Zen and the Art of Interior Design Brainstorming

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You have decided it’s finally time to refresh your space. Everything is lining up, you have a budget, you’ve figured out your style, and you’ve figured out which areas you want to touch. Now, it’s time to find the interior designer that is going to help you put that together. Some have their own practices, and some work within a team at a larger firm/ company- whatever the case, you want to make sure that you can trust that your designer can bring your vision to life.

Take your time, investigate their portfolios, and have a conversation with them about your project- each designer will react differently and as such, you should go with whom gives you the most reaffirming feeling that your dream is possible. Now that you’ve found your designer and are ready to start moving forward, here are a few things to do that will help make our lives as designer’s easier. 

1. Brainstorm time.

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The first thing you are going to want to do is to plan some time alone, or with your family, to decide your wants, your style, and your budget. Nothing has to be explicitly noted unless it’s like a MUST item, but try to think of your design as a conceptual idea at this phase. For instance, maybe you know that the existing appliances just have to go- they are outdated, function poorly for your needs, and don’t match the modern vibe you are wanting. So the next step in that is determining your use of the appliances- do you need more storage room, do you need specific heating functions, are you a culinary expert that uses and abuses the kitchen space, or are you someone that hardly knows how to cook? Whatever your use of the kitchen space will be, make sure it coordinates with your budget.

All of these details will be helpful for a designer to carry this task to completion. We can then quickly take that information, assess your use of the appliances, and choose an appliance manufacturer that will be more in line with your purposes- there is no need to splurge on high-end devices if you really don’t use the space that much, and in some circumstances, the appliances make the kitchen. No matter the case, the most important thing to do in this stage is to pinpoint those areas that want/ need to change and then think about how important those things are- whether that’s by delegating a certain amount of money to it or its a matter of prioritizing items by their importance to you and your family.

2. Brainstorm Time W/ YOUR DESIGNER

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While I appreciate the homeowners that know precisely what they want, there is something to be said about being open to new ideas. A lot of times, clients fall in love with an image from a magazine or Pinterest or HGTV, and they fall in love with completely replicating that look into their own homes. While the image may be beautiful, there are a few different reasons why we may suggest some new ideas. 1) We want the space to feel like yours- like it’s meant and designed for you. 2) The space in the picture is very different from your own, whether that’s kitchen layout, amount of natural light in the space, the direction of the sun, the flow into adjacent areas, etc.

There are quite a few different factors that resulted in that glorious kitchen’s design, so make sure you are taking into account your specific features in your space. We, as designers, want to feel like we have a hand in making your kitchen perfect for you- we want to take your ideas and style, and then push it to the next level so that your home then becomes someone else’s dream. Trust that your designer is only trying to offer opportunities for purposeful uniqueness, not just aesthetic improvements that drive up cost. In the end,

I suggest having an ear for new ideas and respecting your designer by asking for their input- you never know what kind of actual beauty can come from it. If you’re going to pay for an interior designer, you should utilize all that they can offer, both physically and creatively. 

3. Coming/ Be Prepared

If you want to have a serious talk about your project, coming to your first meeting with everything you could possibly need does a lot of things for a designer. 1. It shows that you are taking the process seriously. While it may not seem significant, for us as designers, having a diagram of the space with some rough measurements in conjunction with inspiration images can be a huge help. There are certain rules to design which come naturally that may allow us to steer the ship in a positive direction.

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Don’t get us wrong, we will usually have to go back in the process to retrieve a missing item or measurement as we are all humans and make mistakes, but the amount that we can limit that moving forward is crucial for a seamless progression with the design.  A lot of times, there isn’t enough patience with the design process that many clients can feel cynical about the process as a whole because of too many drawbacks.

If we can steer the ship forward, it helps make it much more enjoyable for all parties involved. So be prepared- bring in some rough measurements, bring in some pictures of your space, bring in those inspiration images- build the design idea as strong as you can so we can flush out the design that much quicker. 

4. Exercise patience & transparency

Being upfront and honest with your designer during your initial meeting is going to be key for your project moving forward, and to be honest, you shouldn’t feel bad or discouraged to explain your plan in depth. If a designer is unwilling to work within your needs, then there is probably a more suitable designer out there for you.

I’d definitely recommend hearing out what their reasoning may be for why they can’t offer assistance because some firms will have limitations to their services based on the products they are able to offer. There is nothing wrong with these types of places, but they may not be the best fit for your project; then again, they could be the perfect place that can offer everything you may need in one stop, as long as budget and timelines are in line with their offerings.

This is a good time to exercise patience, and patience in finding the right service/designer for your project. You are going to be trusting this individual to help guide you through where to spend your money, and presumably, it’s a lot of money that you have worked hard for to save up. You want to trust that the designer will be spending your money in the right areas and in conjunction with your specific style in mind, so don’t be afraid to be transparent about all of that. Express your concerns and explain your budget. The more information we have at the beginning, the more we can run with and the better we understand how to steer the ship. We’d hate to design something in hopes of it matching your design style to only find out, after redesigning the space, that your budget may not align with this- help us help you. 

In this search, it will also be important to find the designer that is going to be transparent with you, just as you are with them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you feel stupid asking it. This process can be one with many hidden details, some of which may or may not affect the overall cost, but your designer should be explaining where and why a product costs as much as it does.

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Maybe a modification had to be added, or perhaps the material specifications call for a certain amount of waste, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions and give your designer a chance to explain themselves as well. The worst case scenario is that you guys are on a much deeper and more detailed level of connection, and you both have a further understanding of the complexity of the design process. As the process continues, and materials are more finitely specified, and orders start happening, make sure you keep asking questions should you have any.

A note for clients- while we as designers may work within the field for a long time, we can’t generate hard numbers for quotes without some work with our vendors. Costs for materials change per location, availability, and seasons it seems, so pricing is always fluctuating- even for contractor work. Have patience here as your designer is often a middleman between you and the material you need for your project; understand that we act as translators, but with design, to these vendors and as such, sometimes have to have complex conversations to achieve the desired effect. 

These are just a few initial steps you can follow to best work with your designer. There are plenty more ways that allow for a more seamless progression in the design process, but the most important thing to remember is that trusting your designer is key.

From there, the rest of the connection is built upon how much or how little you put into it. The designer is going to have a lot of intricate details to straighten out and juggling a multitude of vendors to find the right combination of materials for you- please understand that these things take time to do well. Some may be able to design within five minutes, and it can look okay; but, if this is your dream design that you have spent lots of extra time and money to achieve, make sure you put the same amount of effort into the design process if you want a truly unique remodel. Ideally, that’s what we as designers want too.