Running a small business as a creative person is like a baby giraffe walking across a log, over the rapids, in heels – it’s unnatural, precarious, immensely comical, yet totally possible. Figuring out how to pay yourself and others to do something we would normally do for free is so challenging, and the learning curve is high.
But, one thing we do know over here is how pull together a design plan – for your home, office, studio, conference room, store, dressing room, etc, no matter what your project or business is. Trying to get employees to be excited, to work hard, to come up with new ideas, and the biggest ‘get’ of all, TO CARE in a really stale and uninspiring office space is extremely difficult. I should know, we used to work in one.
So, today we are going to walk you through our design process; how we go from the blank (or uninspiring) ‘before’ space, to a real design plan for that space. We partnered with Epson to create a video about the process, and just telling you the steps seemed boring, so we instead made it a one day challenge. It’s like an episode of 24 over here. We all know that each design plan takes days, if not weeks (or months) to produce, but that would be a very long blog post. So watch the video to see what happens then keep on scrolling:
For this project we’ll use our client, we’ll call her Kate, because that is her real name. Here’s her space before we got there:
First we take measurements, ask lots of style and color questions, then (once the contracts are signed) we get on it and the fun begins.
Step one: Find Inspiration. After you have determined what space you are going to design, you’ll want to find some inspirational images to help guide you. This may sound super laymen and obvious to a lot of you, but the first thing we do after we see the space is troll the internet, magazines, Pinterest and design books (vintage and new) for aspirational versions of what that space could be. This is both for look, feel, and practicality.
We tear out pages from magazines (or scan/photo copy them) and print out our Pinterest pages. Since we have to do this often, we have a shared digital cloud file for each client, but you could just put them all into a folder on your desktop (either drag and drop from Pinterest or screenshot by hitting command/shift/4 at the same time then the mouse pops up and you can take a photo of whatever you want on your screen), or print everything out and put it in a binder. These days you can put everything on your ipad, but I’m a big fan of the binder because you can scribble all over it (especially when you are working with a client).
Then we stare at all the inspirational images and look for the common threads – maybe it’s a color palette, maybe it’s a feeling, maybe it’s the style of the furniture or the pops of randomness. Ideas start forming from there, although nothing is really solid yet.
For clients, we don’t just find colors on the color wheel or even a paint fan deck, we find them in and on textures to help really explain how the color will play out (at least in our fantasy). So it’s not just ‘white’, it’s a shot of beautiful white linen sheets. Obviously if you are designing your office space and you haven’t designed anything before you don’t need to take this step, but I figured it would be fun to show you what we show clients and how we romance them a little bit.
After you have a general idea of where stylistically you are headed, then it’s time for step 2: Make the floorplan.
As a stylist, I NEVER made floorplans, mainly because it didn’t matter if things didn’t fit; you would just cheat the camera so they looked like they fit. But now we actually have to care about the right scale, because if the sofa is so big that you can’t open the door, then it’s an actual problem and we’ll look like hacks.
If you are new to this whole thing and don’t have or want to take the time to do some fancy renderings, then simply tape out your furniture shape and location on the floor. Standard sofas are 72″, 84″, or 96″ long with lots of different depths (typically around 30 – 40″). So when you are in the room, tape the approximate shape/size of the sofa on the floor and then you can play with the perfect size and location for that space.
We do our renderings in Vectorworks and Ginny normally does one of the ‘Existing floorplan’ and then we create what we think will be a better floorplan with the right amount, type and scale of furniture. Here is her existing floorplan:
Here is our proposed floorplan:
This is mainly for all the major pieces of furniture. You tend to not put lighting or accessories on the plan, but having this guides you and tells you what you actually need and what size you need it.
Now it’s time to start pulling the whole plan together.
This sounds kinda abstract, and I’m sure you’re thinking ‘aren’t your thoughts always organized?’ Nope. Up to this point we know the style, the color, the inspiration, and what major pieces we need, but it’s time for the two two tasks to merge. So we take the floorplan and basically list out everything we need and start to look for specific items in our styles/colors.
In the video, this step took about 22 seconds, but in real life this takes weeks. Just when you think you have found the right sofa, you find the perfect chairs that simply don’t work with that sofa because of height or scale issues. And right when you have picked the wall color, you finally find the most perfect antique Persian rug that takes everything in a different direction. Of course you don’t have to be so nuanced and if you don’t use vintage it is actually much easier.
But if you are simply doing 1 room, office, studio … etc the list shouldn’t be insane and it can be relatively manageable. Once we find things we like, we print them and start organizing them by laying them out so we can see all the options together. We do this digitally too, if we can find everything online, but it just depends on the project. It’s nice to have them printed so you can tack on the upholstery fabric and see the chair next to the wallpaper swatch, etc.
Once you know what you need off your list, you shop – either online or out on foot. Some design firms design from a computer, we don’t. We get inspiration from the internet, but we get out on foot to find most pieces. I need to see, touch and caress each piece before deciding that that it’s ‘the one’.
This is really one of my favorite parts, and the actual reason why I wake up every day. We take tons of photos and get inspired by one-of-a-kind pieces that may or may not be online. We rarely purchase that same day unless it’s a crazy deal and it’s the perfect piece. We typically take photos and get approval from the client and if we think it’s a possibility we put it on hold. Of course the flea market is a whole other situation and you have to pull the trigger immediately.
A huge part of our job is taking pictures, and we take A LOT of them. The Epson printer that we use allows us to take a photo anywhere and print it remotely back at the studio (while we are still at the store). It does everything that all good laser printers do – print, scan, copy, fax (although WHO IS STILL FAXING?) but it does it really fast and super easily. I know that it has a lot of fancy features but the whole ‘print from anywhere’ thing is pretty compelling. You can also do this with documents or anything else.
Not only do we print from stores, but also from the office and from every single device (all of our phones, Ipads, and computers). I’m not sure if other printers are doing this, but it’s pretty awesome, especially if you want to bypass the whole ‘uploading to your computer and then pressing print’ situation. You skip a whole step and that saves time, precious time. Time where we could be still shopping or finding ways to manipulate our client into buying the emerald green velvet Milo Baughman brass dining chairs.
While we were out shopping and pressing print, Brady was back at the office picking up all the photos and organizing them. That’s not his only job, I promise, but you guys, it was a one day design challenge, so we obviously had to divide and conquer.
Now that we have all of our elements – inspiration, floorplan, color story, pictures of the exact pieces we’ve shopped for, etc, we make a massive mood board. All that you need is a wall, but if you have a huge cork board or white board that’s useful, too.
We just use some tape (in our color palette so it doesn’t distract too much) and throw everything up on the board, in a way that hopefully makes it all start to come together. We organize it by room, and then make sure that every room has all the elements it needs.
Since you can’t bring 1 million photos and fabric swatches to a client’s house for the presentation, we create a digital mood board (just uploading from our phones or online) and put something together that will not only impress and romance them, but help them to make some initial decisions and get the ball rolling.
Here is what we come up with for our initial design plan:
For this client there were a few more pages and plans (and we did doctor it a bit for this post), but some things have to remain a secret for that final house reveal.
Then I was off to present, with hopes that everything just goes perfectly, they buy everything that we are selling, that we leave the meeting ready to start purchasing and begin the process of implementing our design. Of course, then comes the part of coordination, logistics, things being out of stock, selling before we could buy them, and potentially not fitting as planned. Designing any space can be tricky, but creating a design plan (fancy like ours, or just a list and a mood board) helps the process go so much smoother and keeps you organized the entire time.
Now just to be clear, NO ONE can put together a design plan in one day. We just did it for the sake of making the video more fun. It’s like how on HGTV they “renovate a house” in 6 weeks. Ahem. So I don’t want to set you up for disappointment, but with the right tools and by taking these steps you’ll be able to create a space that you love, that will inspire your employees and make you proud to have. I promise you, your life and company will benefit in so many ways.
*This post is in partnership with Epson, where we used the Epson Workforce WF-7610