Think You Have No Design Sense?

Emily HoeflerHome Remodeling

remodeled Brookfield, Wisconsin, kitchen

This post first appeared on Improvement.

You walk into a room in your house and take a moment to really look at it. You know it’s not working. Maybe it’s outdated with cabinets straight out of The Brady Bunch. Or maybe the layout is doing nothing for the space. Or maybe things are damaged like cracked tile or a leaking drain. Whatever it is, you want it changed.

Many people will start by going to or and begin looking at ideas. You might see some ideas in a lifestyle or design magazine. Or maybe your friend recently remodeled and you want a kitchen just like theirs, only with your own personal flair. You like those counters, that flooring, and that light fixture … but how do you put it all together? You might be hesitant to start a project because you don’t think you have a clear sense of design. Fear not.

You can still remodel even if you think you have no “design sense”

You have it in you–really! At our Design/Build firm, I take our clients through the selections process to pick out the elements that will go into their remodel. We’ve had clients who think they can’t put together a cohesive design if their life depended on it. We’ve also had clients who warn me that I’m going to have to keep them on track because they won’t pick things out that go together. Many people are afraid they won’t be able to put together a beautiful design. But they still do it every time. Here’s the secret: you know what you like and don’t like and that means you have design sense. You have the ability to pick out what you like, put it into your design, and make it look like something straight out of a design magazine. Here’s how:

  1. Start with one element

Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to make all of your selections at once. Start with one piece–like countertops–and build off of that. To make this even easier, decide what you want as the focal point of the room. For many kitchens, that could be the granite or the backsplash. It could even be the appliances if you really enjoy cooking and want something really neat. In a bathroom, it might be the tiled shower, and in a basement, it might be the entertainment center. Every room will have a different focal point. Use this to your advantage by starting with something you love for that element and choosing other selections that go with it.

  1. Take samples with you

Once you have that first selection picked out, get a sample (or even a picture) and take that with you to the next showroom to pick out another selection. Continue to pick up samples as you make more selections or pick out more options. Not everything has to “match” but you want to make sure that things aren’t clashing and that they mix well. Take the samples you get from each place and carry them with you to the showrooms to compare to the options there. Put them next to each other, once you get home, and view them in natural light. This will help in the design coming together. And if you have several options for one element, it might even rule some of those, out declaring a clear winner.

  1. Ask a designer for help

You don’t have to hire an interior designer to help with a remodel — although it doesn’t hurt if you do. Most showrooms have their own designers that specialize in helping you pick those selections out. They can help steer you toward the best choice for your design. When I take my clients to a showroom, I always make an appointment with one of their designers. They can answer questions about the specific materials, find selections within a certain design style, or simply offer their insight on how they think something will look. Try to make an appointment ahead of time to get the designer’s undivided attention for your project’s needs.

  1. Trust your instincts and have fun

You’re better at this than you give yourself credit for. You know your preferences better than anyone else. Ultimately, this is your living space and it should be the product of your ideas and desires. Plus, this should be a fun process. You have the ability to completely recreate your space to be exactly what you want it to be. Starting from scratch, adding on to what is existing, or whatever it is you’re doing: you’re in control. This is your time to let your ideas shine and really own the space. Take a breath, take some samples, and take your time. The design won’t happen in a day, but it will happen. And when it does, you’ll be surprised by how well you’ve done.

Having trouble making your dream into a reality? Talk to our design team–we’d love to help!