How to Stay Calm & Enjoy the Design Process

When planning a home for a redesign or new build, to say there is much to think about is an understatement. Kay Gibbons explains. 

Anybody who’s been through the process will attest to feeling overwhelmed at some point. Unless you’ve already got a strong idea to begin with and know exactly what, where, who, and how to create your vision, it can be exhausting sorting through dozens of decisions. So how can you remain calm(ish) with so much at stake? The answer is in the pre-plan.

Define Home

Before you begin your design think about how your space is going to be used. Who lives there? Children? Pets? Large family? A space for two? What does the house need to stand up to? What personalities inhabit your space? What does “home” mean to you? This needs to be answered before anything else.  

Feel it

Next think about how you want your home to feel when you walk through the front door. Casual? Holistic? A showpiece from a magazine? A celebration of modernity? Minimalism? Boho? Functionality? Light and spacious? Deciding the feel of your place will be your single biggest decision because you’ll have to live with it day in, day out. If you are a casual person who loves the sea, chances are you’ll take inspiration from ocean colours and sandy beaches. If you’re all about form and functionality then that’s your priority. Your home, after all, is your sanctuary. Or at least it should be.

Research Ideas

There’s not too many of us who haven’t dreamt about the kind of place we’d love if money was no object but can it be realistically achieved? Yes. Sort of. At least the vibe of your idea can be. Do your homework. If it takes hours browsing through Pinterest, Instagram, and every magazine for sale in your newsagent, so be it. It will help you concretise your ideas. Keep a scrapbook either as an online file or as a hardcopy (I personally love hardcopies best). Narrow down your colour palette and styles you love most. Once you’ve done that, research how much certain design styles might cost. For every idea you come up with, there’ll be someone online who’s written a blog or asked the same question in a forum. Their results will save you from having to reinvent the wheel.

Set a budget

Set your budget well above your bottom line so that you’ve got room to move for unexpected costs and the discovery of must-have items. This may seem ridiculously basic but it’s not. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re going to stick to a budget. However, what often happens is that you start to believe you can’t get by without that “must-have” item and that spending a few extra dollars won’t hurt. But it will. It does. Unless you can truly hang the expense, don’t let your desires burn a hole in your pocket. There’s always a way around your vision to match your budget.


If you want luxe counter tops but can’t afford a big kitchen, then perhaps consider incorporating clever space-saving cabinetry. A great de-clutter tip is to get rid of everything you haven’t used in a year – it may reduce the number of actual cupboards you need but still give you a luxe look overall. Alternatively, you may want everything which opens and shuts in the kitchen but are quite happy to compromise costs in other areas of your home like flooring or lighting.

Material Choices

Mix and match cost-effective materials with those which are more expensive but harder wearing. Pay attention to high-traffic areas like benchtops, plus flooring in hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms. It’s easy to change the colour of walls but not so much the look of a tiled floor, so if you’re unsure what choice to make, go with something basic and neutral which will outlast any trend.

One Man’s Trash

Is there anything you can salvage from a demolition place, garage sale, or op shop? Scour places like eBay, and Gumtree. The world is full of people who’ve changed their minds last minute, so quite often you can find exactly what you’re looking for, for half the price, even new items. Wait for sales to buy big-ticket items like blinds and curtains. If you can upscale an old item and save the planet, even better.

Go Natural

Did you know that the more your home mimics nature the calmer you’ll feel? Neuroscientists have proven beyond a doubt that bringing nature into your home can have a profound affect on your wellbeing. Introduce natural elements like timber cabinetry, stone or timber countertops, hardwood flooring, stone fireplaces, natural clay tiles, expanses of glass, good airflow and light. And lots of plants. Plants clear the air of toxins and some even replenish oxygen supplies at night helping you sleep better. Also consider courtyard planter boxes, water features, and fire pits.

Let Go & Listen

Finally, let go. Sometimes your ideas will be amazing and other times builders and tradesmen will know better. Ask for what you want and, for sure, follow your design dreams. But at the end of the day listen to the advice from experts who’ve spent thousands of hours on the job. Compromises are just a readjustment of your imagination, not the end of the world. There’s an old Sufi saying, “Learn to dance on a shifting carpet”. If you can do that, your new-home build or reno will be a breeze.

Guest Blogger, Kay Gibbons-Buckwell is a Mindful-Interiors Mentor, Artist, Photographer, Writer, and Director. You can visit her website here. 

In her heart sits a mission to help people find the beauty in all things, the harmony in their homes, and the serenity in the simple.

For more follow her on social media –  Facebook Instagram   

The information contained in this article has been prepared by our guest blogger and does not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, position, advice or endorsement of ICM Geelong, it’s members and sponsors.


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