Beware of What You Don’t Know About the Details and Complexities of Design

By Claire Paquin, Associate ASID, Founder/Principal Designer, Clean Design Partners

Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know?” Never is that more true than in interior design. One of the most detail-oriented professions around, design is overflowing with minutiae that can make or break your project.

Take a small powder room renovation: Did you specify a toilet valve? Angle or straight? Three-eighth inch or one half inch fittings? IPS threaded or copper sweat? What finish? See what I mean? And that was just for a measly toilet kit! You can imagine that the details you must understand to make the right choices in a kitchen, master bath or whole house renovation are innumerable.

Photograph by Regan Wood Photography

To complete a project successfully, you need to be educated. Or, better yet, you need to work with someone who is educated and experienced. Designers are schooled in color, proportion, scale, materials, and methods, and have the innate talent or education to conceive and execute a creative vision.

Now, of course, no designer knows it all – and that’s why it’s important to make sure that your designer has a suite of specialized experts on their team as well. For example, Clean Design has been working with KLAFFS for the past eight years – and these people know their stuff. They are experts in plumbing, hardware, tile, lighting, and countless other areas. Combine the knowledge, expertise, and experience of such a quality vendor with your designer’s creativity and know-how and it’s likely your team will know it all.

Often clients come to Clean Design with a design concept already in mind, but they have no idea how to execute it or how to make this vision unique to themselves and their space. This is especially true in the Internet era where sites like Instagram, Houzz and Pinterest provide endless visions that may or may not be realistic in another setting.

Other times, clients have absolutely no ideas about what they want or how to develop a design that will work for them. In either case, a good designer will listen to and work with the client to achieve a functional, comfortable, and beautiful space that suits the aesthetic of the homeowner – as well as their lifestyle and budget.

Photograph by Donna Dotan Photography

If you’re planning to take a DIY approach to your new home or renovation project, beware. Color, proportion, scale, quality, and materials are all aspects of space planning and design that can go horribly awry – often at great monetary and emotional cost. Given this reality, consider that the cost of being guided by someone with knowledge and experience pales in comparison with the value they add to the end result and with the dollars you save by avoiding costly mistakes.

In my experience as a designer, scale and proportion are the most challenging aspects of design for non-professionals to get right on their own. Many clients who ultimately called us in to help had made the mistake of buying lighting and rugs too small and furniture too big! And when a room calls for many different fabrics, mixing pattern scales and textures to make sure everything is harmonious is no small feat.

As designers, we have tricks of the trade that we’ve learned and developed over the years. For instance, to help determine the proper size for a light fixture, take the length and width of a room in feet, add them together and that is typically a good diameter for your room’s center light. For rugs, all legs of the furniture in a seating group should be on the rug, not half on, half off.  And there are hundreds more where those came from!

Photograph by Regan Wood Photography

But not all these nifty tips work for all spaces. While much of design is methodical, requiring countless, detailed drawings to ensure that the furniture is the right size, the lighting is in the correct location, the tile plans are accurate, and the windows have the proper mullion configuration (to name a few!), much of design is also nuanced and specific, and all projects bring unique challenges. It is principally when a space is not straight-forward that relying on an experienced expert is imperative.

Designers and other experts help you realize your vision and make your home comfortable and efficient. Your designer will prompt you regarding items you might want to include. (Would you like a hand held or steam function in your shower?  Would you like a spare roll holder?) He or she will inform you of things you might not be aware of. (Did you know you can hide those ugly, white plastic laundry room shut off valves behind the walls by using simple volume controls in a backsplash instead?  Do you know the difference between a mortise lock set and a tubular lock set for your entry door?)

Yes, a professional interior designer eases the design and implementation process significantly. While the seemingly endless details of design can be daunting, working with someone who is educated and experienced saves time, money, and aggravation. And if you remove the headaches, I assure you that your design project will be fun and rewarding!


Claire Paquin, Clean Design, Associate ASID

Photograph by Ken Gabrielsen Photography

Claire Paquin
Clean Design
Scarsdale, NY

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