February 2020 Designer’s Corner

Balancing Practicalities with Possibilities

by Joel Barnes, Interior Designer

When re-designing any space, it’s important to strike a balance between being enthusiastically open to possibilities and facing the practical limitations.

Most people who come to me for design advice are either overwhelmed by “too many options” or feel “boxed in” by limitations and obstacles they just can’t see beyond.

Whenever you feel hemmed in, begin to recognize that you’ve likely not fully opened the creative door to let ideas and imagination flow freely and unfettered. Most clients get stuck by being unable to see beyond obstacles that they themselves have unwittingly created. When you’ve been around a problem for too long, all you can see is the problem like an immovable brick wall. Remember, it’s not only okay to let your imagination fly, it’s a huge benefit to feel that sense of freedom and enthusiasm about what might be possible. You may be pleasantly surprised that avenues you once thought were closed off are actually more open than you had once believed. This creative phase is part of the journey, and at least half the fun. Let the process be fun. Allow yourself to be genuinely playful with ideas. Don’t take things too seriously at this point, imagining all the dire consequences that might come about for making the “wrong” decisions.

Not to worry, your ideas can run wild and free at the start of it, and eventually we all come down to earth because to some extent we have to. Budgets, space and time are never unlimited on a project, and working within a given framework can be a real asset to keeping you focused and on track.

For those of you who are overwhelmed by possibilities, start by clearly establishing the framework within which the project will take place. Will you be keeping your floors as they are? How about cabinetry? Will you be limiting the project to the existing edges of the room or rooms? What are the boundaries here? Whatever they may be, accept and embrace them as an integral aspect of the new design. What colors or materials are you starting with? Are there brushed nickel fixtures and rich warm wooden floors? Great, that’s a nice start. Consider what might go well with those, and don’t just think about it – that’s the practical mind – feel into it. What colors and looks actually feel good when you see them – that’s the creative, possible mind? If there are no given limitations, start by creating some. Put a stake in the ground (it’s only temporary) and play around with some givens, whatever they might be.

In short, do a bit of both. Let yourself be creative, open and expressive in a way that feels really positive and up-lifting. And when you’re ready, take into account and embrace the boundaries and fixed aspects of the project. Allow that framework to be your guide. Let the existing architecture of the space be your guide as well. Don’t fight it, work with it. Keep saying “yes” and keep looking at the benefits of the decisions already made for you by the fixed elements you’ll be incorporating into your overall plan. Yes, designing and remodeling can be a lot of work and a lot of thought may go into it, but it can also be a real delight. I challenge you to find a bit of both in every project you take on.