The Interior Design Process- Part 1

Today I would like to share the early stages of a project that I completed in my last year of my Interior Design course. I’m sharing this project to help anyone who is curious about creating an interior design scheme, from the planning stage to completion of sample boards. This post and the post to follow will be quite lengthy, as I have a lot to share on this subject. 

As a course project it was never going to materialise into a real space, but it was still one of my favourite projects. This project differed from real interior design project in that we were given free range to design a space without client or budget restraints. As an interior designer, trust me when I say this never happens in real life. This was a project that really allowed our own personal style shine through. I put in a lot of time and effort on it and in the end I was so pleased.So let’s go through the process with my project as an example:

1. The Scope

What is your project? The work the space requires is called The Scope. 

 We were given a brief from our instructor which included the scope of the project along with a floor plan. The scope was to design a decorative scheme for a fictional hotel suit which would include a bedroom, bathroom, living/dining space, large walk-in closet and a balcony. 

This project was to include:

  • mood and sample boards
  • Design, Colour and Lighting Rationales
  • A furniture book- book with all sourcing info 
  • Rendered drawings to include an elevation and furniture plan  

I also created branding to really help me focus my design, obviously this isn’t usually needed. 

2. The Location

Your location is important to your project. You may not want to design a beach cottage in a beach theme, but the location of the project should inform some of your decisions, with regard to both how the space will function and look. 

Our location:

Battersea, London was to be the location of the fictional hotel. Battersea is located in South London, on the Thames River. It is known for the iconic Battersea Power Station and the Battersea Dogs Home. The Battersea Power Station is currently under renovation and will soon be completed with shops, restaurants, and luxury apartments. When the transformation is complete, the area should have much more of buzz and become more of a London destination. I wanted to design a hotel that would capitalise on that buzz and attract a youthful clientele who are well travelled and value good design. 

3. The Feel

The easiest way to focus on what you want the space to convey is to choose three words that sum up the mood. Keep those words in your mind or even written where you can see them as you go through the design process. Keep your three words in mind when you do your research and create your concept board.

The words I chose were: 

4. The Inspiration
Inspiration can come from anywhere. When working with clients, be sure to find out if there are any colours that they prefer or dislike. The same goes with pattern or styles. The client may often have a piece of art that they may want to incorporate into the scheme. Art can be one of the most challenging aspects of the process as it is so personal. What a client wants in a newly designed room may often be at odds with a piece of art or furniture that they already own. You may get lucky and the client may have something amazing to work with, if so, you may be able to use that as inspiration. When you have your initial meetings with a client, notice what they’re wearing or how other parts of their home are decorated. Is the client’s personal style structured and tailored? They may prefer a room that has that same type of style. If you’re working on a project for your own home you can do the same. Look in your closet and see if there are colours or patterns that you have been drawn to lately and use that as inspiration. 
As I mentioned before, this project allowed me to go in whatever direction I wanted to go, because I didn’t have client constraints. I initially wanted a colour palette that was really subdued, earthy and had a natural feel, but without using too many neutrals, but I kept feeling that choice may be at odds with my three words, so I was never 100% sold on it. 

My Project Inspiration

These photos were my initial inspiration:

I love those photos and could imagine a space filled with those colours and that natural feel. I was almost attached to the idea, until I came across this coat:


That coat is everything! I was obsessed with having one. I ordered it in my usual size and it swamped me. I tried on multiple sizes, but it just didn’t happen for me. What that coat did for me was point me in the direction of the Rest Sofa by Muuto. Here it is in a gorgeous mustard yellow fabric by Kvadrat:

Is it bold, modern and fun? I think so! So the question I dealt with at the time was, can I go ahead with my original colour scheme? I really liked it, but sometimes you have to get past that and take a risk in starting over. So I scrapped all of those colours and decided that the yellow would be my building block. What would be my new inspiration? I would need more than a few words and a yellow sofa. So I turned to my Pinterest and started going through my own boards. It wasn’t long until I remembered this amazing pair of shoes by Tamar Shalem.

Ok, so now we’re getting somewhere! Mustard yellow and houndstooth! Now that I had a tiny glimpse of where this scheme was going, I decided on the name, “The Merryfield”. I’ll expand on that later in my design rationale. Once I had a name I could move on to branding. I really had to give it some thought, as whatever colours I used in branding would ideally appear somewhere in the hotel suit, to connect them and offer a common thread. Using the Makr app on iPad I created this logo and cards. The branding is definitely bold and the typeface has a touch of mid-century modern to it. So I took a little direction from that as well. So now we have mustard yellow, houndstooth, bold colours in the branding and a touch of mid-century modern to inform our next choices. This is where the magic happens! At this point I found a fabric by Alexander Henry called Keely. I loved it so much that I ordered some for myself. I’m not one for matchy-matchy interior design, but I knew this fabric had my mustard, branding colours and offered a huge range of colours to choose for the other spaces in the hotel suit.  

Once I had my new colourful inspiration, I set out to create the Concept Board. The Concept Board Really sets the feel for the project. You don’t have to include furniture or any type of interior products at this point. If you want your space to feel calm and natural you would include images that give that feel, like scenes from nature or textures that are soft and soothing. 

This is my preliminary Concept Board

Notice that my Concept Board includes plenty of my mustard yellow, a bit of houndstooth,  and bold pink. Texture is emphasised through the two fabrics and the three coats, which are also from the 1960’s, which is directly referencing the mid-century aesthetic in the branding along with the chair and vintage advertisements. Having this information is really important in informing your future sourcing. This Concept Board was made on my iPad in my Pages app, but I didn’t make it into an actual Board. I was inspired to make this instead: 

Notice that my actual Concept Board builds on the preliminary e-board, but adds in a bit more orange and includes my three words. I found some vintage tickets online that I really loved and wanted them in my Concept. I printed my three words onto paper and scribbled pencil on the back of the paper and then traced over the words to imprint the words onto the tickets. I then went over the imprinted pencil with ink to get this: 


Following the Concept Board, the Mood Board is next. This is your opportunity to incorporate on what you’ve started with the Concept Board. You don’t have to have all new images, just expound on the ones from your Concept Board. 

This is my Mood Board, a.k.a. My Mod Board

I really want you to see how I came to my choices and not repeat myself too much, so I’m going to go ahead and show you the first three pages of my Design Rationale to explain the process in greater depth. The Design Rationale along with Colour and Lighting Rationales are completed at the end of a project. Consider it to be a summary or a justification of your design decisions and how they work together. I created this Design Rationale with a Colour and Lighting section on each page. 


Ok, so that’s a lot to take in from one blog post, but I hope it gives good insight into the early stages of the design process. I will share the remaining Sample Boards for each space in my next post. I’ll move on from there to explain the furniture plan, drawings, and furniture book. I’ll also explain how to put together a sample board and tips for composition and layout. 

April Guthrie 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s