7 Crucial Questions to Ask Before Designing a Space
Part of being a designer is helping to create spaces that are not only beautiful but also functional. A beautiful space that does not function well is basically useless. After going in and out of peoples’ homes on a regular basis, there are some hard and fast questions we’ve come to rely on to help the process go as smoothly as possible. That’s what I want to share with you today.
There are a lot of things to consider before making any moves to decorate a space. The better prepared you are at the onset, the more smoothly the process will go. Before we make a single purchase or even develop a plan we always ask our clients these 7 questions.
These questions are by no means rocket science but they are purposefully made to direct our clients to think about some primary aspects of their space. It has proved to be an invaluable aspect of our design process.
**TIP: It is important to keep in mind that a space is made up of more than just four walls, both the ceiling and floor are often forgotten aspects of a space that can make a crucial difference in your finished product because they both utilize a significant surface area in any space.** Make sure to consider them in the context of the 7 crucial questions.
ONE: Is this your forever home or will you resell in the future?
This question should most definitely affect your design choices because the more personal the choices you make, the less it will appeal to the masses when it’s time to sell. You don’t want a home to sit on the market because people don’t share your vision. It’s something worth keeping in mind before you make any changes. If you plan to re-sell at some point, keep trendy design choices to a minimum and stick with timeless colors, and materials. Stone and wood are two timeless materials that remain go to choices for designers everywhere. If you’re not going to re-sell and its your forever home, customize so it works exactly for YOU! Take some time to think about it and decide if you’re home for good.
In this home, the owners will consider a move in the future. We planned accordingly by keeping the color palette light, neutral, and really using the accent colors on pieces that can easily be changed.
Because this owner is home for good, we were allowed to be much more creative and fun with a wall treatment that was specific to the client’s taste!
TWO: What will the space primarily be used for, who are the users?
At first, most people can answer this question fairly easily because most spaces have one primary use. However, often, when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that most spaces have multiple uses. You may primarily use your bedroom for sleeping, but you may also dress there, read there, and watch television there. A well designed bedroom should function to meet all of those needs. In the office we designed below the clients wanted a den/guest room/office with a reading space. We delivered, by adding a large television, a sleeper sofa, a small desk, and an accent chair and table for reading. Even though the room was fairly small, it worked extremely efficiently for our clients. What activities will be done in your space? Who will be doing the activities? The more you can name the better you’ll be able to plan.
The second part of the question is crucial because you’d pick very different materials/colors for a child’s bedroom than you would for a formal living room. Knowing about a space’s users is a crucial consideration.
THREE: What is your design style (Modern, Traditional, Contemporary—formal/informal)?
Most people don’t think about this, but outside of the permanent structure/ architecture of a home, furniture is the other major component that defines the style of a space. Art also is a significant influence but the style of furniture definitely affects a space’s overall aesthetic. Before buying, take a second to see what styles and appeal to you. Be as specific as possible. Patterns of what you like will emerge bringing you closer to a space that is totally you and help to define your design style! If you like crisp clean lines, your style may be contemporary, whereas lots of ornate curves moves into the traditional realm. If you fall somewhere in the middle (like me) you may love transitional style. They can all be beautiful but the decision is up to you. Define it for yourself. What’s your design style?
This dining room is traditional with it’s deep brown tones and ornate carvings and scrolled furnishings.
This transitional style eating area incorporates some curvature and traditional elements, but the lighter color tones and clean lines of the table lean toward being rustic and contemporary. These blended styles are a hallmark of a transitional design style.
FOUR: What are the three words that most describe how you want to feel in your space?
This question more than any other usually guides our design of a space. Creating a feel and ambiance that our clients will love is something we continually refer back to in order to help us in making design choices that create an X-factor that makes a space feel like home. What are the three words that most describe how you want to feel when your space is complete? Let them guide you.
Here we created: Tranquil, Cozy, Soothing
Here the intention was: Whimsical, Classy, Conversational
FIVE: What has to stay in the space (any furnishings, art, keepsakes etc)?
I will say right off the bat, that as a designer, it’s much easier to start with a blank slate than it is to incorporate pieces that must stay in the space. However, it’s rare that it happens. Your things are part of your history so using items of significance is a must for most people. Are there things you have that you love but are tucked away in a garage or basement? Bring them out! See if they can play a role in your new space. Be open to altering keepsakes or using them in an unconventional way. Do you have any items close to your heart that you’d love incorporated in your new space? Choose them early on and set them aside.
In the same traditional dining room photographed above, the clients had a mirror that they’d gotten as a wedding gift 12 years earlier but never knew where to put it. We spray painted it and hung it in their newly re-designed dining room.
In my mom and dad’s dining room design we didn’t get rid of the old dining table that was a staple of my family’s home. Instead we re-used it by making it into two console tables to hold photos, decor, and even act as a buffet for big holiday dinners.
SIX: Are there any attributes you wanted highlighted or eyesores you need minimized?
Does your space have attributes that are awkward, tricky, or unused? Or are there ‘unsung heroes’ that need to be celebrated? How to make those awkward spaces work or bringing an under utilized element to life can be a challenge. Think about the space you want to change. Walk through it. Are there elements you’d like to emphasize or hide?
In this bedroom we wanted to emphasize the ceiling height. We did this by adding a new chandelier and mirror. Centering the mirror high above the bed and the sparkle of the chandelier both bring the eye upward. We also hung the draperies at the ceiling line. It adds to the feeling of grandeur.
Here the client lived in an rental and had an awkward space where a fireplace used to be. We decided to use it for wine storage and make it a feature rather than a blemish!
SEVEN: What’s your budget?
This final question is another essential driving force of the design. Be realistic about what you’re willing to spend and plan accordingly. Pick a range rather than a set number. Set aside mini-budgets for materials and labor and get multiple bids from contractors if you hire any work out. If you’re really budget conscious try to do as much of the work yourself as possible. Spend time figuring out the cost of materials like flooring and tile work and pick materials and furniture that are within your price-range. BUT also be flexible! The smaller your budget is, the more open to change you’ll need to be.
We were able to substitute out higher end pieces in the design because the client wanted to keep the budget in tact.
These questions are critically important to answer before any work or purchases take place. It is important to answer these questions as accurately and honestly as possible. Once you do, you’ll be a step a head of the game in creating the space of your dreams!