Home Design, Imagined.

As I write this first blog entry, I’m literally in a bus riding through the countryside of Vietnam. For the last decade, I have traveled the country and world, exchanging inspiration through creativity and design. As I meet people and communities, see new landscapes and experience new cultures, I’ve really become a vagabond designer. I believe our stories are meant to be shared, and that creativity can change lives.

My motto: I’m a little lady with big ideas.

I met the Ply Gem team while working on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” For seven years, I ran the design team for the television show and was responsible for conceptualizing the exterior and interior of all the homes.

But the families we built homes for never really knew I existed. Just days or even hours before scouting a location, the producers would hand me a document about the family. I would jump on a plane, feverishly sketch on the tiny tray table and meet with the local builder and architect the next morning. Translating the family information from paper into their dream home was my job.

I’m not going to lie…it was tough. Whatever I designed had to please the family, the builder, the neighbors, the city and the television producers, all while being interesting enough to broadcast to 12 million viewers. No pressure…!

Over and over in this process, I realized this one constant: Each family had such a unique story to tell. So, shouldn’t the design of their home be equally unique?

If I could keep the motivation behind the design of each home centered on the family’s story, then that was all the approval I needed.

So, I stopped looking at house plan books or builder plans and started using my imagination. The first challenge: to get a real feel for the family. The information the producers provided me in the beginning was never enough, so I created a new interview document, asking each family a ton of questions.

These answers would lead me to what their home should look and feel like. Whether you are designing your own home, or a client’s, be sure you ask enough questions.

Architecture is an art… a fashion. The success is all in the details…the dimensions, the color, the textures, the materials, the accessories, etc. Start by defining a “character” to the home and then adhering to that style through every detail.

I call this character-driven design.

Have you ever put a puzzle together? If so, what’s the first thing you want to see before you start the puzzle? The cover of the box! All of the individual pieces may look overwhelming, but if you know what the big picture is, it’s easier to put the puzzle together. Design is the same. Each piece to the puzzle is a detail that molds and shapes the big picture.

When I design a home, I always lead with my imagination, not with the limitations. So, approach design as if you are a painter stepping up to an empty canvas. Should we consider the vernacular, the neighbors, the local homeowner’s association? Well, yes, of course we must. But don’t JUST start there… stay tuned for Part Two of this post — I’ll share tips on how to achieve design that complements your personality and reflects your heart.