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If you were asked “What are the top three challenges presented by a residential design project,?” what would your answers be?

If one of them is “budget,” you would be wrong, at least when it comes to residential projects.

According to Houzz, the top three design challenges are finding the right products (materials, furnishings and accessories), defining the desired design style, and making design decisions with a spouse.

Finding the right products need not be a problem. Some people feel overwhelmed by the hunt and spend hours scouring the Internet. There is a wealth of information out there, but finding a picture on Pinterest or Houzz that you like can serve as the guide through the maze.

I recently helped a client in just this way. He saw a picture of a room with particular features he liked. We took that picture to a couple of local helpful vendors (tile, building supplies) and found just the right products to match, or in some cases improve upon the picture. This process is not meant to be a way to make an exact replica of the showcased room or feature. Rather, it is a jumping-off point to spark ideas, variations and improvements on the suggested aspects you find appealing.

Defining the style you want can undergo a similar process. Personal styles and trends change. However, you need not have the same style in every room in your house or business. Furthermore, many styles can be blended easily, even within the same room. For example, classical elements like the large dining rug and a table with curvy legs can counterbalance an ultra-modern chandelier contemporary chairs.

The best way to tackle this daunting task is to narrow your choices. Sometimes, it is easier to say what you don’t like than what you do like. Make a list of what you definitely do not want to see in your room and you may find it reveals a list of things you do want.

In addition, make that process personal. For example, if you want a more modern look and you think “I don’t want to feel like I am in my grandfather’s house” (no offense to grandfather), then eliminating all things that remind you of that is a personal, but meaningful way for you to pare down the style you would like to create or re-create.

Be mindful of a common pitfall. Do not decorate to impress your friends. Tap into your own sensibilities. Likewise, trying to exactly mimic what you see in Architectural Digest can result in a look of sameness and a lack personality. If you want leopard-print wallpaper, go for it!

Navigating spousal disagreement is a little trickier. Bringing in a neutral trusted adviser (designer) can sometimes help. Understanding the consequences of the choices can also help bridge the gap and find a solution. For example, if one party loves marble kitchen countertops, but a little research shows that they can stain easily, practical considerations might give way to the cause of beauty.

Of course, though Houzz’s studies did not show budgetary concerns as one of the top three challenges, money is definitely a challenge for most interior design projects. The best thing anyone can do is spend the time in advance to create a master plan. Though people think an interior designer will be too expensive, such a person involved early can actually save you money by creating a master plan and having knowledge of materials.

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Deborah Macdonald is the owner of Textured Design Napa, (formerly Napa At Home), an interior design firm that believes in modern livability and creates elegant interior design with a practical purpose. TDN finds solutions to design challenges in unexpected places and is fluent in a wide range of styles. Contact Deborah at 707-255-0246, deborah@textureddesignnapa.com, TexturedDesignNapa.com.

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