Design Process

The August edition of this newsletter took an in-depth look at two living rooms. The September edition focused on a study originally designed for a large home and later re-designed for the client's townhouse as well as another handsome study in a residence. This month I will generalize about the design process and how it would apply to you when working with a professional designer.

"How do you design a room so it is about the client and not about the designer?"

The philosophy that guides the process in our firm is summed up nicely in an article in NC Classic Design Elements. "If every house has a story, the story they tell should never be mine. I believe that good design means that the interior does not speak of me. Yet once completed, it is a self portrait of the people who live there."

Accomplishing this for the client involves "a lot" of listening and open communication in the preliminary stages of the project. The initial consultation, as well as the follow-up consultation, outlines the scope of the project, how each room will function, appropriate styles, overall "feel" of the area. Communication is a key element throughout the project. Many clients know what they like and what they do not like, but they need a professional designer for resources, creativity and project management.

Designers who design for the client are able to remove their egos from the project and focus on applying proven design principles such as balance, scale and proportion when selecting furnishings, fabrics, floor options and accessories.

"Just where do you start when designing one room or an entire house?"

The "where do you start" phase follows the initial consultations which outline the project, the client's goals for the design and use of the room(s) and a general idea of the preferred style, color palette and priorities.

One of the first questions that I ask a client is "Do you have a set of floor plans or blueprints of your house?" If a set is available, I request a duplicate copy or we have Duncan Parnell make a copy of the client's set for our use.

If a set of blueprints is not available, we take field measurements of the rooms involved in the design project and draft our own. This allows me to design several options for furniture arrangement and traffic flow which addresses the client's initial requests for the room(s). The client may like part of one option and part of another option so the next step is to finalize a plan.

The next stage is equally important - that is finding something that the client loves. This can be an item that the client owns such as a piece of art, a wonderful area rug or a piece of furniture. This "starter" piece can also be as simple a new rug, a fabric or a favorite wall color. This enables the design team to begin the process by selecting furniture, flooring, lighting and fabric options.

Please email me at with your own questions, comments or suggestions.