Home DecorMy Design Process June 4, 2015 I got a great comment recently from a reader named Krista about how I make my design decisions. Here was her sweet comment, “You’re sure zipping along on this! I find myself asking, “Really? You’re doing it this fast? Don’t you feel nervous not taking more time to just “sit on” your ideas to make sure you’re really happy with them before digging in? What if you’ll have regrets later?” Lindsay, how do you find the courage to go forward on any given project? I’m always concerned I won’t like the end result and feel like I have to wait a long time after thinking I like an idea before making it happen. Can you talk us through your thought processes, too? I would find that interesting and helpful. Thanks for including us in your house remodeling process. Some of us may never be in your situation, but learning how you think about decision-making would be helpful. “ In some ways, this is a hard question to tackle because it isn’t cut and dry or black and white. I can’t give you an exact formula. What works for me may not for your personality, but I hope that hearing a little about how I work might send you in the right direction. Here’s a little insight into how I make design decisions. A little disclaimer before we dive in: coming up with an entire house floor plan is different than my usual design process. I talked a lot about that here and here, but to design an entire house floor plan (not considering style and design decisions, just layout), is solely based off of function for me. In deciding on the overall floor plan for the new house, I made a list of all rooms/features I wanted ideally. Then I got out my trusty graph paper and started drawing. And I drew and drew and drew. I tried all different kinds of layouts and finally found one that checked the most wants off the list, while keeping overall square footage as low as possible. I wasn’t worried I would regret any of the layout decisions because there are only so many ways you can layout a house when considering the existing floor plan. Plus, the layout is really just size of rooms and where they’re located. Designing a space is so much more complex. That’s what I’m really going to break down today. I’m going to use our master bath design as an example for this process since I’ve already shared the mood board. The first thing I do for anything I’m designing is gather my inspiration. I search Pinterest. I read blogs. I daydream and think through what a dream space would feel like. Once I have some inspiring images that I love for the space, I break down exactly what I love about those. For the bathroom, I realized that I had pinned a lot of rooms with patterned tile, so I knew I wanted that in the room (see my inspiration images for tile here). I never find an image that is EXACTLY what I want to re-create, but usually I’ll pull a couple of elements from different photos. My goal in the process is to decide on the overall feel I want the space to have. Every room I design always has one element that inspires the rest of the room. I don’t set out to find one inspiration element, it just sort of ends up that way. For the bathroom, I knew I wanted to use patterned tile, so I searched for that first. I fell in love with this blue tile from Home Depot and knew I wanted to use it. I developed the rest of the design from this starting point. Sometimes this happens earlier in the process, but often it’s after I already have a general feel for the space. In a bathroom, needing the floor plan is more obvious. But I like to sketch out placement of major things in any room I’m designing to help me decide on the final picture. Designing a room for me is completely mental. For example, I picture where windows will be, where will the furniture go, and how I’ll use the room. For the bathroom, the placement of the main components was huge in the design. Once we had the layout, I knew I wanted the vanity/tub wall to be a focal point. Once I have the layout, inspiration item, and general feel I’m going for, I spend a lot of time mulling over the space. For me, this often happens at night. Even before I was up a lot with Rosie, I would lie awake before bed or even during the night in the dark just picturing the space. I move furniture around in my head, change the color of pieces, etc. I know this may seem weird, but it’s just how I work. During this process, I don’t look back at any inspiration images. I just picture it. This process can take weeks or one day. Usually once I have a layout and my inspiration, the overall design hits me pretty fast, but sometimes it doesn’t. The bathroom design plan just hit me in the middle of the night. I knew that I wanted that wall to be a focal point and I knew that I wanted to use that blue tile, so I just started picturing it. I pictured the tile on the floor and then thought about what I’d use elsewhere. I wasn’t loving that, though. I pictured myself walking into the room and staring at that focal wall over and over and thought about what I wanted to see. I really love symmetry and respond well to it in design, especially with major elements. It hit me that I wanted two symmetrical “panels” running up behind each vanity. They would mirror each other and make the centered tub stand out. I knew that my patterned tile would be perfect for that! Once I had that visual, the rest came together in my head super fast. Chris has been asking for a brick floor forever, so I knew I’d like that against the patterned tile walls. I pictured a large, brass statement fixture over the tub. And then, y’all know my style is all about mixing elements, so I pictured rustic wood vanities paired with modern brass faucets and modern white vessel sinks. I started thinking about the mirror and knew that was a great way to bring in some more color, but didn’t want it to “match” the tile. Mint was a good choice for that. I wanted rustic lights to contrast against the modern statement fixture and pictured some sort of white barn light. By the time I woke the next morning, I had this design plan in my head. It wasn’t quite this clear and I had to actually go and “find” the light fixtures and actual elements, but this overall plan was there. During this phase when I’m really trying to flesh out the design, I think mainly about contrast between styles and colors. If I have my main element or two down, I mentally build out the space piece by piece, in layers. Once I have an element, it will dictate the next. Just like the modern statement light dictated more rustic lights over the mirrors. The rustic vanity dictated modern faucets. That contrast is what makes a space work for me. The kitchen design (which I’ll be sharing soon) was just like this too. I had a cabinet color and color scheme and one night, the rest of the design just hit me. This part of the process can be a little stressful when you’re on a deadline like I am currently with the new house renovation, but usually, I live and breathe a room until I figure it out. I always, always, always make a mood board even if I never plan to share it. The day I woke up with my bathroom designed in my head, I made this mood board. I have to visually see it to make sure it’s what I want and it goes together like I pictured. Sometimes, my mood boards are just a collection of materials, sometimes they look more like a laid out room like this bathroom mood board. It just depends. But for this space, I needed to see those symmetrical panels to be sure. As soon as I had the mood board, I knew it. This was it! This may seem like a hard step, like Krista asked. Aren’t I afraid that I’ll change my mind? The answer is simple: No. I am not afraid I will change my mind. I know that one day, I will change my mind. I love what Krista asked about how do I have the courage to move forward with a design plan and the answer is really simple. I used to worry so much about the long-term and finding a design I would love FOREVER. I put so much pressure on myself I could never design anything. That’s when I finally realized that I will never design something that I will love forever. I just don’t work that way! I love change. I love the design process. And while certain items may stick around forever, they’ll one day be used in different ways. And that is 100% okay. Usually, I spend so much time mulling over a design that when I finally hit the right combination, I just know it. I feel it deep down. I get so excited about the final product that I am literally giddy and cannot wait to see it come together. When I have this no-concerns, overwhelming design excitement, I know I’ve got it. That’s the design I need to go with. I immediately had that reaction with this bathroom design. That doesn’t mean that in ten years, I will still love this exact bathroom design. But that also wasn’t my goal. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should design without the future in mind. But take the pressure off of yourself to design a room that you will love just the way it is in ten or twenty years! Some people are wired that way, but most of us aren’t. You will never find that design that will completely span the test of time and the pressure to find it will keep you from moving at all. I’m viewing this entire house design process this way. I’m doing what I love. I’m going with my design gut. I’m not worrying about what I’ll think in ten years. I give it enough thought to know I won’t be tired of it in one year. I make sure I love it enough that it will stick around longer than that. But I know myself. I know that I’m always re-designing and at some point, I’ll either move to another house or will re-design parts of this one. And that is okay with me. This no-regrets, design-gut approach doesn’t mean that I just throw caution to the wind and go crazy. Sometimes it may seem that way with my designs. But I really do consider a mix of classic with the “out-there.” I try to balance both, knowing that I could easily change it up if I wanted to. For example, this bathroom design may seem 100% “out-there” and it probably is for some. But for me, it’s a great balance of these two things. While I do have two patterned tile panels, every single other element is classic or really easy to change. So that is my overall process. I haven’t always worked this way. It used to be much harder for me to design a room and it took much longer. Here’s the best advice I have for that… Just like getting in better physical shape, you have to exercise your design muscles to get stronger at it. Try it. Go with your gut. Don’t think about regrets. Sure you may fail along the way. Your design gut may lead you astray as you’re starting out. It has for me for sure. I’ve designed a few rooms that I thought were awesome and then in two months, hated. But the more I’ve done it, the more I’ve practiced, the stronger I am at it. The more I know what I like and what I’ll continue to like. And the more courage I develop to go forward, no holds barred, and DESIGN. So, stop worrying. Start designing. Find what you love. Just do it. This process is in no way an exact science. While I’m actively trying to design, so much of it is just waiting for the design to come to me. The problem with that is that sometimes, it doesn’t come when I want it to. For example, I’ve figured out so much for the new house that I LOVE, but I’m stumped on a few things. And of course, what I’m stumped on needs to be figured out first. As in next week! I’ll be sharing that tomorrow and asking some advice from all of you design friends. But forcing designs doesn’t work either. When I’m forcing it, I know I’ll end up hating the end result. There is no formula for creativity! I’d love to hear about how you guys design! Do you have exercises/rituals that help you plan out a space?