There aren't a lot of hard-set rules when it comes to interior design, but there is a very widely accepted tenet that all designers understand: the importance of a solid concept can either make or break your spaces. Before the paint, wallpaper, or floor plans, every design project absolutely needs its catalyst. It can start with something as simple as a fixture or exotic tile you've discovered, or be as complex as interpreting the entire design scheme of an interior you've visited — but you must determine a starting-off point before just diving right in. Your design concept becomes the framework for all of your design decisions, helping to keep you focused and on track throughout your entire project. Here are a few important tips that will not only help to put you on the right path, but keep you there.
Find Your Concept, Define Your Style
First of all, determine what style and aesthetic best suits you or your home. This is sometimes the hardest part in the beginning; a client might tell me they know what they don't like, but can't articulate certain design elements or looks they are actually drawn to. To begin forming a concept verbally, use terms and phrases that evoke a certain feeling or aesthetic that best help to describe the space or project you'll be working on. Sometimes saying ideas or key elements of different styles out loud will help to systematize and sort out your thoughts. In some cases though a concept can come to you visually; seeing an image in your mind for part of the project or the colours you want to use can come in an instant. Also, don't feel you have to stick to just one specific style — blending and morphing a variety of modern, transitional, global, or even traditional styles will only increase the wow factor of your spaces. The key here is to have a predominant style staple, then layer in a little of the rest if you so choose. There's nothing glamourous or chic about a hot mess of different design styles thrown all into one.
Leave The Theme At The Door
I'll use our past house as a quick example here: Beach House. Sophisticated design uses elements of themes all the time, it just doesn't get too literal in the process. To create a watery bungalow reminiscent of ocean life, I didn't haul out fishing nets, starfish, or paint waves and sand on my walls. Grown-up design is much more subtle and alluring than that: I focused on a mix of turquoise, soft gray, fawn, soft cream, suede, and silver as a colour palette, and pulled it together with toss pillows, throws, accessories, and artwork. Warm hardwood, rich leather, intricate woven textures, vintage white fibreglass dining chairs, soft drum shade fixtures, driftwood, frosted glass — these are all elements that support the concept, while keeping it grounded and interpretive, not theme-y.
Collect Images & Inspiration
This leads me to another important step in strengthening a design concept: create a binder or file and grow it with images, clippings, materials, samples, and finishes of ideas and inspiration. Having visual references of interiors, furniture, fixtures, paint colours, or what have you available at your finger tips means never having to second guess yourself or the direction you're going in. Pinterest and Houzz are two fantastic websites you can spend a lot of time leafing through images on, so be sure to browse digital inspiration as well!
And remember: asking a few friends for their opinions sometimes does more harm than good — three or four differing views can be confusing and may even create a bit of self doubt. If all else fails, call in a professional to help round up and streamline your ideas and choices.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 14, 2013