In the UK, I don’t get asked this question too often! The spaces here are much, much smaller than I have come across anywhere else in the world. Often times I hear my clients saying “back home the spaces are so big, my family laugh at our expensive little house here in the UK.”
I have to admit; growing up in Australia the spaces were also much larger so I had to perfect my skill of designing in super small spaces (starting with my own). But I surprisingly get a good mix of tiny, medium and large house designs to work with these days and my clients come to me usually because they find the largest spaces by far the hardest to furnish and I know why!
I approach the design of large rooms differently than I do smaller ones and the order of operations usually looks a lot like this:
Get to know my clients function of this room. An answer like “a living room” won’t cut it either, I need to know their habits, how they live in the space, what time of day it is used most, any existing furniture they have (and the exact dimensions of it), how they want to feel in the space and any relevant information about my client and their lifestyle.
Location & Geography
What has this got to do with a room? Pretty much everything! I need to know what hemisphere and location the room is in because I like to know the type of light that I am dealing with. The light in a northern facing room in Norway is very different to the light in a southern facing room in this example I have shown in Dubai.
Dimensions and Characteristics
Every room is different! Ironically the biggest reason I hear people not wanting to hire a designer is because (at least here in the UK) they say that “all the houses are the same, I can’t do anything different with mine!” This makes me so sad to hear, because I know how to find the unique potential in every space! This one is pretty obvious, because you will obviously need to know the size of the room to get started, but don’t forget things like the ceiling height, how windows and doors open within the room and distances away from objects such a fireplaces and TVs, as these will all have an impact on the layout of the room!
Get An Idea
Sometimes Il swap this around with the next step, depending on how difficult the space is, but I will always have a “design idea” at the back of my mind. This could come from clues about my client’s style or just a creative idea based around something my client desires.
Grid & Layout
Once I have the above information, I will usually start by drawing a few grids on the page. I know that Kelly Hoppen talks about a grid, but I’m not sure if this is how she does it. (I would love to have the pleasure to ask her one day!) I will divide the spaces up into zones depending on my clients requirements and then play around with beautiful and fun layouts. I genuinely have so much fun doing this that I will usually give my client a few options so that they can also see the potential in their spaces. It is much cheaper (and less tiring) to play around on paper (or CAD in my case) than it is in real life! You can do this for free digitally these days with sketchup and many other free room builders – I think even IKEA has one now!
The area you are trying to layout will almost always have a connection to another space that will need considering. What are the views, relationships, obstructions, functions of the spaces around and how do they affect the idea and use of the house? For example, in the living room layout I have provided in today’s blog, the view from the entrance hall is spectacular and I wouldn’t want to obscure that view with my furniture layout.
Furniture & Storage
There are millions of variations on any piece you can imagine! So playing around with the shape and size of furniture will help you fit pretty much anything in any way that you want, you just have to get creative and know about what kind of furniture you want to use. This also ties in with the last step:
This is different for all of my projects as the approach I take is dependent on my client’s style. I will basically give them what they want, but I always have a bit of fun because for some reason my clients genuinely don’t know how awesome they are and they always play down things they like. So I will always give them a little gift in their designs, which reveals something special and unique about them and their personality, which they might or might not have known about.