Designer: design thy self

Designing your own home – as a designer – is a nerve-wracking, stressful and pull-your-hair-out overwhelming experience but, as the project nears to a close, I can see it will be one of the most satisfying things I will ever do.

Designers know too much. We have too much at our fingertips, we eat, sleep and talk design all day long and know too much about what is possible that our palette of choices becomes so broad it can be over-whelming. When I work with a client, we strive to make sure that the house is a reflection of who lives in it and I get to know them and their tastes in order to make this happen but it’s at a fairly immediate level. I generally don’t have a 30-year history with our clients and I don’t know every nook and cranny of their psyche and what makes them tick like I know myself. Therefore, making a choice for myself is far more of an undertaking than making a choice for a client.

On the other hand, I have been thinking about some of the elements of this house for over 3 years now – possibly more considering the years when the idea of this renovation was just a dream – and some decisions have been so easy you could hardly call them a ‘decision’ as there was only one right choice (for us). Other choices were more difficult and I’ve let them percolate for as long as possible until someone had to know what I wanted in order to build it. It’s this percolation that keeps me up at night but once I’ve made the decision, I’ve stuck to it as undoing things cost way too much time and money on a project this size !

Also, at least I find I’m this way, I like almost any form of design: traditional, modern, euro-eclectic, Tuscan-country, Santa Fe rustic… all can have pleasing aspects and wanting to do a little bit of everything will only get you into trouble and the result may end up looking like an indecisive jumble of nonsense… however…  pulling from everything you know, selecting pieces and complimenting them in a harmonious, collected and thoughtful design is what we, as designers, do best and what we need to spend time doing for ourselves – which is difficult to do. On the list of things I have for myself every day, the elements I need to decide on for my own project always end up at the bottom of the list and that creates stress, delays and rushed decisions when a painter is standing with brush in hand asking what colour to paint the walls… !

What’s also difficult is to not get swept up in what is ‘hot’ right now. It’s important to find the truth of every design, to have it reflect the client and/or the audience and not simply pick a tile because it’s the ‘it’ tile of the minute but select a tile because it’s the tile you want to live with for the rest of your life… No pressure… !!

The third thing I find difficult as a designer designing my own home is how the finished product (will it ever be finished?!) will showcase my abilities, tastes and talent as a professional. What will people think? Will I be judged on this as a designer – of course I will – and can I stand by every decision I have made?


I’m proud of this house, this project and the evolution it has taken. I’ve learned a heck of a lot and I have also applied what I have learned over the years as a designer to make smart choices and – hopefully – produce interesting results! This is a project of the heart, and I am not alone in making it happen: The house will be for my husband and my mother to live in together (Italian style!) and we have all had a part in making every selection. My mother and I have similar tastes and tend to battle it out until we’ve made the right choice and my husband makes sure I can always ground a style decision in practicality which I can appreciate (and have saved the “because it’s pretty” weapon for pillow shopping…!). All in all, we are a good team but it hasn’t been without tears, small fights and head-banging arguments but it’s all because we want the best product for our home.

I would do this all over again in a minute.  I’ve learned so much from taking on such a personal and large project and I look forward to applying things I’ve learned in future projects. I think it’s important to be able to look back at all your choices and be able to stand by them but I also know that this house will evolve and grow over time and continue to take on various design shapes. Knowing that the foundation of the design is solid is, in my mind, is the only way to build a house that you’ll enjoy and grow with for years to come.

[sorry for the lack of pretty pictures with this post, this was more of a diary entry than a progress update – photos to come in next post – and soon !]