how they display their floor models in settings.
Go to an art store, like Dick Blick or ArtMart here in St. Louis, and grab a packet of ¼” scale graph paper and a ¼” scale furniture template (only a couple bucks!) Sit down and map out your room. Pencil in a couple different arrangements to see what may or may not work. It helps to sketch the room out once and make some photocopies of just the walls and doors so you can try out many different plan ideas. One idea should stand out as a natural arrangement. Before completely committing to your space plan, lay out newspaper on your floor to make sure the footprints of the items you are selecting will indeed work.
Some general spacing considerations:
12-18” between sofas and coffee tables or ottomans
3-4” between upholstery and side tables
24”+ for traffic paths (wheelchairs need 36”)
36”+ between dining chairs and walls
Budgeting & Materials Research
Building on the previous step, creating floor plans, you now have an idea of what items to budget and research for your project! Go out to shops, look in magazines and check out websites of retailers to get an expectation of what the components of your project will cost. Above all, do not forget to include LABOR, this can easily double the cost of a project.
Create an Excel spreadsheet that lists all items you will need to purchase (see our sample budget spreadsheet) to obtain a clearer picture of your total cost.
Some tips regarding budgeting and materials research
- Be realistic–those lamps you love…$1800 each? Clip a picture for your designer or lighting showroom salesman, they can probably find something similar in your price range.
- Don’t forget all those incidentals-they can really add up (curtain rods, rug pads, chocolate silk shades for your chandelier that was purchased with cream silk shades.)
- Delivery costs can add as much as 20%, so be sure you are factoring in those figures.