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.
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?
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.
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)
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.
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.