Tag Archives: decorating

Chamber of Secrets Part 3: Making a Design Plan

In case you missed it, you can get caught up on the tale of the Chamber of Secrets here:

Part One, Part Two

The Chamber of Secrets is the first room I’ve ever really designed from scratch.  Settling on a design for the built-ins and the closet, and seeing them transition from sketches on paper to tangible objects (the window seat is in!), has been such an interesting process.  It has also been a little overwhelming at times – my brain sometimes feels like a frenetic kaleidoscope of colors and measurements and fragmented to-do lists.  To try and resolve those slivered thoughts into a cohesive picture, and to make sure we continue forward progress, I decided to be more systematic in my approach.  At the beginning of Domino’s The Book of Decorating they break the decorating process down into nine steps, which I’ve found really useful.  I’ve used their steps as a template for tackling the Chamber of Secrets, although I’ve condensed my process to six steps.

Step One: Find Inspiration

I’ve shared some of these images with you before, but I’ve found it so helpful to have them all organized into one space.  I refer to it a lot to make sure my vision is staying focused.

Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design PlanRed House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design PlanSources, clockwise from top left: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Step Two: Determine Your Style

You might remember when Mera and I tried to put a name to our respective styles and struggled with it.  Now that my living room is coming together it is starting to feel like a good representation of my style. Here’s a picture of the living room yesterday, when we briefly emerged from the blanket of fog that’s been sitting heavy on the valley for days. Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design PlanAnd here it is looking the other way: Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design PlanThere are still things I’m tweaking, of course, but it’s a room I love spending time in.  Verbalizing my style remains difficult, but the words that come to mind looking at these photos are eclectic, collected, arty, mix of eras, layered.  In the Domino book they summarize it into neat little sentences, so mine might be: Eclectic and collected, with a mix of eras.  What do you think, did I get it right?

Step Three: Consider How You’ll Use the Room

This room will be an office, craft space and guest room.  Crafts are messy, so it’s important to have closed storage and floor space for spreading out.  Bookshelves are essential – most of our books are still in boxes from when we moved in more than two years ago!

Step Four: Assess Your Stuff

The Domino book suggests taking photographs of furniture to help decide whether to keep it, change it (paint or reupholstery), or give it away. Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design Plan That desk is a hand-me-down from Cameron’s dad and it is a noble beast.  The drawers are two feet deep and the work surface is huge.  I have some fear that it will look too cabinet-y when it’s in place next to the built-ins, but we’re hoping to make it work.  You might remember the green Herman Miller office chair with its irrevocably stained, disgusting upholstery that I got for a steal on Craigslist.  I’ve actually started working on its transformation, which you’ll see when you scroll down!

Step Five: Create a Design Scheme Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design PlanRed House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design Plan The palette for this room is pretty neutral.  The walls will be Benjamin Moore’s Dove White in a flat finish, and all the cabinetry and trim will be Dove White in semi-gloss.  I’ll bring the blush, coral and indigo into the room with textiles (there will be a lot in here, between the daybed and the window seat), and the desk’s surface and the office chair are black.  Yep, the chair is black!  I still need to finish it so that’s all I’m going to share about it for now, but as you can see from the photo my second attempt at painted upholstery is going WAY better than the first time.  I’m planning to bring green into the room via plants and art.

Step Six: Make a Decorating Schedule (a to-do list)

We’re fortunate that we already have most of the furniture for this room.  There’s a trundle bed on Craigslist that Cameron and I are going to go see, and hopefully we’ll be able to check that off the list soon.  Currently, our list looks like this (the to-dos are in the order we’ll be tackling them):

To Do

  • Finish building shelves
  • Paint room and cabinetry
  • Install hanging rod in the closet
  • Install wood floors
  • Replace baseboards and trim around door

To Make

  • Cushion for window seat
  • Pillows for daybed and window seat
  • Curtain for window
  • Pin board or peg board for over desk

To Purchase

  • Trundle bed
  • Ceiling light (I’m trolling eBay and antique stores, and hoping to find a vintage one that works)
  • Throw pillows (though I’ll make some of them, I’ll probably purchase one or two as well)

So that’s my design plan!  Putting these ideas together and writing this post has already helped me feel so much more organized and purposeful.  It’s looking like I have some hammering, painting, and sewing coming up (in that order).  How do you tackle decorating projects?  Have any of you ever used a method like this? Thanks for reading along and have a wonderful week!

My Week at The Interior Design School in London

If you follow us on Instagram (if you don’t, you should! Who wouldn’t want to see more pictures of our tubby cats in repose?) you may already know that I have been in England for the past few weeks! We went with Chester’s side of the family, and spent the first week hiking in the Cotswolds, an area that lives up to all of its fabled beauty.

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We spent the second week of the trip in London. Chester and his parents did the two-year-old’s tour of London, and I went to The Interior Design School for a five day crash course in interior design.

Red House WestThe school was founded in 1991 by Iris Dunbar, and offers a full-time one-year diploma course, as well as fun one-day classes.  They also do a three part professional certificate course, and what I did was the first module of the certificate program, titled Design Process.

Red House West

There were ten students in the class, who hailed from all over Europe.  Apart from a lovely woman who grew up in the Midwest but has lived in Paris for over 20 years, I was the only American in the class.  Other students came from Spain, Austria, Romania, and there were several Londoners as well.  Most of my classmates were just like me: people interested in design who have never had the opportunity to learn the basics in a formal setting.  Several students had a professional background in design or architecture and were looking to revitalize careers put on hold because of growing families or international relocations.  Everyone was so fun and interesting, and hearing about what led each of them to the class was fascinating.  Truly, meeting the women (all the students were women) in the class was alone worth the trip.

The focus was definitely on design, rather than decor, and we learned how to scale, draw plans and elevations, and create essentially a pre-computerized world mood board. We all worked on the same space–basically a 20×20 garden shed–but had different assignments about what the space would be used for.



One of the exercises we did was to paint a color wheel. I didn’t quite understand the purpose of the exercise, but it was fun to revisit this grade school staple.


We also got to paw through samples of all sorts, which I totally loved.

The process we were taught involves distilling the envisioned project down to a few choice adjectives, and finding and clipping images that evoke a feeling or sensation based on those adjectives (but aren’t a literal picture of what the room should look like).  From the clippings we selected and edited a color palette, and then chose furnishings, objects, and lighting within the palette and otherwise consistent with the adjectives and project goals.

It sounds simple, and it is, but it helped me to realize that when I have set out to design a room in the past, I have started at the end–choosing things I like and hoping they go together–with mixed results.  Following the steps taught by the school does seem like it will lead to more deliberate, cohesive, and pleasing spaces.

Designers at work.

Designers at work.


My desk.


Top left: my ‘feeling’ images; bottom left: the scaled plan; top right: plan elevation; bottom right: my color palette and the furnishings and objects I chose for the space.



One of the teachers, Lynne Rossington, critiquing material sample choices.

On the final afternoon, we all presented our plans as if we were presenting to our clients. It was amazing to see all the different ways that people imagined the same small space.



It was such a great trip, and I am really grateful to Chester and his parents for making the whole thing possible!  I am excited to try to apply some of the techniques I learned to my own home (which looks even more like a mish-mashy hodge podge through a slightly educated lens), but right now I am facing more immediate issues. For example, this is what my house looks like at the moment:

Keepin' it real.

Opal was really excited to get home to her toys and thought it would be a good idea to do a full inventory.  Also, will the laundry never end?

I’m happy to answer questions about my experience at The Interior Design School, and you can also learn more by checking out the website. Thanks for reading about my little adventure! Check back with us on Friday for another installment of DIY Friday.