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3 Easy Steps to Start a New Design Project

A photo of elements of a new design project

You have finally decided to update your home! Exciting as that is, the details of starting a new design project can be overwhelming.

Along with sharing great photos and design hacks, I wanted my website to include a blog with articles, tips, and links to great ideas. Let’s tackle the biggest question first. This is perhaps the single most common question I get asked about design: “Where do I start?”

White Room

Photo by Philipp Berndt via Unsplash

Every New Design Project Starts With A Concept

Imagine starting a road trip without a plan of action and a mapped-out route. Designing a room, a space, or a home is no different. You must have a starting point and a plan.

For me, the very beginning of any project is a mood board or a look book

You may see people on TV or movies portraying designers and they have concepts on huge foam core boards with photos adhered by tape or glue. Pretty cumbersome stuff. Well, you’ll be delighted to know – that’s the old fashioned way! 

Creating a mood board is now as easy as scanning the internet for ideas you like, copying the image, and “pasting” it on a blank document.

Before you can create the concept, you need to define your style

Defining your style can be easy if you understand the distinctive styles of design. Because you are designing your own space you don’t need to be 100% right or wrong or have the full education of interior design.

What you do need however, is to understand elements of each specific look. By taking a minute to understand these elements you will quickly and easily find items that work inside of your design style.

photo of an interior design room with a tall firepalce

Photo by PC Photography via iStock

Constantly Update Your Inspo Files

As you find great ideas, I encourage you to create a folder on your computer or tablet with ideas that you love. These are called Inspo Files, or inspiration files. Electronically paste and display them on a sheet no bigger than an 8.5×11 and use that as your guide.
As you copy and paste photos you can easily see if design styles are working together on paper long before you start to really develop your design. If you need a clearer focus on distinctive styles, please download my Design Style Guide from my resources section to help. 
If you find this helpful, please subscribe and continue to check out my blog for more tips and ideas about how to design your home like the pros.

Begin With The End In Mind

Steven Covey uses this phrase to motivate users of his Franklin Covey system of organization and I find I refer to it all the time. Beginning a new design project must have a definite end point that you are working toward. It’s unimaginable to start a design project and not have an idea of where the space is going. So, clearly define what your space will look like upon completion.

That doesn’t mean you can’t change your direction during the process either. I have done that a number of times when either, the budget is getting out of control, or the pieces I’m looking for are just simply not available and my only choice is having them custom made.

If you find you need to reboot and redesign, that is ok. Just be sure that you are considering every element that you may have started or purchased.

Define Your Color Scheme

a photo of a family room with black and red color scheme

Photo from Ellen Phillips Interiors archive

I don’t often start a project with a color scheme first but it has happened. Typically, I define the style and then the colors. A color scheme needs to be an essential part of the beginning of the project. Sometimes the scheme comes directly from the style, such as the case with Transitional design. The backgrounds will be very neutral with minimal accents and just pops of color. So the style can help with your scheme and sometimes that happens organically. 

Prepare For Success!

It is exciting to begin a new project, but take a minute to plan ahead and prepare for success. Just three simple steps will help to get your new space underway!

  • Define Your Style
  • Create an Inspo File or Look Book
  • Determine Your Color Scheme

I hope this helps you to get started. Please feel free to contact me to ask any questions if you are still feeling stuck. I’m happy to help! 

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Designer, Organizer, Mom, Retired Athlete, Yoga Junkie, and Travel Enthusiast

Ellen Phillips

Living a Beautiful Life