The unsexy part of design

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I'll admit when I first thought about doing interior design I imagined fabric swatches and paint samples, hunting down treasures at antique stores and going shopping with clients. 

The reality is that you have to do the hard parts first before you can start playing with fabric samples. The rest of the design falls apart if you do not have a solid base. 

I'm working with a fabulous couple and they have done what I usually recommend-which is to live in the home for awhile so they could decide what they wanted to do. That and they've set a budget.  The home has a kitchen with a dining area and a living area in the back of the house. The front living room and dining room, would generally be more formal, but they decided they don't want a formal dining room. They have a record player and love to listen to records but beyond that they just want a space to entertain and hang out in. 

I'm a pretty intuitive and empathetic person, which I feel helps me suss out people's design styles pretty easily. I also have my clients fill out a questionnaire, share a Houzz or Pinterest board with me and I take a look at the rest of the house. 

The very first thing I do when I meet with a client is to measure their space. We do also talk about their design style, living needs and color preferences. Then I'll pull together a first draft of a mood board. Here's a sample of some of the pins I pulled. 

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Sometimes, I rely on pinterest for a little inspiration, but in this case I already knew what the style was and I needed some layout ideas. My clients definitely have a mid-century modern clean vibe with a color palette of blues and greens. Since we were nixing the dining room I needed a way to pull the two rooms together and create separate spaces without the room feeling like a bowling alley or disconnected. The core request was for a space for the record player and records, and I started pinning ideas.

The floor plan and searching for furniture sometimes happen simultaneously. In this case I mapped out a first draft of a floor plan. A general idea of where things are going to go. 

RoomSketcher 2D Floor Plan.jpg

I liked the general direction this was going but I didn't quite like how it was flowing. Plus the window behind the couch has a low ledge and the couch was blocking some of the light. 

I pivoted the couch which made a huge difference and it felt like the rooms were a little more connected. Once I get the core furniture placement down then I hone in on how I want the room to feel. I'll start to pull furniture based on their style and color and adjust the furniture layout with those measurements in mind.

While a floor plan is extremely helpful to get an idea of how the room is going to look, it's also helpful to mark out where the furniture is going to be on the floor. This room is a little tricky because the entryway is right behind the chairs, there is a hallway through to the back of the house, a staircase and a bar. When I met with the clients to present the plan, I measured out and taped off where the furniture would be. At that point I realized that while there was physically enough clearance between the chair and the entryway, it just wasn't enough. I shifted everything a little closer to the window and that opened up the space a bit. 

Next up is choosing the furniture and wallpaper. 

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Always keep exploring

Last week was chock full of goodness. If I could sum it up I would say the week was about learning, community, exploration and growth. It happened because I'm lucky to live in a city that is host to some amazing things but also because I put myself out there. Way out there! 

It all started on Sunday night when I rode my bike to the Music Box Theater to see Grace Bonney speak about her book In the Company of Women. She had an amazing panel of Chicago entrepreneurs who spoke about their business experiences. My greatest takeaway was build your community and if you are lucky enough to live in Chicago, this is the place to do it!

Monday night I rode my bike (and it was hella windy) to Heritage Bicycles to learn about bikes and coffee. Which may seem like an odd pairing, but it definitely works. It was great to hear Mike the owner talk about the business and how they are branching out. He's definitely multi-passionate and as somebody who has multiple interests it was interesting to learn how he goes for it and makes it work. We got to taste some pour over coffee, which was delicious. We also got to learn about how their bike frames are made locally. I definitely covet one of their bikes. 

Tuesday night was the 'Wild Card' talk at Chicago Ideas Week. I wish I had the itinerary because it was amazing. There was tap dancing, comedy, singing, philanthropy and place hacking. 

Thursday I took the day off of work to enjoy all Chicago Ideas Week had to offer. The workshop with Ink Factory was one of the best things I have ever done. Their tag line is "you talk-we draw-it's awesome". They illustrate just about anything and they taught us how to do it too.

Words are my thing and while I'm great with using physical objects to translate my vision, I'm not good at drawing, but they gave some great tips for that too! I've started visually brainstorming and making plans for Meandering Design and it's been fun to do. I feel like I accessed part of my brain that hadn't been used for years. 

I'd highly recommend taking a workshop with them. They really taught about active listening and how to best organize thoughts and information. Things that you can use day-to-day. 

I got to go to another amazing workshop through Chicago Ideas Week at Ravenswood Studio and Luci Creative. We were tasked with brainstorming and mocking up a museum exhibit. Their staff were on hand to help us through the process and help with the build (ok, it was out of cardboard, but still). It was challenging to do a group brainstorm session with a bunch of strangers and I kind of hung back because I've been trying to not be a control freak. I found some creative things to do while other people built the exhibit. I realized that my introvert super power is being able to stand back and absorb all that is going on around me, synthesize all that information and present it! 

It was also great to have a tour afterwards to see the studio and learn about all the things they create and build. It was fabulous to have access to a space that normally I wouldn't be able to just stop by and visit. 

Friday's Chicago Ideas Week session wasn't as exciting but it was super useful and informative. Leo Burnett hosted 'Big Branding for Small Startups' and they gave away so much of their knowledge and expertise. It was wonderful. It was really exciting to be at their offices. Now I just need to take what I learned and put it into practice. 

Saturday's workshop was making public art with Matthew Hoffman. He started this amazing campaign over a decade ago to bring some light to this crazy chaotic city. He put up stickers that said 'You are Beautiful' and those stickers have become a movement that has spread across the world. We each got a tile and drew our own design on it and then when it was all put together you got this wondrous piece of art that had a little bit of all of us. 

I learned a lot this past week:

  • First make sure you go to Chicago Ideas Week next year!! You'll have access to people and places that will blow your mind! 
  • Don't listen to your own limitations. I believed that I couldn't draw, and yet with a couple of tips and tricks Ink Factory had me drawing thoughts. Amazing. 
  • It's ok to step back. Doing the group brainstorming at Ravenswood Studio put me mentally in a rough place but I observed, learned and moved on. Sometimes its ok to let other take the lead (even if you don't think they do the best job at it! Recovering control freak here!). 
  • Step out of your comfort zone. I'm a huge introvert and I spent the whole week interacting with people. It was good! I deliberately made no plans on Sunday and I gave myself permission to take the day off from everything. I also took a nap. 
  • Be open to new experiences and ideas. I really learned a lot from the people I met last week.
  • Let your knowledge shine. Raise your hand. Ask and answer questions. This isn't a popularity contest and if you think you know the answer share it. If you aren't sure then ask the question, because chances are someone else is afraid to ask. 
  • Be you! Because you're awesome! 

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