The 5 W’s (and H) of Designing

Designing a space or room can often seem overwhelming – especially if you have plenty of ideas but only one space! Sometimes taking a step back to look at the key design considerations will help you focus on your best ideas and eliminate some of those that are not so good.

Like much of the creative world, addressing the ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ can be a good place to start:

WHAT – what is the primary function of the space? Is it for socialising? Resting? Studying? Cooking? Storage? Thinking about what the space needs to do will help you to determine what should be included – and excluded – from your design.

WHEN – when is the space going to be used? Will it only be used at a certain time of day, or does it need to be adaptable for different uses throughout the day?

WHO – who will be using the space? Consider the age, needs and preferences of the main users of the space, as this will impact the features you choose to include. For example, the needs of an elderly person versus a young family will vary greatly in terms of activities and mobility of the users. A family bathroom would need child (and mess!) friendly finishes and features, while an ensuite may need specific makeup lighting or more sophisticated finishes to create a ‘retreat’.

WHERE – consider where the space is relative to existing rooms in your house. If it is directly linked visually and/or physically, you may need to think about continuing existing themes and features throughout, to keep a sense of flow and connectedness.

WHY – why are you creating the space? Is the existing space dysfunctional? Too cluttered? Poorly lit? Inaccessible? Unpleasant to look at? Outlining your reasons for renovating can sometimes highlight the underlying issues that need to be addressed in the new design. This not only helps identify things to avoid, but also what you really want.  

HOW – how are you going to resolve the design? This is where you get down to the nitty gritty of what will go into your space (including lighting, colour, texture, material, fixtures etc.), and with so many options available, it can be very easy to lose track. However, if you take this step last and consider each aspect in relation to the five W’s above, you will find it much easier to refine your choices – and narrow down the number of pins on your Pinterest board!

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