Every interior design process starts with two indispensable steps:
- Function: Envision how the home should function.
- Space: Determine what activities will be done in which spaces and when.
Every sustainable interior design process includes another indispensable step to these two.
- Sustainability: What sustainable measures will guide the design and how will it benefit our well-being and that of our environment.
These three are the essential foundation and your guide in all further design considerations. Don’t worry about furniture layouts, colors, textures and materials in the initial phase of your home improvement project.
This post focuses on the first of the three pillars: Function
Function: It all starts with Purpose
How do you envision your home works? What functional requirements do you have? What are the activities carried out in the house? And what are the needs and wants each household member has?
To get started with your list focus on the obvious ones first, like cooking, sleeping, playing, working, showering, doing laundry, etc.. Then look at more individual activities like hobbies, work arrangements and personal needs.
Let each household member create their own list with:
- current daily routines, activities and needs,
- any new or changes in activities expected for the new space,
- features in the house that would make them happy,
- anything that is most important in a ‘perfect home’,
- differences for weekdays, weekends, and days off,
- the time of the day and the space it happens currently,
- what works currently and what does not.
Everybody should take their time, walk the space, and recreate their daily routines to come up with a complete list with the items above.
Going through this exercise is important, even if you move into a different house with empty rooms and leave your current room situation behind.
Once everybody has finalized their list of activities and needs, have a comprehensive discussion with the goal to get a consolidated list everybody is supportive off.
It is important that each household member gets something special to them to avoid discord and enable a compromise everybody is happy with.
It is time well spent to come up with a consolidated list that shows who is doing which activity at what time of the day and in what current space – A day in the life of a family.
Together decide on the atmosphere of the home, the style of decoration, how do you want to feel and how do you want visitors feel spending time in your home? What do you want to convey to visitors about you?
If you can’t agree on one style, come up with an overall direction and additional sub styles. Different rooms may lend to different styles. Important in those cases is to discuss how to transition and blend different styles to create a overall cohesive home.
My post and part 4 of my interior design mini series Design Considerations- 7 Steps to Your Perfect Home helps you determine the style you and all other household members prefer.
I always enjoy visiting homes where you get a clear sense of the occupants. It does not even matter if the decoration suits my taste, but I admire when people can convey their personality and lifestyle through their homes.
Unfortunately, there are also those homes you could easily confuse with random furniture show rooms if it would not be for the scattered family photos. But then of course, that is a statement about the people living in the home in itself.
Now that you have a clear understanding what your home should provide on functionality, what lifestyle to support and the aesthetics of it all, it is time to consider the space to support all this.
It is likely that the number of rooms in the house won’t be sufficient to support each type of activity. The trick is to look at rooms as a multi-functioning space.
When are meals prepared in the kitchen on weekdays, on weekends? Could there be a space for computer work in off hours and a place for kids to do homework and other activities during cooking time? A home office in the bedroom that also hosts the treadmill. And so on…
It is important to think about multifunctionality because the use of the rooms sets the stage for its design and decoration.
It will guide us in the type of furniture we select, what type of lighting and where to place it, and so forth.
Besides lighting, storage is a big and important topic too. How much storage do you need in what room and for what?
A living room might be used by the family to gather at night but is enjoyed as play room during the day. It will be handy to have storage that can hide the toys quickly once play date is over.
How about storage for big equipment vs. small items. Like big kitchen tools and little herb containers in the kitchen.
Don’t get ahead of yourself and leave out this step. It’s like buying groceries for dinner without knowing what you actually want to cook. It’s a recipe for trouble ahead.
In the past I often had problems with this because I like to be flexible with the layout of a room and was non-committal to how a room should function. That did not work out well and caused all kind of problems when rearranging furniture yet again. Especially lighting suffered, it was never up to the task completely.
I still think that a flexible room is a great idea. We might have different needs in different stages or periods of our lives. What if we have to work from home or are injured and have special needs for a period of time. Growing older our activities and needs will change as well.
The solution to a flexible space is to plan different scenarios and functions in advance. That way the space can easily be reconfigured for different uses over time and work 100% every time.
In the past I did not put the work in to come up with the scenarios for different activities, I just wanted flexibility, in the sense of nothing should be built in. Without much thought regarding lighting and other necessities. That had been a recipe for design failure.
I learned my lesson and I understand now that the success of good design is in the planning – thinking through all the different activities each room and zones within a room might host, at the same time, during different times of the day or even for flexible use over time.
Equipped with all this great information and a clear picture in our head how we envision our house to work we can focus on looking at each space and start a more detail space planning .
My blog post The Space in Interior Design will do exactly that.