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Creating a Design Plan: Balancing Vision & Functionality

You are not alone if you tend to lose track of where you are heading during a renovation project!




I will be the first to admit: there have been times when I renovate a room only to realize how far from the original vision and concept I have slipped during the process.


And while it may be a pretty room, it is not on track with my goals. These fly-by-the-seat rooms also tend to look suspiciously like other rooms I have designed!


The struggle of distraction and focus during a long-term project is real, so how do we avoid this trap? We do so by following a strategic design plan!


Our last discussion was about how to create a design plan for re-purposing a room to serve a new function in your home. Today we discuss strategies for choosing the decor - paint, storage, furniture, accent details and lighting - that will work harmoniously with your vision of room functionality.


Here are a few strategies I utilize when creating design plans that account for both the vision and functionality of space:


 

C H O O S I N G T H E R I G H T P A I N T



An enormous canvas within your room is the walls.


But most people whip up a colour "that looks pretty" without stopping to consider the psychology of how it will affect their mood while in that room.


When you visit Pinterest or Instagram for colour palette inspiration, have an idea of the mood you're trying to cultivate - one that works in conjunction with the room function you have chosen.

If the function of your room is to escape and the mood is relaxation, for example, choose a soft colour palate. On the other hand, when the function of your space is creativity and growth, it is best to choose colours that leave you feeling alert and passionate. Our reaction to paint is a window into our psyche; it directly affects how we feel.


And good design works with the human experience, not against it!

With colour palette inspiration in hand, head to the hardware store. First, stand 5-10 feet away from the paint swatches, scanning the colours for sections that are similar to your inspiration. Then, come closer to these sections and inspect for shades that stand out to you within your parameters [note: you don't have to like every colour on the swatch card, which sometimes have 2-4].


Bring home twelve paint swatches in total - six colour swatches familiar to you and your comfort zone & six swatches that are wildly different but exciting [and yet still mood appropriate].

Taping the swatches to your walls with a distance between them, enter the room at different times of day for a week to assess how they appear in various lighting. Also, pay attention to how the colours make you feel when you look at them. At the end of the week, begin taking down swatches that look and feel wrong - a process of elimination.


We can now take one of two routes:
  1. Trust yourself. Choose your colour(s) & go for it!

  2. Buy a small can or sample of paints in consideration. Next, apply a 3'x3' section to the wall; repeat the above steps until comfortable with a selection.


 

T H I N K S T O R A G E N O W



Everybody has "stuff" - what we do with it matters in interior design.


The fewer personal belongings we consciously register around the home, the more mental space we have to focus. A decluttered space allows for fewer opportunities to be distracted from your purpose or, worse, your peace.


Some think this is a final step in their renovation project, but I encourage you to think of it now:


What are you going to store in this room? What will you have visible, and what will you hide [but still accessible]? What furniture will you incorporate that has storage for this list of uniquely-shaped items?

Sort through the items you know will be coming back into your completed room - books, media, files, toys, exercise equipment, hobby tools, etc. The more detailed and honest your list is [add quantities, dimensions, should-be-stored-near], the greater an idea you will have when choosing the perfect furniture to hide most of it from sight.


After you have chosen your furniture, come back to your storage needs!

Measure the spaces and nooks available to develop custom storage solutions within these areas. As a rule of thumb, choose clear boxes and bags if possible: you will be able to see what is inside without opening it.


 

F U R N I T U R E E S S E N T I A L S



The backbone of any living space is the furniture, as these pieces have the most significant structural and functional presence.


Remember that less is more than you usually think when planning your furniture!


Be selective from the beginning about what pieces are necessary for your space to function as you intend. For instance, a bed is arguably quite essential to a functioning bedroom, while a seating area to read is arguably not! By prioritizing furniture in a hierarchy of needs, your core needs will be met if you run out of feasible space or budget as you plan.


List the most critical pieces of furniture that will define your time in that room. Make note if you already have the item or need it to be purchased. Does it need to be refurbished?

We next cross-reference our item storage list with our furniture list, assigning specific items to specific furniture. "Reference books; mahogany bookshelf, third shelf." Then you will gain a realistic idea of whether there are enough storage solutions within your current design.


You will have a furniture shopping list at the end of this process. It will be in the order of items that meet room functionality and storage needs first, which helps to focus when shopping!


 

A C C E N T P I E C E S




Accent pieces bring a sense of human personality, connection, and overall happiness to a room.


A helpful mentality for sorting accent pieces is to discern between objects of personal interest and objects of decorative interest. The first are items that mean something sentimentally while adding visual dimension [a vintage trinket from Grandpa, a photograph of you and your beau on vacation]. The second are items we find on our day-to-day adventures [your decorative vase from CB2, a glass tray that holds trinkets]. Of course, a room requires a healthy mix of both to feel like home!


What kind of accent pieces will complete your inspiration vision? How can we tie in the colour palette? What is your balance of objects of personal interest to objects of decorative interest?

Load your furniture and storage items into the room and assess the decor items you already have. What are you bringing back into the space? Do these items work with your new mood and function? Sorting personal belongings can be an emotionally complex process, and it is healthy to remember that some of your objects can be stored for another renovation opportunity. Refreshing your accent pieces is a powerful tool for refreshing your mental perspective at home.


Place these items on shelves, desks, tables etc., that make sense to you. Make a note of any significant gaps and fill the spaces with new things, but only to the degree that it doesn't look empty. Why? Because the next time you are out shopping and find the perfect trinket, you will know there is an ideal spot waiting.


Accent pieces are not a sprint; they are a journey. So enjoy the process of filling your room with trinkets as they come to you over time.

 

L I G H T I N G I S A N A R T



Lighting is an art form within the art world in general.


People make a living by creating 'the perfect lighting' because of its undeniable psychological impact on how humans perceive the world. And yet, it can be overlooked as a minute detail by homeowners.


The wrong lighting can make or break the work you have put in to create a specific mood and room function!

Why? Because the world has angles, curves and colours. We perceive every decor piece and colour swatch according to what light is present at that moment. So you may not appreciate a beautiful glass knot when the light came from above and lit from the side. After all, it was the projections on the wall that initially enraptured you at the store!


Light changes how we perceive interior design. So when choosing the proper lighting for your functionality, start by asking yourself three main questions:

  1. How bright does my space need to be to accomplish the tasks I want to do?

  2. Will I utilize overhead lighting, mid-height, floor height options, or a mixture of all?

  3. What lightbulb wattage should I consider?


 

And there we have it - strategies for creating a decor plan that will avoid some of the more common mistakes that are easy to make when moving too quickly.


When we prioritize the connection between how our brains work psychologically with decorating our living spaces, we come closer to the goal of living in peace within our homes. If we have designed a room that we desire to spend time in, that is the benchmark of success.


Remember to take your visions one step at a time and enjoy the process instead of rushing through it, looking for a result. Half the enjoyment you will receive of spending time in that space is knowing all the work you did to create it!