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Interior Design Process For Wellbeing

So you decided to start a decorating project. And you decided to create a décor that is not just stylish and functional but it will also support and enhance you pursuing activities in the space.

It might be a big or small project, it might be a whole house with interior build-outs, simply sprucing up a space with new décor and a couple of new furnishings, or you just want to find new wall art for your bedroom.

You might even have inspirational Pinterest boards with your favorite ideas or a vision board on your wall with cutouts from your fav design magazines.

The décor in the images look so great and you are ready to dive in, yet it never seems to fit exactly your space.  It is overwhelming to mix and match ideas, find the right pieces to the right price and bring it all together into your project.  

Planning is the magical word! It helps you take the overwhelm out and make decorating a fun project to begin with.

Before you dive into selecting décor items and furnishings from your favorite posts and pins, take a step back. Even the simplest project can benefit from a systematic approach to solve your design challenge.

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.

Alan Lakein

A successful decorating project starts with planning! Which means evaluating your current space, your future needs and wants, looking at your budget, floorplan and timeline before you select sofas and pillows and go on a shopping spree.

During planning you also carefully consider the most potent decorating strategies for your wellbeing and happiness. This is where nature inspired design strategies play a decisive role. 

With the information gathered during Planning you have much more clarity for choosing your new room layout and furnishings. Goodbye decision anxiety & confusion, hello decorating confidence & fun! 

Below is an overview of all project steps, from start to finish. Following the steps as outlined below will help you getting started and staying true to your goals and the outcome you aspire.

Exploration: Getting Inspired To Start

This is the time when your desire to decorate a space is born. It could be triggered by a new home and start from scratch or the desire to change the usage of a space or simply your discontent with your current décor and a wish to redecorate.

This phase covers the time you have been thinking about the project, getting ideas from decorating blogs, magazines, and Pinterest searches. 

You probably have already created your own boards on Pinterest, cut out images from magazines, or collected bookmarks for your favorite design blog posts, ideas, and online furniture stores for your favorite pieces. 

Getting inspired is an important step towards your decorating project. It gets you motivated and you build a repertoire of your taste, colors, and looks. 

When you go through your boards and bookmarks you probably see a recurring theme of colors, style, and even textures and finishes.  At some point you are ready to transform your space based on the inspirational images you have collected.

You’re inspired, feel like you know you style and found some décor ideas you would like to replicate. 

You’re ready to get started!!!   But now…. What’s next?

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

1. Planning You Design Project

The first stage in your design project is planning it! To create a great space, you have to know your current situation first!

Moving through the 5 steps of planning your project will get rid of the overwhelm. It will put you at ease to implement your vision and make decorating choices that support your activities and enhance your wellbeing in the space.

Good planning will give you clarity about your current situation, your vision, budget, and timeline:

Planning: Discovery

A decorating project is a lot more involved than trying to replicate design ideas from online and offline sources. Before you get into designing and purchasing items for your space you need to start at the beginning.

You first need to take inventory and go through a sequence of questions to paint a detailed picture of the space, the people using the space and how the various activities in the space should be supported.

Then review biophilic design strategies that will help support your wellbeing and happiness. At last use all this information and analyze what works what does not, what can stay and what needs to go , and what can be improved and how.

  • Observe Your Needs
  • Observe The Space
  • Review Biophilic Design Strategies
  • Analyze To Improve

Be as detailed as possible and include everybody who will use the room in the discussion. Once you thought through improvement options you can start an initial list with items to go, items that stay and items you need to purchase. At the end the list should include everything the space will host once the project is finished. The new items on the list won’t be the final products but rather the type of things you need new with an estimated price (e.g a sofa, storage units, shelves etc.).

Planning: Draw Your Floorplan

Your initial floorplan shows the basic layout of your space in scale from an aerial view. In this initial stage it will only show any décor or furnishings that you intent to keep.

The first thing you need to do is to measure your space. The idea is to get an idea about the architectural basics first. Where are your windows and doors situated? How do your doors swing and windows open? Where are any architectural items located, such as columns, fireplace, and the like?

Like with most other things today you can either hand draw your floorplan or go online and use one of the many tools to do it on your computer.

A hand drawn floorplan with the basics is totally fine at this point. But if you are the kind of person, go online and try out some tools and watch the tutorials. Most important is to have a good representation of the space with detailed measurements and descriptions where necessary.

Planning: Create A Mood Board

This is where the creative part starts. We are done with taking inventory and setting expectations for how the room should function and support us. Yet we are still a bit away from purchasing furnishings and styling.

It’s time to translate all the details we have fleshed out into some visual concepts. It all starts with the mood board.

A mood board is a well-thought-out and planned arrangement of images, text, and color. It is a visual tool that communicates the look and feel you plan to create in your space.

You might have heard of mood boards before, which are used by professional designers to convey to their clients the look and feel they envision for a project.

The images with the common thread of looks, materials, color, and feel are telling a story about your preferences and style.

You can find templates for mood boards online if you rather not start with a blank piece of paper.  Canva Collage Maker is a great resource. They have a free version and tutorials on how to use it.

Take your time and move things in and out until it feels and looks right. If you don’t have practice in a creative process like that it can take a while. But it is very helpful to discover what you desire to create. Even if you decide to work with a professional designer down the line it is a great exercise for you to move closer to your favorite look and feel and convey it to the designer.

Going through the rest of the decorating project, this mood board will serve as a reference. If in doubt always go back to your mood board and check if your choices represent the vision you communicated in the mood board.

Planning: Create A Budget

You might think “How do I create a budget? I don’t know what anything costs and I am not even sure yet of all the things I need

Here is a simple way to get from an initial number to line by line, detailed budget:

Determine a first number for your budget

Decide on an amount you are comfortable spending to get started. How much do you have set aside or can make available right now and in the coming month? Be honest and conservative about it.

Create your wish list

Now forget the number you just decided on and create a wish list with all the items you think are needed to achieve your vision.

Go comparison shopping

Comparison shopping is not about finding the final pieces you will purchase. It rather gives you an idea of the prices for the type of furnishings on your wish list. 

It gives you a better understanding of what to expect on cost and how your first budget number is holding up. 

Narrow things down

While cost might quickly add up, going comparison shopping for your wish list, there are often ways to adjust to a more affordable version or just spend some more time finding the piece with the right price. 

And just maybe not everything from your wish list will fit into your budget, especially if you plan to buy everything at the same time. 

With the information you created, you can now come up with a plan to make it work.

 Prioritize your Purchases

In case you decide to purchase items over time you need to prioritize your shopping list based on practical matters or preferences.

For example, if you plan to paint or paper your walls it makes sense to spend the money on that task before you buy the shelves that go on that wall. Or you rather want to have the comfortable new sofa first and the old desk will just do it for a while longer. 

Stick to your budget

Do I have to say more… maybe one thing. If you splurged in one area, get creative and find a way to make up for it somewhere else in your design and budget list. Don’t find excuses, more often those creative alternatives turn out to become the most cherished. 

Planning: Create Your Timeline

Calculating an accurate timeline for your project depends heavily on the scope of your project. The two biggest impacts on the scope are the size of the space and the amount of work to be done.

The time for prep work will increase with the number of furnishings and finishes that have to be sourced and the more different trades and sources are involved. All this will impact your timeline.

Is there a date by when the project has to be finished, e.g by Christmas because you will have the family over by then?

A deadline will also influence how much you can do yourself and how much help you will need. In case of a firm deadline do reverse engineering. Start with the deadline and calculate backward by when what has to be done. Give yourself plenty of buffer time. 

But first things first. Before you create a timeline, create a to-do list and assign a timeframe for each as well as dependencies, e.g painting has to be done before curtain rods are installed, etc.

Once you have your to-do list, transfer the items from the to-do list into your calendar. You will quickly see if there are any time constraints and maybe you need to outsource some steps to fit it all into your schedule. And don’t forget those buffer times and deadlines! 

2. Design Concept

It just has become a lot easier to make design choices with the information from the planning phase at your fingertips.

When you are not sure about a design direction you are taking or a piece you are selecting, you can always check back to ensure it supports your overall goals and aesthetics for the space.

Not sure about a piece of furniture, the color for the sofa?  When in doubt look at your planning document and mood board. They will tell you if the color, the piece of furniture fit the look and feel you have visualized on your board and the activities specified for the space.

Let’s get on with the most creative part of the project, making design decisions and selecting furnishings and décor.

Now it’s time to dive into designing your space. Yeah!!!

Design, Decorate, Space Planning

This step is the one many interior design and decorating blogs, courses, and books focus on most. This is where knowledge of color, principles of design & composition and the trade is needed. 

All things you might be good at already or you are ready to acquire. Great! Go for it (but don’t forget to do the planning first, IMPORTANT). Decorating a space is so much fun doing and satisfying when it all comes together at the end.

If that is not really you or you simply don’t have time there are now options available to hire designers online to help you with this step. That way you can do the planning and logistical stuff yourself, leave the design to a professional.

That way you don’t pay the big bucks if you would hire a more traditional design company who would do it all yet get the skills and connections from a professional where it counts.

Kind of a hybrid between DIY and handsoff approach. In case you consider a DIY you need to get yourself familiar with the principles of interior design. These principles are broken down in various ways in the industry but it alway comes down to the same bucket of design strategies overall.

It pays off to know and even have some experience with these design principles, which I broke down into 

5 standard design principles:

  1. color theory,
  2. balance,
  3. Scale & proportion,
  4. rhythm & repetition, and
  5. your personal style.

In addition to these design concepts, there is another bucket of design strategies that focuses on decorating with your physical, mental and emotional health in mind. Incorporating these into your interiors is called

Biophilic Design.

There is no either or, the standard design concepts are in perfect harmony with biophilic design strategies – applying them together creates not just an aesthetically pleasing home but also one that supports and enhances your activities and wellbeing at home.

Biophilic Design is an important addition to a healthy lifestyle.  You can read more about biophilic design in my blog post Nature-Inspired Décor For Your Wellbeing – It’s A Mindset Not A Style.

The Creative Design Process

Let the fun begin!

Now is time to lay out your design and choose actual pieces to bring your vision to life.

Use your creative design juices together with the standard design principles and biophilic design strategies and go wild!

Go back to your inspirational pins, posts, pictures and ideas you collected before you even started your design project.

Together with your planning document and moodboard it should be a lot easier to pick and choose the right design, layout and pieces.

Now is the time to go back to your favorite stores and select the pieces that work for your vision and budget.

Having created the itemized budget with preliminary prices earlier helps you to stay in the same price and quality range when choosing  final pieces. This way you also have some room for creativity. E.g. if you decide to go for a higher end sofa than you budgeted earlier you can go down the list and see where you can make up for that extra money and still stay in budget overall.

After a few iterations of trying out different design layouts and furnishings you will get closer and closer to your final product, the design concept that you will use for your space.

Your final Design Concept might be accompanied by 3 other documents to make it easy to translate your concept into your space and reality.

Here is the list with the final documents you need to transform your space with ease:

  1. Design Concept – shows all selected elements in a 3D Room Board
  2. Floor Plan that shows, from a bird’s eye view, how all décor and furnishings are placed and relate to each other. This floorplan is based on the floor plan you created in the planning phase as weel as your design concept.
  3. Shopping List with details of all items in your 3D Room Board.
  4. Mood Board – shows colors, textures and types of décors that represents the aesthetics and mood of the suggested décor. The look and feel from the mood board should be reflected in your design.

3. Specify

Specifying all items for your project really happens in parallel with developing your design concept. You are selecting the real furnishings and decorative items already while you finalize your design concept and the placement in the floorplan.

Every item that is confirmed in the final version of your design concept will go on your shopping list with all details needed to source the item and ensure the correct size, color and texture.

Here are the main details that should be on your shopping list:

  • Image of Item
  • Item Name with link to online store or address to brick and mortar. 
  • Source (where did you see it / find it, e.g. blog post, furniture store, pin, etc.)
  • Quantity
  • Shipping & assembly cost 
  • Total price (show tax)
  • Dimensions
  • Notes (nay other characteristics, e.g. material, color, etc.)
  • Estimated delivery time

4. Sourcing

Once you finalized your design concept with all items on the shopping list you can go shopping! You might have decided to source everything online, from a wide variety, or a few of your favorite stores. You might have decided to shop locally, maybe even with some items sourced from local thrift and antiques stores. Or you choose a combination of online and brick and mortar.

No matter which route you decided to go, the instructions to order at the right store with the correct details should be clearly noted on your shopping list.

Happy Shopping!

5. Project Management

Project management is an important part of your decorating project right from the beginning. Yet, after you placed your decorating pieces on the shopping list and started sourcing, the important part of project management is really kicking in.

Once you decided on items and stores you have to ensure that the products won’t go out of stock and monitor the prices for rebates or price increases. You also need to have a clear picture of delivery times to coordinate with other deliveries or assembly times.

The moment the pieces are ordered it’s important to monitor their delivery, keep an eye on the order status and your email to make sure you find out asap if anything changes, and you might have to make adjustments.

Receipt of deliveries has to be coordinated as well, parking, HOA, reservation for elevator and other hassles have to be take into consideration.

Make sure you understand warranty and return policies for each piece in case something brakes or has to be returned for other reasons.

No matter if you ordered all items at once or you decided to order in stages, the heavy weight of coordination starts once your credit card is charged.

DId you also make sure you measured entry ways, doors and staicases to ensure all your pieces actually make it to their final destination in your home? 

6. Styling

This is the final step in the interior design process where you add the finishing touches to your space to bring it all together and make everything come to life.

Traditionally this is the part where you place the pillows, wall art, vignettes on tables and fireplace mantels.

To me it is also the part where you find the perfect spot for your personal pieces and make them part of the whole. These pieces may not be of the color scheme from your mood board, nor might it fit the overall style. These very personal items will be an enrichment to the design, they bring it all together and infuse your DNA to make the space sincerely yours.

I cringe when I see wall art chosen to match the color of the sofa of complement the pillows.

This “perfect” styling makes a space a photo opt for a magazine or tv show but not a personal home.

Maybe that is why you have had a hard time to translate design you see on Pinterest and magazines to your home. They are often breathtakingly beautiful, yet totally boring – without character and personality. 

Be bold with your personal belongings. There are always ways to bring them into your décor in a tasteful and interesting way. And that is styling to me.

So bring on the Peanuts cartoon collection or old master’s type painting  you love so much for your minimalist space, they will make it special, guaranteed…. 😉  It’s going to be fine!


It’s party time! Congratulations, you did it. 🙂 

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