How to Define What You Want

The absolute most important step in addressing the design of a space is defining your goal. I often see clients who are unhappy with their homes and want me to tell them what to do. I can do that easily if you can define your end result.

This is called the “Programming” phase of design. In this phase the designer gathers all the information needed to design the space. Photographs, measurements, inventories of existing items and furnishings to be used in the new space are all done and the desired end result is defined.

You may have magazine photos you have found that help define that look, colors in mind, or a certain style like French country or modern minimalism. You may be concerned with daily maintenance, resale value, or a tight budget that will limit your wants. You need to define who will be using the space, how will it be used, and the priority of all the desired items.

It is also important to define what you don’t want in the space. You may hate the color red or do not want to spend money on new cabinetry. Including your “don’t wants” in the program is just as important as the desires.

This takes some soul searching and a strong dose of reality. Many times clients think that because they have a designer they can dream up the world and we can magically give it to them, but some things are impossible. There are budget constraints and design issues, like marrying several different styles together. Sometimes you just have to choose and prioritize.

It took me a long time to do just that with my own bathroom, but I finally did. I decided that first and foremost I wanted beautiful materials presented in a simple and straightforward manner, nothing too tricked up or overdesigned. It should look like it effortlessly fell into place. I wanted color that doesn’t scream COLOR. I love colors that are soft and hard to define, that look one way in morning light and another in the evening. It needed to be traditional to work with the rest of the architecture of the house but have a modern edge so as to look fresh. I wanted a distinct focal point and some interesting features to keep your eye moving around the room. Beautiful lighting, hardware and faucets that feel good and solid in your hand, and of course, I have to consider the “R” word – resale! That meant I had to mind the budget and make it appealing to many types of people - a challenge, but not impossible.

There it is, my program. Now when choosing materials and designing details, all I have to do is go back to my program to reestablish my direction if I tend to go off course. This happens often in the design of a space. When I take clients on shopping trips, they sometimes see something they love and all of sudden want to use in their space, but it is entirely inappropriate for the program or direction we have chosen to go. At that point, you can evaluate your program to accommodate the change, or make the sometimes difficult decision to set aside the fabulous item you’ve just fallen in love with in order to keep yourself on track to your goal. Remember that your program is something you have carefully considered and set as your priority and the new favorite thing is really just an impulse. This is something your designer is there for, to guide you through those decisions. I have always considered it to be one of my strengths as a designer, to keep the focus on the desired vision.

Next posting - A Look at the Plan

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