Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Design Process

Even though I've been in the interior design industry for 8 years, I'm still incredibly interested in other designers' processes; how they begin a room design and how to they put a presentation together for a client. Because it interests me so much, I thought maybe it would interest some of you as well.

I am working with a few really great clients right now, one of which is furnishing an entire home in Newport Beach with some minor construction throughout. We had our first presentation this week, so I thought it would be fun to share those images along with a step by step of how my design process works.

Initial Meeting
The process always begins with a phone call or email where we discuss the general parameters of the project and set up our initial meeting that will take place at the job site. The first meeting is where the client and I have a chance to meet in person and essentially decide if we like each other enough to embark on the intimate journey that is designing someone's home. Some clients will hire me solely based off my portfolio, others are looking for a friendship type connection, and every client is different.

At this initial meeting I encourage the potential client to pull photos of things that inspire them or that they are drawn to. This could be anything from interiors, art, fashion, etc. We also walk through the space as they tell me how they live and what their functional needs are as a family. This is really where I begin my assessment of how my potential client uses their home. We talk about everything from their work schedule, to how they like to entertain, to when they anticipate having children, to how many nights a week they eat in or out. Are they casual or formal? Are they introverted or extroverted? Are they big TV people or are they more interested in a cozy reading corner with great lighting?

The Agreement
After our first meeting, I type up a design agreement to be signed by the client and myself. It states the scope of work and my design fee. (A note about my design fee: Small consulting jobs are generally billed at an hourly rate and we work off of a retainer. Complete room or house design is billed at a flat rate based off of the square footage of the project.) If the client decides that they want to work with me, they sign the agreement, submit the deposit, and we're off and running.

Client/Designer Meet up #2
A second meet up with the client is usually required where we set the schedule for the job and I can take photos, collect existing floor plans, or take my own measurements to work from. We decide what areas we will address first and we discuss any additional information that we didn't address at the first meeting.

Achieving a Design Direction
Now it's time to design! After taking what the client has told and shown to me, I look for that one thing that will act as the guide for the design. That one thing can be a photo of a room, a piece of art, or a swatch of fabric. Usually that one thing leads to a whole bunch of other things that begin to make up the design of the room. It's a process that evolves over the course of the next couple of weeks. I carry these pieces of fabric, wood samples, and photos around with  me everywhere, frequently staring at them for long periods of time to make sure I feel good about the design direction.

Furniture Space Plan
During this preliminary design phase, I also start working on the space plan (furniture layout). I usually do this in one sitting and create 2 or 3 options for each space. The space plan is crucial to determine what size of furniture pieces and how many are needed for the room. At this point I have a general idea of the style of furniture I want to incorporate, but I can't select the exact pieces until I know what size I'm looking for. You would be surprised at the difference 2" can make when I protrudes into a walk-way.

**Things that make a successful space plan**
-creates great conversation areas
-there is a focal point
-there is ease of access from one side of the room to the other
-the size of furniture is appropriate for the purpose of the room (deeper sofa in the TV      
        viewing room, daintier furniture frames in more formal spaces)
-the amount of furniture and its spacing fits the personality of the client and their lifestyle
        (minimalists = more open space with less accent furniture; collectors = cozier
        furniture layouts and more accent chairs, tables, and shelving)

Paring Down
To select furniture I do a combination of online shopping and showroom visits, while fabric shopping is done solely at the fabric showrooms. I have to see and feel the fabric in person to know if it will work. When all is said and done, I generally have way too many furniture, lighting, and fabric options. All of it goes well together, there is just too much of it. Clients are looking to me to give them the best design selections, not overwhelm them with 100 different options. The week before our first presentation is the time to pare down the options and start putting together the presentation board.

Presentation Board
I always put my presentations together on a cork board with push pins. If a client hates a red print that I have selected, the last thing I want is for it to be glued permanently in place. I need the ability to pin new options up, take existing options down, and swap the sofa and ottoman fabric. The items that I start with on the board are my top choices; the design that I 100% endorse and love. We start with that and then review additional options from my bag of tricks depending on how the client responds. For every selection; furniture,  fabric, and lighting, I will have at least 2 additional options to show my client.

A colored rendering of the space plan is an absolute must when presenting a room design for the first time. Clients need to see how everything is laid out, how it flows, and get an idea of where color and pattern will be in the room. I will also include quick sketches with color (above) of certain areas of the room or wall elevations if I feel like it will help the client visualize the space better.

Feel free to check out my Pinterest board that I discussed in a previous post here, where you can see my design  journey and all of the additional selections that didn't quite make the final cut for the presentation.


  1. This is awesome! I wish I could intern for you for a day! Thank you so much for taking the time to explain how your design process works. Im graduating soon with a degree in Textile design and Interior Merchandising and love reading your blog.

  2. Thanks a lot for this post!
    I found it very very useful and enlightening! I have just got my diploma in Interior Design and, honestly, I don't know where to start! These are quite helpful tips.

    greetings from Argentina!
    Vix Pichel

  3. Loved reading about this! Sounds like clients have someone great to work with in you! I just followed you on Twitter.

  4. Wow! Thanks for the in-depth look at your design process! I enjoyed reading it and getting a glimpse into what it is like to be an interior designer! I just found your blog and am v. much looking forward to your OKL sale!!

  5. For someone just get started, and with absolutely no formal training, you can't imagine how helpful this was to me. Thank you, thank you!

  6. I really appreciate your efforts in explaining an effective design process. Reading books about architectural house plans and designs is one of my hobbies. I admit, I am a frustrated engineer who wants to pursue a career in designing. I think it would be a good idea to enroll in Interior designing course to improve my knowledge and skills.

  7. The blueprint is simple yet enough to portray on what design is expected in the house. Furniture designs in australia will help in boosting the different furniture which will be used to make the house look classy.

  8. It always amazes me how house structures are designed. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that all the houses we see everyday actually started from scratch. They all started from a drawn line which carefully started to form into doors, walls, and steel trusses.

  9. When designing your own house, it is imperative for you to ensure that space will never be compromised. It is essential for a house to be spacious for the family to work and roam around without any limitation. I am looking for a Makati luxury apartment for sale online, and I am considering buying an apartment with enough space and excellent location.

  10. I just faltered on your blog and desire to pronounce that I have truly enjoyed reading your design process blog posts.

  11. We always consider great steel floor joist material in building or even house construction and is also known as one of the its major foundation. That is why we never regret parts like this.

  12. Design process shown here is superb. Have a look at it

  13. Great furniture space plan you got there! I remember my licensed general contractor showed to me his different space plan to give me an idea on how to make my own space plan.

  14. I suggest you study and learn engineering jobs now. You do have great skills when it comes to interior design, but what more if you'll learn how to build your house now? You build and design. Amazing, right?

  15. You've got the right technique in redesigning and redecorating your own home. You must definitely list down several stuff you wanted to maintain and remove upon doing the designing. In this way, you will know where you will put what's left.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...