How to Start the Design Process: Programming 101

Whether you’re designing a new kitchen, a small bedroom, or a whole house, the design process can feel incredibly overwhelming, especially if your only exposure to designing a space has been arranging hand-me-down furniture a’la post college dorm life and calling it a day. It’s okay, we’ve all been there. If you’ve decided you want to take on the task of putting together a space that has some substance, cohesiveness and truly reflects your style and personality, there’s going to be a little work involved. Being a designer myself, I unsurprisingly believe strongly in the value of people working with a designer, however, I do understand that isn’t always going to be the case.

Here are the first steps to designing a space you love and suits your needs as well:

imagesWhat Do I Like?

Take the time to research and really understand what kind of interiors you’re drawn to. Don’t worry about correctly defining whether it’s modern or contemporary , just gather a collage of images you know you like. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many of my clients come to me with only words to try to describe what they’d like me to create for them. This should be an easy place to start getting your feet wet. (If it isn’t, then send me a message, you need me!)

images-2What Is The Problem?

Next will be a bit trickier, but so crucial and worth it for the end product. Sit down and write a detailed list of things you know you like and don’t like, and any problems you can think of with your existing space. Specific is the key here.

For example:

  • likes: geometric patterns, textures, clean open display storage
  • dislikes: orange, cluttered knick-knacks everywhere, bar-height seating
  • problem: not enough storage for kid’s school stuff
  • problem: lack of seating options when entertaining

This is part of what designers call programming and it is the most important part of the design process IMO. This is where you determine the problems that need to be solved. You may not even recognize them as problems at first, but that cramped eating space that you just sort of deal with and have become so used to you barely even think about it, yeah that’s what we call a problem. What good is a brand new kitchen if you end up with that same awkward eating space and lack of storage? Design, while creating spaces that bring joy, is also about solving problems. If you can successfully capture as many of these as possible, that will give you a great place to start designing/problem solving.

images-3What Do I Want to Keep?

When redesigning a space, you sometimes can’t purchase everything new, or may not want to. Figure out the pieces you already have that you really love and want to reuse. You’d be surprised how awesome grandma’s armchair can look when paired with a modern patterned throw pillow to completely juxtapose it. The key is though, don’t plan to keep anything unless you have to (budget problems) or you really love it.

images-4How Do I Keep All of This Straight?

  • Get a binder and have copies of steps 1-3 all in one place. This will become your bible, your lifeline. I tend to be a believer that the more notes I take about a client, the better. This rings true when designing for yourself as well, and the only way to make use of all this information is to make sure it’s accessible to you when you need it. The design process can be stressful enough without having to frantically search for that one picture you know had the perfect dining table.
  • Create a pinterest board. This will be your digital bible, which sometimes these days is more useful than a hard copy. I’m sure most of you are familiar with pinterest, perhaps intimately, the way I am. I sometimes think I spend more time on pinterest than I do paying attention to my husband. Gotta stimulate those creative juices! The thing that is great about pinterest when you’re working on large project is that you can pin items you’re considering purchasing and that will keep a log of the links so you don’t have to remember where that random throw pillow you love was from.

And that’s it! Get to designing. You’re ready to go. Trust your gut, have fun with it, and don’t take it too seriously. You may even surprise yourself. If you don’t have a design-inclined bone in your body, then trust the binder you’ve assembled, or give me a shout and I’d love to help you create a space you can brag about.


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