gold line svg


Our (New-ish) Super Fast, Super Useful Design Process (for Non-Designers and Beginning Designers)


photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: 1 bedroom 4 ways with the citizenry

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.

Emily Henderson Velux Brighten Up Any Room Before Photos Grid Of 4

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:

  1. How do you want it to “feel” when you walk in? Get them to throw out adjectives to help guide the design.
  2. What are your functional needs?
  3. What do you want to keep and what in here do you really want to lose?
  4. Is there anything you really HATE? (Kristen HATED velvet, for instance, which we thought was hilarious).
  5. 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.

Emily Henderson Velux Room Makeover Giveaway Furniture Boards.001
clockwise from the left: image via amber interiors | image via etsy | from: 1 bedroom 4 ways with the citizenry | image via domino | image via amber interiors | image via lulu and georgia

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.

Emily Henderson Velux Master Bedroom Floor Plan

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.

Emily Henderson Velux Master Bedroom Floor Plan With Furniture

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.


Velux Furniture Options With Hearts 1Velux Furniture Options With Hearts 2

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.


Velux Furniture Options With Hearts 3

1. Mil-01 White Rug | 2. Macramé Wool Rug | 3. Cobblestone Woven Wool Rug | 4. Nadia Rug | 5. Glacier Diamond Rug | 6. Zags Denim Woven Wool Rug | 7. Rachel Tufted Rug | 8. Naimee Rug


Velux Furniture Options With Hearts 4

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


Velux Furniture Options With Hearts 5

1. Shaw Walnut Dresser | 2. Culla Dresser | 3. Loring Dresser | 4. Anton Dresser | 5. Emerson Dresser | 6. Custom Dresser by Hedge House Furniture


Velux Furniture Options With Hearts 6

1. Tanner Armchair | 2. Ruxby Chair | 3. Isabella Rattan Chair | 4. Mariposa Chair | 5. Levo Chair | 6. Slide Chair | 7. Sven Chair | 8. Gabriola Chair | 9. Denman Chair

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):

Emily Henderson Velux Room Makeover Giveaway Inspo Board 07.09.19 02.013

Bed | Rug | Nightstand | Table Lamp | Accent ChairOttoman | Dresser | Dog Bed

Emily Henderson Velux Room Makeover Giveaway Inspo Board 07.09.19 02.016

Bed | Rug | Nightstand | Sconce | Accent ChairOttoman | Dresser | Dog Bed

Emily Henderson Velux Room Makeover Giveaway Inspo Board 07.09.19 02.021

Bed | Rug | Pendant | Nightstand | Ceramic Wall Hanging | Table Lamp | Accent Chair | Side Table | Ottoman | Throw Pillow | Dresser | Dog Bed

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.


Velux Accessories Options For Emily To Look Over1

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.


Velux Accessories Options Bedding

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.


Velux Accessories Options For Emily To Look Over Throws


Velux Accessories Options Pillows


Velux Accessories Options Rugs


Velux Accessories Options For Emily To Look Over7

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.

Fin Mark


Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

Comments are closed.
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Fascinating behind-the-scenes examination of process. I wonder what other ways clients might do some of “the work” leverage their dollars for where your team really delivers unique value and/or specialized insight. I am always willing to pay for outside expertise, but also appreciate knowing that some of what I might unknowingly be paying for is less expert opinion and more general research (et al) which I could do some of on my own.


Would like to know the sources for the rugs right before step 7 in the mood boards, specifically the first one with small triangles.

Also, an idea for a future roundup perhaps – low pile rugs, please. Got a trundle bed recently (for guests) and even on my medium pile rug, it gets stuck.

Alexandra Rose

Yes, I would love to know the source for the rug in Julie’s first board!

Jess & Alexandra! It is the Whitnee Rug from Lulu & Georgia 🙂 it is so beautiful, I want it as well!


I’m curious how you had them heart and x out what they liked and didn’t like? I’m also curious how much time this all took your team. As in, what does “fast design” even mean? I feel like it all takes FOREVER.


Seems like this pretty much says it:

“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.”

I think they printed it out and X’d and hearted from there and then took photos of the print out with the and sent them back to us. we just made it look nicer for you guys for the blog.


Hello – I don’t see the budget. In step 2 you say “head to the bottom to see what we spent”.


I am a beginning designer and this is typically how I begin projects, my biggest time consumer is window treatments (like Roman/roller and woven shades) finding options and sourcing. Do you have a go to method when it comes to this?

Hey Shayla! We partnered with Tonic Living for this project, they have a great website where it makes it very easy to send over measurements and pick out a fabric. Full disclosure, they did us a huge favor by rushing the order for this project since we only had a few weeks for the turnaround.

[…] Design Process (for Non-Designers and Beginning Designers) appeared first on Emily Henderson. Source by […]

Jessica from Make It Home

I’ve been decorating this way for clients for years now! My specialty is budget decorating so my hourly fee needs to be small. Really the questionnaire is where I can see the place through their eyes so I don’t have to be as much of a mind reader throughout the process. It’s usually the client that makes projects take a long time though, but in May I had a client who was super responsive and we finished the 2 bedroom apartment in 2.5 weeks! It was amazing!


That’s how I’ve been serving my clients too! It’s cost effective, transparent and great!


This is how I decorate for my mom – I offer her three choices. She feels ownership of the look and it becomes far less painful to get a decision from her.


Thanks for sharing this process. I recently moved and I feel like I can try to use this method for myself. ?


Asking because I am genuinely curious, not to snark: how does this process differ from what you would normally do? I understand you do lot of pre-pinning as it is, so curious about the specific changes at each step, and what saves the most time/money here. Thx!!


As I understood it, rather than working to perfect a mood board, they jumped directly from several pinned inspirational images to choosing 2 options for every anchoring piece, then built 3 final mood boards from the set of pre-approved anchor pieces. Then bought multiples for small pieces and installed them onsite vs. mood-boarding again. In other words, they got real way faster than usual?

Erin, a lot of clients want this fancy presentation (understandably) that really gives them a fuller sense of how it will look. Sometimes (for most people) individual pieces are hard for people to see the full picture. So we often spend WEEKS pulling together mood boards with pretty fabrics, photos, textures, so they can visualize it. The problem with this is we aren’t yet accounting for whats available. So if we like a bed and have that in mind but the client hasn’t seen it yet, we don’t necessarily go through the hoops to check availability and lead time. Sometimes between presenting and accepting a design pieces might go out of stock and NEVER come back in, so we have to change the entire board. So its saving time on the front end, not having to do a full design plan, but also saving a lot of time using available pieces. hopefully that helps! (and no snark read -its a great question). xx


Ooooo! Can’t wait till tomorrow! I love those mood boards. Thanks for linking all those sources too. Now I am kicking myself for not applying for that giveaway and for the opportunity to turn my piano room into a true “conservatory” instead of just sarcastically calling it that.


I love this post! Might try this on my husband when I want to change up our bedroom (just a little light tweaking sweetheart).

Roberta Davis

oh, I can relate! ha ha!


Any tools you’d recommend for non-designers to create mood boards?

Roberta Davis

I’ll offer my thoughts! I use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop but that is very expensive software. To get close, you can usually find an image of a product that’s for sale on a website and right-click “save as” and save the image to your own folder. Then insert or paste it into a Word doc. Or, use the snipping tool (Windows- type “snip” into that “type here to search” box in lower left of screen. You can capture the image and save it or copy/paste it into a Word doc. I also pin these product images so I can link to them later. Once in your Word doc, you can crop or resize the image to suit your need.


I like Roberta’s suggestion of Word. Similarly, I use Powerpoint.


If you’re Mac user, snapshots and use Pages app is great too! My moodboards are sometimes 20+ pages long and it works great!


I’ll quickly create preliminary mood boards by taking screenshots of products (Command+Shift+4 on mac) and then opening screenshots in preview to resize and move around my screen. I use Pinterest in the conceptualizing phase, and photoshop/illustrator/indesign for presentation, but screenshots are a super fast way to view products from multiple sites together and you can quickly eliminate what’s not working (keep links open/bookmarked to remember what came from where). Then I’ll take a screenshot of my collected screenshots to save the mood board. I also add/subtract various items to quickly create several versions. I don’t present this format to clients but it saves me a lot of time during the design phase, I’m not editing images or composing boards (both can be time-consuming) with items that won’t make it to the final round.

Roberta Davis


Hey Nisha! As April said we typically do the same for our initial mood boards by taking screenshots of items we think will work in the space. Also, make sure to pin them to a board because it is easier to find them later once you narrow them down! We will use keynote which is a program that is free if you are a Mac user, it is the best program because it is very user friendly. Once we narrow down the boards to the top 3 I like to then clean them up by cutting out the items in photoshop but this isn’t a necessary step. Hope that helps!


Not the same at all, but I use Pinterest. I have a board per room for inspiration and sourcing options, and if I’m actually redecorating a room (instead of just collecting ideas and inspiration), I might have a subcategory called “daughter’s bedroom actual” or something to see the actual items I’m considering next to each other. It’s not a mood board, but it helps me see things together.


I always use PowerPoint to make mood boards! Just copy and paste from sites and easy to make annotations or add text. You can even select everything on the page and “paste as picture” which you can save as a separate picture file – great if you want to email it or put it on a website.

Roberta Davis

Oh, yeah. Power Point may be better than Word. I learned how to do a lot of presentation work in Word, though, when I worked for a contract furniture dealership that didn’t have InDesign. It can do a lot.

Roberta Davis

I love this process! I am a designer but never have done professional residential work, but I do know that things often don’t look the same in a space as you had pictured. I think I will try this on my husband! lol When you instruct clients to find images to pin, where do you tell them to look? There’s a ton of visual garbage out there, and also I imagine most (non-designer) people have no clue where to look to find ideas.


Awesome question!!!!

ooh that is a good question. this is why I think that Pinterest should have experts that have curated boards. I would LOVE for there to be a ‘best bedrooms’ category and then inside that would be all the different styles so even WE aren’t having to sort through all the different crazy bathrooms out there. I often put designers I love afterwards – like ‘calm bedroom Domino’ or Calm bedroom AMber interiors’, etc. or even us 🙂

Roberta Davis

Wouldn’t that be nice? I see too much on Pinterest that I’m not interested in- too much to sort through.

Anne Good

What program do you use for your moodboards? I just got a new Surface laptop by Microsoft and I want to load something on there to make these for clients. Any suggestions ? Thank you!

I use keynote:) because its fastest.

Anne Good

What program do you use for your moodboards? I just got a new Surface laptop by Microsoft and I want to load something on there to make these for clients. Any suggestions?


I have been using Canva, which is free and terrific!

OOH i’ll check it out!

Roberta Davis

Canva looks cool. I signed up. Thanks!


Can you please include sources for the smalls? Would love to see where these are from, and if still available


Thank you for the information about your process. I appreciate that it was efficient and still thoughtful. I am grateful for what you did for them.❤️


Please do more of these posts! Seeing how an entire room comes together is SO HELPFUL. Thank you one million times and I love this. ALSO MISS THE FASHION POSTS BECAUSE FALL IS COMING. 🙂


This is almost exactly my process to a t – EXCEPT that step of showing the items and having the client X and Heart. F’ing genius. This would save so much time designing and editing the mood boards. And yes, I always tell clients not to be scared at the amount of throw pillows and accessories I bring in to style. It’s annoying to return but so necessary.


I’m curious about how she sends out the boards to X and Heart. Are the boards uploaded to a program or printed off by client where they mark it up and then scanned back?


Do you give options for paint colors?

YES. we didn’t in this case because we didn’t paint, but normally we swatch it and put it on all four walls (on paper) because the labor expense can add up if you aren’t doing it yourself and they have to sign off on that.


I just want to give a shout out for the Room & Board beds with the storage drawer (neither of which they chose!) I have one and the drawers make IDEAL shoe storage. Easily accessible, you can look at all your options at once, and the drawer keeps them from getting dusty. It’s just easy, which is the best kind of storage. Highly recommend.


Whoa 145 hours! That surprised me. So good that you shared, thanks!


I agree. That seems like a crazy amount of time (and money – say $14,500 at $100 ph and that doesn’t include any of the furnishings) to me. That’s 3.5 weeks of one person full-time (yes, I know there was more than one person working on it)! Not saying that it didn’t take that long but not sure that’s an appropriate amount of time to spend on decorating one room. We are currently working with architects and their interior designer on renovating an Art Deco home and converting an adjoining old bakery into a 1 bedroom apartment our design budget is roughly double that, but that’s for a 4 bedroom house and an apartment. I do value design time (I work in a creative industry and have an architecture degree) but I think stuff like this is what makes people feel that good design is inaccessible (because at those prices it is). And I don’t think that infinite choice definitely makes a project result better – I’m a fan of this method where you drill down up front and then pick from 3 (or however many) options that hit that criteria. I realise that this is a totally personal opinion… Read more »


I have to agree with you Alix, this seems like way too much time on a bedroom with no structural changes. I’m currently working with a designer on about 2/3 of our house at over $100/hr and it’s nowhere near this amount of time AND there is demo and custom rebuilding being done. I wonder if the added element of having to share the finished work on multiple platforms and represent the EH brand contributes to the additional time somehow?


Or maybe the designer is under-reporting their hours because they are worried they won’t get paid for all the work they put in. I know I used to do that as an interior designer, and unfortunately it’s not a sustainable way to run a business. Nicki below said the same: ” I spend a lot of time on projects that I never charge for. This isn’t right or even smart but if I charged for all of my time I would never have any clients.”


I don’t think so. She had a meeting with us to walk through the project at the beginning before we signed a contract and she estimated the hours required. She tracks her hours and tells us where we are as we go along. She’s experienced and has a great portfolio so it’s not like she’s hurting for clients. We felt lucky to get in her schedule and she’s been absolutely amazing. If she estimated 145 hours for something as simple as a bedroom with two nightstands a bed and a dresser I would have laughed.


Rae – I can’t seem to reply to your comment below but yes – 145 hours for these non-structural changes ( like you said a new bed and 2 dressers) seems bananas. And yes, my $100ph estimate was low.


I’ve been wondering about this as well. 145 hours not including Emily’s time seems excessive for one room, and yes, it would absolutely be inaccessible for me. Designers work hard for their well-earned money, but $14,000 is just over-the-top. Beautiful room, but wow!


PowerPoint or even Google Slides will do the same thing Emily uses Keynote for.

I’ve done mood boards in PowerPoint for years because I don’t allow myself to go on Pinterest.


I loved this post and process, thanks so much for your transparency. You mention you take photos of what you’re bringing. Do you use any type of inventory software/app to keep track of your props,etc? I’m a real estate stager, not designer, but curious about others’ process of keeping track of inventory when it’s available or out on a shoot and needs to be returned to storage if the client doesn’t purchase, etc. Any insight would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

Nope. it would not be worth the time and money to inventory. we have done this before and it takes honestly months to keep track of inventory and a lot of it isn’t worth it. I’ve asked most stagers and they also don’t inventory because it just isn’t worth the time.


Thanks for replying, I really really appreciate your response and the insight from other stagers! Sometimes I think I’m too type A to be a creative ?

Paige Cassandra Flamm

This is such a great process that I’m sure will help many people!



THIS POST WAS SO HELPFUL!!! Would love to see more like these. In particular, I’d really like to see the 101 of furniture/room/layout planning. How do you initially decide “Bed here, dresser here, etc.” Also, I really struggle with narrowing down my style because I love a lot of things. I know the site has the “find my style” quiz but I’m not really talking about that because I actually appreciate and love/use many different styles. I more mean when you are starting to design a room and you like a lot of different styles or elements from differetn styles, how do you narrow down and focus in for that particular room so that it looks purposeful. Part of me says, If I like it, who cares but I’m afraid sometimes I’m a bit all over the place with styles. THANKS!!


This amazing white imperfect donut lamp keeps being shown in rooms and on posts. Where do I find it? ? Please help!


Go to the *Shop* tab at the top of this page and select lighting. Easy. Peasy.

Susanne S.

This is a TERRIFIC post–so, so helpful! More like this, please! 🙂


This is an interesting post. Regarding the number of hours, the client is billed for 145.5 hours plus the cost of the furniture? Are you able to provide an exact cost as mentioned earlier in the post?


Hello! I’d love to know the source of the floor lamp on the far right. Exquisite!


Someone on the EH team mentioned in a previous post how crucial Pinterest was for helping organize the design/makeover process, or just keeping track of trends. It would be great if you all could do a post on this: how to use Pinterest to figure out your style preferences or how to make the most of Pinterest in styling your home, with specific tips and tricks, etc.


I believe Young House Love did a podcast about this awhile back.

Elena romanova interiors

Hi Emily I love your posts and your work..
I am an interior designer based in london..
One of my main challenges is pricing a job and even after 9 years of doing it I am still not sure I’ve got it right..
Therefore this post was fascinating.,I actually use a similar process. It was interesting to find that it took you 145.5 h not including your time (which must be most expensive) to create a bedroom.. the amount of hours didn’t surprise but my question is – how much on average do you then charge to create a room? I find I can never charge what it really takes – people just won’t pay.. or maybe I’m wrong? How do you communicate the value and make people want to pay that much for a room?
Really appreciate your advice..


I love this post so much! Incredibly helpful. Now I hope you do one for dining rooms!


thank you THANK YOU for this post. This is such an organized way to go through the design process. I am in the process of revamping my bedroom, and even though I am in the design profession, going through the process myself is daunting. So thank you again!


I’m a freelance designer about a year out of school and this is honestly the exact process I do. I don’t have many clients who want full renovations but more just help with shopping, styling, and etc.

I use sketchup as well, and sometimes just google slides to create quick documents for simple mock ups and options in grids like you’ve done, (I like slides because it’s quick, browser based, and easy to link back to pages)

I will say this is a fast process AT FIRST but inevitably real life clients do more of a back and forth of “I like this but can you find it for half the price” or “I like this but my husband really wants leather” so it always ends up taking a little longer.

It seems like this is the way design work is moving for a lot of people though who want quick fixes and for rooms to be livable/grammable in a jiffy.


An interesting take on the process, well worth documenting. Thanks! And I reallyreallyreally don’t intend to be a smartass, but if you ever have a British client, they will understand ‘smalls’ to mean underwear. Just sayin.’


Thank you, thank you, thank you! I don’t feel quite so overwhelmed now in starting the design process.


What software do you use for the boards (step 5)?


Hi! Just not sure I understood right… 145 hours for the fast method? Or 145 that it would have taken with your « old » method? I mean Pinterest was done a lot by the client and shopping was done in your warehouse, no huge mood board presented to client, no paint, no reno.. not criticizing but is this a standard? Genuinely interested to understand the breakdown of those hours? If it’s the standard that should be invested by an experienced designer, I understand why my house is not well designed!

No wonder I got sh** when my designer charged  5 hours for a mood board for my living room!


Love the post and as a designer, I agree with all of it including the massive amount of time it takes to pull all of it together. However, in the Midwest, clients (even very wealthy ones) would not pay that much money in design fees for a bedroom makeover that didn’t even include any major construction. Let’s say the designer’s hourly rate is $150 per hour (average in Midwest but low for the coasts) that would be almost $22,000 for the designer’s hourly fees alone and that doesn’t include furnishings, labor, etc. I spend a lot of time on projects that I never charge for. This isn’t right or even smart but if I charged for all of my time I would never have any clients. I envy those designers who can command this kind of money for their services.


Use graphing paper for figuring out furniture arrangement and scale! Take the time to draw out the outline of your room to scale and then cut out the to-scale pieces of furniture you are considering. I did this for my daughter’s nursery and it really helped me come up with new ideas that worked and order confidently.


Wow! Almost 150 hrs for one room.. That’s a lot of time.


Thanks so much for this post! Question: do you have a list of designers that you frequently visit when Pinning? My Pinterest homepage is crazy: back-to-school hacks, Instant Pot recipes, how to organize, “traditional” design that doesn’t speak to me, or paid ads. Where do I start on Pinterest? How do you find those to Pin? Using the search button with “contemporary traditional” takes me down a time waste rabbit hole of images that do not appeal to me. If putting my head down and spending hours/days/months fine tuning my preferences is the answer, I’m okay with that. I need a starting point. Maybe a possible future design process post???


Could you tell me where the night table in the first photo was purchased?


Click the link under the photo (1 bedroom 4 ways) and you will find it.


I do t understand how ANYONE can justify 145 hours on a bedroom. If I even approached that amount of time my clients would laugh me right off the job. I got to 50 on a dining room (client wanted to investigate a million options) and felt terrible about even that! I respectfully ask, Emily, can you explain how you justify this and explain the breakdown to your clients? Do they ever balk? I know you’re in the big leagues but I can’t imagine nearly a $15,000 design fee for one room!


I agree ! Please give us some feedback about the hours ! 145 seems way too much !


Love the project, love the post, but would also love to see how the 145 hours breakdown. As an architect I spend that many hours for entire permit packages. Tell us more.


As a designer I really appreciate this post! I find so much of my job starts with educating clients about the actual time (and money) needed to get the end result that they want. It’s always a lot more time than most clients expect and want to invest in. After starting a business 3 years ago, unfortunately getting paid fairly for alls hours worked remains an ongoing struggle. I appreciate the ideas, and getting the word out that good design takes time.


Wanna-be designer just in my own home, but am thrilled to hear an actual designer experiences the same thing I do: sometimes not truly seeing if an item works until it’s actually in the space. I always be.ieved real designers would have that know-how and I just didn’t have that skill.

Go To Top