You can’t have “fast, cheap and good” in design. We all know that. At best, you get two out of the three and rarely is “fast” one of them. Often the design process truly is expensive and good, and layering in the word “slow” makes it even more expensive when you are working with a designer (who bills hourly). But for tomorrow’s makeover reveal (that one is a tearjerker so be sure to come back for it), we truly were able to do it in a month because we came up with a new fast process and once we realized how much time it saved us we, figured it was worth a post.
Here’s how it went down.
We only had a month between meeting the “client,” seeing the space and install/shoot of a master bedroom. That’s FAST. The clients (who you’ll hear more about tomorrow) were big readers, totally trusted us and yes, full disclosure, we had a special situation where our partner, VELUX Skylights, was covering the budget. So no, we are not in a normal design/client situation here, it’s more of a weird digital/social media fantasy, and it’s not a process that you can easily replicate.
HOWEVER, the process itself was totally eye-opening. It went SO much faster, and therefore if the client had been paying our hourly rate, the speed of it would have saved them SO much money. Now, this is not a process for a high-end designer/client situation, nor a renovation, but there are times when friends of mine are like “can you just come in and help and I’ll let you do whatever you want and pay for it.” Now I know the process that we’d do to speed it up, make us happy, and hopefully, no one goes insane—although they will still spend a decent amount. It’s true that a room that is full of unique pieces and very personal to the client will take much longer than this, so this process is more for the “I want my space to look pretty and pulled together, quickly, so I’ll let you do whatever you want” process. SUCH A DREAM.
So this post is more for non-designers that want to decorate more quickly or even better, beginning designers/decorators who don’t have a huge budget to spend on time/labor. Also, it’s one you can use on YOURSELF, even without a designer. Let’s walk you through it…
Step 1: See the space and take measurements.
This was our before which had a ton of potential, but just wasn’t pulled together or as functional as the homeowners wanted. This is a very typical “before” for us.
Step 2: Ask them the following questions:
- How do you want it to “feel” when you walk in? Get them to throw out adjectives to help guide the design.
- What are your functional needs?
- What do you want to keep and what in here do you really want to lose?
- Is there anything you really HATE? (Kristen HATED velvet, for instance, which we thought was hilarious).
- What is your ideal budget?
Step 3: Use Pinterest to set up a visual language for easy referencing.
We ask almost all our clients (past and present) to create a pinboard before we talk so we have a visual language to reference. I once told a client, on a budget, that if he wants to save time on our hourly design fee that it would behoove him to pin as much as possible so we are doing less guesswork and thus billing fewer hours. He said “WAIT, You bill for that?” and I said “Of course, so to save money you should spend at least a few hours pinning” and he said “But I’m busy, I don’t have time,” which we found hilarious. I politely told him, it’s either his time that’s free or mine that you pay for—you choose. Oh, the undervaluation of design work.
Having a visual reference of what you like is SO important. We had asked Kristen and Raeann to do this and this is an edited down set that gave us the general vibe they were drawn to.
It’s crucial to then go through each pin and ask what they loved about it, what drew them to pinning it. We then take out the ones that feel off because maybe they pinned them just because they liked the symmetry and not the look and feel. So you have to communicate, you can’t just take a pinboard on face value.
Step 4: Sketch out simple measurements and, if you have the skills, create renderings and floor plans before you shop.
With a rough floorplan with measurements, you can plug in major pieces like bed/nightstands/dresser and rug to ensure that they actually fit. We used SketchUp (well, Julie did), but you definitely do not need that. You also don’t need to worry about plotting out little details just yet like individual pillows, just making sure that the large pieces fit is the most important part here. You could do this with a simple ruler, pencil and graph paper.
We blocked out the general areas where we knew we’d put certain pieces as well as some ideal dimensions (above), but obviously, that could end up changing as the final pieces may have slightly different dimensions.
Step 5: Create individual boards with pieces that are available in their style and budget.
Okay, this is what we did that was special: We didn’t pull together mood boards until we gave them some options on major pieces that we asked for feedback from. We asked them to “X out” anything they HATED and heart their top 3-4 choices per category to get a sense of what were hard passes and what they were drawn to.
1. Sera Headboard | 2. Andie Platform Bed | 3. Tessu Bed | 4. Dellah Spindle Platform Bed | 5. Karma King Bed | 6. Avery Upholstered Bed | 7. Deva Linen Platform Bed | 8. Dean Sand Eastern King Bed | 9. Ella Bed | 10. Marlo Bed
We asked them to do this for every major category. This really helped us understand what our options TRULY were. Some of these were affordable (like a king bed for $450) and some were a couple thousand. None were insane, but it’s true that we were more focused on “fast and good” than budget.
1. Caledonia Woven Nightstand | 2. Loring End Table | 3. Ashby Nightstand | 4. Franny Nightstand | 5. Archer Lacquered Nightstand | 6. Oak Nordic II Bedside Table | 7. Hensley Nightstand | 8. Siegel Nightstand | 9. Grove Wood Nightstand
It was such a fast and fun process. They didn’t overthink it (again, probably because true money wasn’t being exchanged) and it felt so fluid. Since everything was in our cohesive style, we knew that we could mix and match to a degree. We could take what they liked/loved and start playing with them on boards to see what would turn into a beautiful room that worked well design-wise. We still had to consider scale, texture, color, wood tones, fabric tones, patterns, etc. But we felt free to be creative in a way that made things so fast.
So Julie started pulling together said boards to show me (not the client, at this point, we had carte blanche, plus it was supposed to be a surprise):
Since the reveal is tomorrow, we are NOT going to show you the final board. 🙂
But what about accessories?
Step 6: Shop for accessories and buy more options than you need to reduce install time.
We shop for lighting and decor both online and in person a week before and bring what we think will look good, with some backups. I know this seems wasteful, but I’m telling you right now (and I’d love any designer to back me up in the comments) that you don’t know until you get into a space whether something will TRULY work. More experience creates less guess-work so we are pretty darn good at it at this point and NO ONE wants to schlep unnecessary pieces to and fro, but getting there, realizing that something doesn’t work, having to shop again and then go back is a waste of even more time.
Full disclosure, we have a prop warehouse that like half of these pieces were pulled from so we while we did purchase some, we simply shopped the storage unit for a lot of them.
HOT TIP: Take one million photos of what you’ve already bought. Since we do this all the time, often not in LA, we make sure to take photos of what we are bringing and even write notes on them so we know what it is or anything important about it. This helps us SO much so when I’m like, “Hey, what options of throws do we have,” I can look at a document and see that we have enough.
SMALLS (A.K.A. ART & OBJECTS)
Then we typically have a team of people to install a space, which can take 1-2 days (bedrooms are the easiest) and we play, and style and move things around the entire time ’til it feels right. Having options actually saves us time, and then the leftovers are either returned or they head to prop storage to audition for the next makeover.
The point is that by foregoing the typical design plans and mood boards we saved so much time (and therefore money). Typically those can take forever and then are tweaked and tweaked for so long that something becomes unavailable and thus the whole plan has to change. By only giving options of what is AVAILABLE in simple grids of product made it so simple for them, and allowed us to be creative while knowing that they would be happy with the final result.
Regarding the budget, I realized late last night while editing that our budget was off and what would be the most helpful is knowing how many hours it takes to pull this together as experienced designers and stylist. We track our hours and it was 145.5 NOT including mine. I don’t include mine because I’m terrible at tracking but I just oversaw design and art direction and Julie and Emily Bowser did the bulk of the work. So if you are a designer or are going to hire a designer, that is an accurate, if not LOW, amount of hours spent on design and install of one single bedroom. Seems crazy, but after 15 years of styling, it’s simply what it takes to pull off a pretty room. You should definitely come by tomorrow and see for yourself.
That’s it. Let us know in the comments if you have ANY questions or comments, or if you’re a designer and could see yourself using this yourself to speed up some projects.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for the full reveal of Kristen and Raeann’s bedroom makeover. We are very proud of it. See you there.