Whenever you are designing a room, whether you are accessorizing, redecorating, remodeling a room in your house, or moving to a new home entirely, the number one route to a successful outcome is to have a well thought out PLAN.
Having a plan will save you time, money, and stress.
A plan should have these key elements before you even begin ANY work or purchasing:
Have a goal
A goal is established by understanding WHY you want or need a change from what you currently have. It may be as simple as “I want our family to actually USE the living room” to “I want a space to cook together as a family”. A goal is NOT “I want a new kitchen” – that’s putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. Your goal should incorporate your wish list (not the specific solutions - yet)…a cozy space to read, an inspiring and efficient place to work, a place to store the new instapot, a place to entertain effectively….etc.
We recently worked on a project for a client whose goals included creating a great room with comfortable seating for 4-6, a place to lounge while watching TV or working on a laptop, a place for family dining, a space that works for entertaining small groups, and a place for enjoying music (to include the existing grand piano). She wanted it to feel calm and elegant and cohesive.
Brainstorm possible ways to achieve that goal
Look at magazines or Pinterest for inspiration. Collect images that appeal to you. At this point, it may be wise to bring in a professional for at least a consultation, and your images will help communicate what you like. It helps to have fresh eyes to come up with a variety of solutions. And an experienced professional will have options you may not have thought of, or didn’t know existed.
For our great room client, we listened carefully. The rooms she found most appealing were all warm, neutral colors, and the fabrics she gravitated toward were textured with organic patterns. She also was looking for at least one seat with a place to put feet up, so a chaise or ottoman would be part of the plan.
Have a budget in mind
Then find out whether the amount you are willing to invest will cover the goals you wish to accomplish at the quality level you want. This will require some research. And by research, I don’t mean watch HGTV…the budgets on reality television do not account for many, many things including location, design, most of the labor, and often times much of the product. Reality TV is great for entertainment and sometimes inspiration, but not for planning a budget. You will also want to plan for contingency funds, particularly for renovation. A 20% contingency of extra available funds is absolutely necessary any time you embark on a renovation. You never know what you will find and what additional measures may be necessary to bring it up to code. Building codes are subject to change and things that were fine when the room was built might not pass an inspection now. For strictly decorative projects, contingencies are still helpful in case you find something unique you wish to splurge on, if not, you will have money set aside already toward another goal!
We were able to help our client establish a budget range of 25K to 30K for the great room space including the new and re-covered custom furnishings, custom draperies, rugs, lighting, and design fees. By carefully planning her budget she was able to splurge on the custom chaise she fell in love with.
Have a timeline in mind
In order to know whether this is realistic, you will again, need to do some research. How long does it take from order to delivery for the items you want? How long does the contractor typically take to complete a renovation like yours? Even with the best planning, every piece of any project is related to all the other pieces and a delay in one place can throw everything off schedule, so you will need to be flexible
For our great room client we created a project timeline that took into account the lead times necessary for custom pieces, and outlined when orders for fabrics, workrooms, custom hardware, furnishings, and rugs needed to be placed. With all the elements in place, we were able to then schedule deliveries and installation in the most efficient way.
If you are doing any purchasing of furniture or any renovating, a floor plan is essential. This will help you work out appropriate traffic patterns, the scale and relationships between different pieces, and tell you what the right sizes are of the things you need to purchase and how they fit with the things you already own. You also need to make sure that those sizes fit through all the openings/twists and turns/stairways on the way to their destination! Experience is a great teacher and I learned this the hard way many years ago when I needed to have a sofa for a client craned in through an apartment balcony because it couldn’t clear the tight angle of the stairway ceiling. For renovations, much more extensive plans and elevations are needed, both to decide on the pieces and placement, and to communicate exactly what you want to your contractor. Changes during the project will add to the time and cost, so having as much as possible on paper ahead of time makes it much more likely you will stay in budget and complete the project in a timely fashion. THIS excellent post by John at Wilson Kelsey Design provides a detailed explanation of the importance of documents to the design process.
For our great room project, we explored several layout options as part of the design process before deciding on a final choice. We created 3 options for layouts that incorporated a chaise sofa - an idea the client found appealing, and one option with a sofa and separate chaise – which was the design she ultimately chose.
Having a plan is the NUMBER ONE most important secret to success. Once you have completed these steps, only then are you are ready to begin implementing the plan. A plan is your secret weapon. It will provide a filter and criteria for all your selections, thus helping you make the best choices for the items that will help you achieve your goals.