Before I begin the design process, it’s important for me to understand what style you’re drawn to. I can’t begin to take pencil to paper until I’ve developed a sense of who you are and what elements resonate with you on the deepest levels.
Absorbing impressions of your style is a chameleon-like exercise for me: It involves putting myself aside and focusing on you.
The process starts by my asking you to create a style file of photos with short notes about what you like about each one.
I prefer photos because words are woefully inadequate for describing style. What one person sees as traditional isn’t the same as someone else’s. Only through a photographic style file can we be sure we’re speaking the same visual language.
A style file doesn’t have to be elaborate and can take many different forms—but what each has in common is that they help me understand, on an emotional and artistic level, what you want in your home. By looking at the photos and reading your comments, I absorb your likes, dislikes, and the colors and shapes you’re comfortable with.
The process can also serve as a reality check. You may come to me and say you want to spend $40,000 on a kitchen remodel, but then your style file shows appliances like a Viking range and a Subzero refrigerator that add up to $35,000 by themselves. At that point, we’d need to talk about adjusting the budget or changing some of the elements—and the best time to do so is early in the process.
One of my clients was a beautifully organized woman who created a notebook filled with photos from magazines, with notes next to each about what she liked. She poured enormous energy into this style file over the years and the end result was really helpful.
Another client might bring in a stack of books and magazines with sticky notes on the pages she wants to call attention to. If you use this approach, we can scan the pages you’ve flagged to create an individual style file for you. (And, by the way, we have a large library of gorgeous coffee table books—showing architectural styles from Spain to the Caribbean—that we’re happy to lend out.)
We also recommend Evernote, a free online note-taking program. I’ll write a separate blog entry soon on how to use this great new tool, but the important thing to know is that it allows you to right-click and save website images that catch your eye—along with photos that you take with your iPhone when you’re out shopping.
A final suggestion is to create an inspiration board: a collage of photos that you like, along with comments.
UPDATE 12-15-15. Pinterest has now become the “go to” tool for easily creating, curating and sharing photos and inspirations. If you are not familiar with the Pinterest platform, we created this short video to introduce you: Video on How to Set Up Pinterest Page
Whatever method you use, don’t over-think it. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself by choosing every light fixture and faucet. Instead, focus on including those images that truly speak to you.
Going through a style file is a complete right-brain activity for me. As I sort through the photos, I may ask clarifying questions. But more often than not, I’m completely silent. It may appear that nothing’s going on—but my brain is working at full speed, taking in nonverbal cues and forming impressions. By the time I’ve finished viewing the file, I’ve developed a strong sense of your individual style, including the mood and feeling you’d like in your home.
One question I’m often asked is how the process works when a husband and wife have different styles. I actually love the challenge this presents. The art here is to create a unique blend that appeals to both of them—a Design DNA, as I call it.
Over the years I’ve found that the exercise of creating a style file is worth the effort every time. A style file allows me to know in my bones what resonates with you. I can then draw on my thirty years of architectural experience to design a home that makes your heart sing.
© 2011 Kevin Harris, Architect, LLC
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“Kevin Harris, Architect, LLC designs custom homes to satisfy, support and sustain our client’s best life, to be an authentic expression of their site, lifestyle and culture, while remaining rooted in history and expressive of the times. For more information on Kevin or the firm go to www.kevinharrisarchitect.com.”