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Designing Intentionally: How to Make the Most of Your Space

Intentionally designed office space

When it comes to design, being intentional with your space is key to a great outcome. Planning in great detail: the look, the budget, the purpose, the layout, and the functionality. Designing intentionally is the way to get the most out of your spaces.

I always joke with my clients that I will ask a million questions when we start the project. I take all my clients through these steps to get the most out of their homes. Each category plays a different part in the planning, and ensuring they all work together is important.

1. The Look

The look is the part that everyone focuses on when designing their house. It makes sense because it is the most fun part! The look is key to planning because you want to ensure overall aesthetics give the vibe you want in each space. Instead of style, I always ask, “How do you want to feel in the space?” If it’s your dining room meant for celebrations and gatherings, you may want dramatic and full of pattern or color. But if it is your bedroom, you may want it neutral and textured, promoting rest and rejuvenation. Think of when and how you will use the space, and then think of how you want to feel in the space while using it.

Designed living space2. The Budget

The budget is the part that most people don’t like doing when intentionally designing their house. I get it; the budget can mean stress on many different levels—knowing the cost, how to get what you want within the amount you want to spend, and the actual spending! But, it is imperative to develop a budget before starting your project. Regardless of what the project is—renovation or decorating—you want to get to the finish line of a completed space. A budget keeps you in check when making decisions. It’s easy to think, “I’ll splurge on this because it is important.” When you are looking and deciding on items along the journey, the thing you are looking at always seems to be the most important, so the splurge may happen numerous times, bringing you over budget. We talk more about budget in this blog.

3. The Purpose

The purpose of the room is usually straightforward because it is obvious. It’s a dining room, and we will eat here. But think a bit broader when thinking of the purpose. If the dining room will be used daily, it needs to be more durable than a room that may be used a few times a year. If it is used a few times a year, this room may have another purpose. The purpose is what the room is intended to do, and this can mean multiple things. A dining room with bookcases makes a beautiful library. Think intentionally with the purpose for all of your spaces because this is where design can change your life. Make a list of everything you want out of your house and see where those things can happen within your spaces.

Designed kitchen space4. The Functionality

The functionality comes second to purpose. Once you know the room’s purpose, you want to make it function for you. Take the dining room -library example. How do you want the room to function in each case? When using it as a dining room, what storage do you need? What furniture pieces do you need? How many people would you like to seat? What lighting do you need? Now think of all those questions regarding using the space as a library. The answers will likely be very different.

How I would design this room:

  • bookcases on all 4 walls with (2) open areas on opposite walls. These open spaces would have a countertop for serving and cabinets below for storage.
  • the table would be a round table that can extend for dining. When not used for dining, it would be used as a round with 4 chairs as a work or game table.
  • I would use very comfortable chairs for the head and foot of the dining table that can then be used as a seating area for the library.
  • I would use a non-traditional lighting plan that would work in both cases. Possibly a pair of very interesting pieces that do not hang as low as a chandelier so you can walk under them. This allows you to have the table in different areas of the room.

When thinking about the functionality of the room based on the purposes, the design plan needs to develop around all of these aspects.

Intentionally designed sitting area5. The Layout

The layout comes at the end after purpose and functionality. You now know how you want to use the space and what you want the space to do. The layout is how you make it all happen. In the dining room example, you’ll now look at the size of the elements for the room’s scale and how to best lay it out.

  • how deep are the bookcases
  • what size table will work best in both ways. One that is big enough when you are entertaining but is intimate enough for a library
  • the size and scale of the chairs to not feel too big for dining but feel comfortable when reading
  • the placement of the lighting to give ambiance for dining and what may be needed to give adequate lighting for reading.

You can repeat these 5 steps for all design projects, from a new built down to a new coffee table. It may sound crazy to do 5 steps if you’re buying a new coffee table, but they all apply. How do you want it to look, how much will you spend, what is the purpose ( how you will use it—ex. display vs. putting feet up), how do you need it to function (storage, etc.), and what size does it need to be. Working through these 5 steps will give you a coffee table that is perfect for you and the space.

Planning gives you the ability to create spaces that are tailored to your life. When you design with intention, the result is amazing—a space that is as functional as it is beautiful.





Molly Hirsch interior designer Ridgefield, Connecticut

Hi, I’m Molly Hirsch, and I help women founders, executives, and entrepreneurs translate their highly effective work approach to their home design, creating a space that rises up to meet their needs while enhancing the warmth and style of their family home. Discover all the ways we can work together to create a home of your dreams.

You’re one step away from a well-designed life.