Monday, December 1, 2008

Shop like a Pro

Beginning a design project can be overwhelming with all the choices that have to be made. I often hear friends say they have little confidence in their decisions when attempting to select furniture, accessories or paint color for their homes. It can be a challenge. However, if you take the time to put together a plan prior to shopping you'll have the information needed to assist you in making successful decisions.

In the photo, I have shown you the plan I started with when working on the Master Bath Redesign I just completed. I started by making a quick sketch of the room. Do this by measuring the room's dimensions and drawing the space on graph paper. The graph paper makes it easy to get the room to scale. Note the specific measurements you may need to shop for your space. If you are looking for drapes, measure the width and length you'll need and note it on the floor plan, if a sofa is in the plan, figure out the approximate placement in the room and determine the size you'll need to look for. Do this for everything you'll be looking for...including art, rugs, mirrors, etc. Knowing what size you need will eliminate a great deal of guess work right up front. Also, having a tape measure on hand really helps. You may look odd to the person next to you, when you pull out your tape measure and start measuring a vase or lamp...but who cares!

After you have completed the floor plan, write up a list of everything you think you'll need to purchase for the room. How many times have you gotten home and realized you have forgotten to look for something? That is frustrating and wastes time, but if you have everything on the excuses! Note any specifics for each item, such as size, color, etc. In my plan I needed a basket for towels, but it couldn't be more than 10" tall so as to be able to tuck under the chair it sits next to. Knowing this made it easier to rule out various options as I came across them.

Then start collecting. To the floor plan and shopping list add photos of the space, along with any photos or items that have inspired your design for the room. This shopping approach is all about building a story and providing yourself with references to refer to when faced with decisions. Put everything into a large envelope and take it with you, leave it in the car so you have it when you unexpectedly find a (possibly) great item. Keep adding to the pile as you make decisions, building onto your room's story. If you have decided on the paint color make sure you have a paint chip in the envelope. If you select a light fixture add a photo to the envelope...found the sofa?, put a fabric swatch in. For the master bath "sourcing envelope", I had an extra piece of tile, samples of the frames from Mirror Mate I was considering, a piece of oil rubbed bronze hardware from a towel rod I had taken down, and the paint colors. All of these references allowed me to make good decisions, the first time around, when selecting the vanity lights, dressing mirror, niche vase and ornamentals, towels, soap dishes, fabric and paint colors to refinish the chair frames.

Essentially what this does is allow you to see the item you are considering alongside your vision/design of the room and the other elements you have already chosen for the room. That, along with knowing if it is the correct size, will make the task of making decisions not only easier but more successful. (Yes, less trips to the return counter!)

Making all the various choices to put together a space is both an art and a science, and having your inspirations and specific information to refer to helps on both fronts.

Until next time...


  1. Why I am the first to comment on this post months later!? This is some VERY solid advice Janell! I would save much more time when shopping for clients and possibly have time for more jobs just by using these tips! Thanks Angel!

  2. When you begin to start to choose paint color, how do you ensure that you make the correct choice the first time around? Any suggestions? I have done the sample thing, but I have still run into issues...maybe it just takes time/experience...


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