Blogging has been an amazing gift in my life. Not only has it helped me to express my own design style, it has also given me the opportunity to be exposed to the amazing talent of other designers.
I am excited to introduce you to Interior Designer Gwen Driscoll. We first met when Gwen emailed me over a year ago requesting information about one of the lighting companies that we use. During the last year we've continued our correspondence and friendship. I was thrilled when she started her own beautiful blog "Ragland Hill Social"!
In one of her first emails to me, Gwen wrote " I so feel like we are kindred spirits..." When I saw Gwen's work, I felt the same way!
Images via Things That Inspire
Gwen kindly offered to be a guest blogger in my "What we've learned" series. I know you will love this post as much as I do! Gwen's post offers contains information that every designer and home owner should keep in mind before starting a design project...
I was so excited when Brooke asked me to be a guest blogger today at Velvet & Linen. Brooke has become a great friend, via the World of Blog and I LOVE Velvet & Linen! So, I accepted this opportunity with great pleasure.
I must say there are so many topics I could cover on the subject, "What We've Learned?". I spent some time thinking about the most valuable lesson in my many years of interior design and at the absolute list topper is THE MASTER PLAN. I say this with great authority because I've been involved in projects that have been orchestrated with masterful precision (with Master Plan in head and hand) and with projects that have made me want to crawl in bed and not come out for days (of course, couldn't and didn't but oh, so wanted to)! I, by the way, no longer accept those projects...I'm too old for that now, my nerves can't take it! I insist on this approach because it works, it requires all parties to be fully engaged and present when deciding on important details that make or break the end product.
The best Master Plan develops through a key group of individuals that include client, architect, designer, builder and an artisan team that makes the vision a reality. Of course, all these people are necessary if you are building or renovating but even if you are doing a small project, the Master Plan must come first.
First and foremost, clients need to play an active role in this process and do one of two important things: trust and communicate their personal vision clearly or relinquish control to their carefully assembled team and wait. At times it's a combination of the above, but a client's input makes the difference between a project with soul or one that falls flat. I don't do projects without soul really, somehow they don't find me.
After the team is assembled master planning begins and, in most cases, a series of meetings commences that systematically tick off room by room. I like to start at the front door or Entry Hall. I'm always focused on what you want those entering the front door to encounter first. It's always a series of questions that I ask my clients or myself if I'm creating the vision.
Is it a vision of elegance that sets the tone for the rest of the house?
Is it a feeling of warmth and putting one at ease?
Is it a clean clear palette that leaves you room to breathe?
Initially, I think it's important to establish a feeling and mood, as well as, how it will look. Pictures are the perfect way to arrive at important answers. It's always amazing to me that a picture invokes a feeling as much as a vision. After that is established, all the fine details can be hammered out along the way. Then, it's on to the Living Room and Dining Room. I really like to concept those areas together because they seem to function in a "set", most times used in unison when entertaining.
Are they sophisticated and formal with finery as eye candy?
Are they chic and eclectic with a touch all your own?
Some people are opting out of these rooms altogether because of how families live today. I, for one, love the idea of having spaces that are used for special occasions and entertaining family and friends. I think it's a part of life that deserves a different space, ones you are proud of and don't use every day. Think of it in terms of that special dress or tie you are reserving for a perfect occasion. You know how you feel when you walk out the door...festive, happy and special! These rooms should invoke those emotions too. They don't have to be formal or fancy, just focused and unique.
Then, it's on to the Kitchen and Family Room. Usually these two spaces are coupled as well, if not in design, in close proximity on a floor plan. I always start with three things in this area...function, function, function! It can look great, but if it doesn't function for your family of six (that includes kids, dogs, cats, birds and anything else that lives and breathes in your space) it isn't worth the paper it's printed on. We've heard it before but it's true, the Kitchen is the heart of the home and it has to function 24 hours a day to support everyone who lives there.
Would a large center island work well and double as a Kitchen table?
Do open shelves work because it's easier when unloading the dishwasher five times a day?
Do you need tons of storage space for all the sets of china you've inherited?
Do you need a "Command Center" to manage the five schedules you're responsible for?
Does a clean, clear palette give you peace of mind when you're stirring your coffee in the morning?
Would you like a charming garden right outside your kitchen?
Do you need two islands to accommodate your many mouths to feed (neighbor's kids included)?
Are your eyes old and tired and a well-lit kitchen will make all the difference?
The list of questions are important and successfully answering questions through the kitchen design is a must. Most people only get to design their dream kitchen once so a well thought plan is imperative.
On to the Family Room. Again, function, function, function!
Will you sit in front of a fireplace every night during winter?
Do you want your Family Room to have a relaxed casual feel and great sofas for napping?
Do you need lots of bookcases to house your husband's collection of first edition books?
Does your Family Room need a spike of color and whimsy?
And so the beat goes on. Room after room, meeting after meeting, picture after picture, eventually the Master Plan will start to come together. A designer's job is to compile all of this valuable information, come up with a cohesive design language and create form and function. Each piece of the puzzle is important, because one without the other won't create a succinct plan.
I compile all my meeting notes, images, client input and follow up information in three-ring binders for each client project (and in some cases two or three). This helps me find all pertinent information in one place. I also have files electronically on my laptop. We have one shelf in our office where all client binders are lined up in alphabetical order. My client's love their notebooks too. Something about seeing everything together in an orderly format helps to organize their thoughts and give them peace of mind all is good and on track.
Creating a Master Plan can be tedious, stressful and laborious. But, in my humble opinion, it's the only way to a successful design project. Whether you're designing an entire house from scratch or renovating a tiny laundry room, a Master Plan is a must.
Brooke, thank you again for the invitation to participate in your "What We've Learned?" Series. It's such a great idea and I love learning from other designers what works best for them. I hope some of you find value in this information today. It's been really, really fun!
We'll talk soon.
Images courtesy of Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Southern Accents and Veranda
Thank you so much for sharing part of your design process with all of us Gwen! To see more of Gwen's beautiful designs, please visit her at Ragland Hill Social. To read Gwen's interview of me (blush!) click here.
f you would like help creating the home of your dreams, email me about our design services.
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