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Processing the Process (and wondering if we’re lost?)

By: Katie MacGillivray

In America, we’re used to going to a store to look at options, pick and purchase the item(s), and be done — hopefully in 30 minutes or less.

Designing a custom home or remodel on the other hand? That’s not so straightforward.

It’s more like a hiking trail; there’s a path to follow and checkpoints to meet; but there will be curves and hills along the way. Material characteristics, the reality of construction, budget, uncovered (sometimes literally) information, discovered needs and opportunities all impact a design.

remodeling a kitchen

In the photo above: this steel beam, structurally required, will be left exposed to create a unique design feature.

In design school, my black-and-white brain and I struggled to accept and enjoy the discoveries found during projects. I didn’t realize at the time that research, discovery, and tweaking of plans are an inherent part of the design process. They seemed like setbacks and proof that I was not following the process correctly. I believed that “If I design the right things in the right order, this wouldn’t have happened.”

I thought wrongly. Changes are a central characteristic of a successful design process.


In the photo above: walnut wood panel sizes influenced the design of this curved bar. Originally, the curved bar was designed to have two panels. The final design repeats the rectangular forms created by the wall cabinetry behind it – and stays within panel limitations!

Though the winding path of the design process can be a new challenge, it will lead to a well-planned, collaborative, and sometimes more creative design than originally imagined.

Enjoy the journey!

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