The Space in Interior Design
This is the third post of my miniseries about Sustainable Interior Design.
In the first post I introduce my approach to sustainability and how I integrate it into the interior design process.
Sustainability is added as the third essential factor of the design process. The other two are Function and Space. Only with an understanding of these three you can make purposeful sustainable design and decorating choices.
In the second post I describe the importance of the first essential factor – Function. Before anything else, you want to make sure you captured how you want to live in your home, how does it have to function, what activities happen in all the spaces, by whom and when.
In this third part we evaluate our Space and start planning the spaces based on our activities and needs. Let’s dive in!
Assess your Space – The rooms within your House
By now you know the activities and needs your home will support.
Equipped with this knowledge you can now look at all the spaces in your house and how they could be suited for certain activities or a combination thereof.
Before any design and decorating can happen you have to be able to envision how the spaces in your house work and the flow from one to another.
It is time to take a tour of your house. Reconnect with your home or get to know it a bit in the first place. Experience every space. How do you feel in each room? What activities could it be used for?
Think outside the box too, take off the preconceived labels for rooms and what they should be used for. Maybe for your own lifestyle a different setting is more appropriate?
What do you see in each room? Are there any architectural features you might want to highlight or rather deflect from? Maybe your house is of a particular architectural style with some original gems you like to emphasize?
What other highlights or awkward features are in the room? Is the room symmetric? How is natural light traveling during the day and when is it best? Are there any darker rooms or rooms with dark corners?
Based on natural lighting, some rooms may be more suitable for morning or daytime use, and some other offer themselves for nighttime activities?
Understanding natural light in all spaces is an important factor for appropriate use and lighting.
How are the rooms connected? What do you experience when you walk from space to space? What focal point are there looking from one space into another? What views do they offer, inside and to the outside?
Which wall would lend itself for a powerful artwork that can be seen from various spaces? Where would some changes to the landscaping create focal point and connection to nature?
Besides sight, use your other senses during your home expedition. Is one room noisier than others? A bad smell or a damp wall might point to an issue. Does it just feel really good or bad in a room, even if you don’t know why? Make a note of it.
Experience all spaces at different times of the day. How does the natural light change? How does the mood of a space change? Can you imagine or remember how it changes over the seasons?
What rooms work with their current proportions, size, and natural light? What changes would make sense? Do you have enough bathrooms? Could a tiny room be converted? Any big rooms that could be split to get extra use for another bedroom, bathroom, office?
Walk into and out of your house through every door – front, side, back and garage door, and don’t forget the sliders. How will guests enter, what will your main entry and exit path be?
Get a feel for the overall flow of your house.
If your tour came up with odor, dampness, noise or other issues, you have to find the issues for it and take care of it before starting any design and decorating steps.
Fixing issues within the building or any updates necessary, such as plumbing, electrical, or enclosure related upgrades always have priority over anything else. Safety first!
Don’t go for shortcuts just because you eager to redecorate. Always look for the best solution your budget allows. Always look for the right professional help who is also trained in sustainability.
Once you have a good understanding of your house and all the rooms it is time to start planning the rooms in more detail.
Zones within a Room
Most rooms are used for more than one activity and provide a variety of functionality during the course of a day. Different zones within a room can accommodate these activities.
Each zone has to work on its own and provide the functionality and features for the activities they are designed for. Each room has to work as a whole bringing all zones together.
The trick is to create the right type of separation between zones and to make sure each zone can be reached without any obstacles. Is a change in flooring enough or are dividers needed to separate between zones? Does day light reach every zone that benefits from it?
It is important to figure out all details of a zone to support the intended activities such as types of lighting, furniture layout, switches, power outlets, etc.
Some activities occur at different times of the day and the zone might not be defined by physical boundaries with different type of furniture. It might rather require additional functionality such as storage or different types of lighting to use one zone at different times of the day for a variety of activities.
A nook adjacent to the kitchen might be the favorite breakfast hub due to the early morning sun, and a quite space later at night for planning the next day.
While it is easier to define zones in bigger rooms, even small rooms can have zones like a small desk or a treadmill in the bedroom.
Even a display of accomplishments or family photos can be a zone. And my favorite one, don’t forget a zone for your pets.
The Grid – That holds it all together
A room is made up of the floor, ceiling and walls which represent the structure, the grid, of a room.
The grid can be used to organize all components of a design composition. It is the underlaying matrix that provides order and is the visual glue that holds all components together.
The grid can also be seen as a design element. Horizontal lines can be accentuated in floor lamps, drapes, and other vertical design elements. Vertical lines can be design elements such as floating shelves or baseboard, molding or even stripes in textiles and furniture.
How do you anticipate moving through your home is important. Can you reach each space and zone comfortably at all times? At scale floor plans help here.
But flow is not just about moving it is also about harmony, balance, and mood. How does it feel, look, smell and sound while you move around?
It is also important how to get to the house, into the house and leaving the house. How is the view looking outside onto focal points, vistas and long views or changing views with the seasons.
Flow is also about changing views of adjacent rooms. How does each room‘s decoration relate to other spaces and to the house as a whole and the expression, style personality intended?
Once you defined how you want to live (Function) in the house and how to organize rooms, zones and the flow between (Space) it is time for the third essential of great sustainable interior design: Sustainability.
Read the next post in the miniseries Sustainability as Part of the Design Process.