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Are You Creating “Inside the Box”?

I’ve been working with a client for over three years on various projects, and we’ve come to a point in our design relationship where she gives me her comfort spending level, her five feeling words, and free reign over the project- meaning she trusts me to unleash my creative spirit and design something she will LOVE while remaining on budget.

After working my way through my client’s beautiful home, it was time to makeover the powder room. My client inherited this poor little bathroom with dated pendant chain lights that hung too low, “old lady” cabinet hardware, cheap Formica countertop, orange laminate flooring, brass fixtures, and a bad wall color. She could stand it no longer- it was time for a change. She called me on Friday and gave me a budget of $200 for product and materials. She also mentioned that she’d be out of town for the week, and we could talk more about it after her return.

My client started to remove the cabinet hardware and gave up.

Loving a challenge, I set out to surprise her and have the powder room made over before her return. I must be design CRAZY?! Here I am with limited finances, resources, time, and worst of all… no design ideas, and I’m going to try to do it anyway because THIS IS MY PASSION.

Saturday was my daughter’s birthday party, and all I could think about was that bathroom, and what was I going to do with it? I couldn’t afford to change the fixtures so I needed the walls to have major impact. I couldn’t picture wallpaper in there, and I certainly didn’t have time to select and order it anyway. Murals popped into my head and I began to surf the net every minute I could in between hosting the party. Knowing my client’s two favorite places, Paris and the Caribbean, I narrowed my search down to those two themes. I made my final decision based on colors, cost, and speed of delivery. I spent nearly 50% of my budget on the mural and I felt that it was well worth it.

The mural was on its way and I went shopping in Erie on Tuesday for the accessories. Knowing the Law of Attraction, it was no surprise that I found the accessories that would tie all the colors together and remain within budget- this always excites me when it happens!

I had everything on hand and began preparing the room on Thursday for Friday’s installation. Friday was a long day- I had no idea that hanging a mural was different and more difficult than hanging wallpaper- the bumps really had me stressed, but I kept going.  Not only did I hang the mural that day, but I also painted the walls, re-wired in the pendant lights (I removed the lights to paint them white, add cord covers and new shades, and shorten the chains), and added the accessories.

On Saturday morning I stopped back in to trim the mural edges and give the walls a third coat of paint. I was relieved and excited to see a beautiful smooth mural! I put the finishing touches on, cleaned up, closed the door, and left.

I love to see my client’s faces and hear their reactions during the big reveal; but, unfortunately most of the time I’m not there when a client sees their room for the first time. This is especially true with this client. She was supposed to return on Saturday night- I heard nothing. I was a little bit nervous (remember this was an unexpected and surprise design). On Sunday, just as I’m thinking about her I notice that there’s two texts from her, “I absolutely LOVE my bathroom” ” I don’t want to leave it”. I immediately call her…I want to hear the excitement in her voice.  She excitedly begins to tell me everything she loves about her room and my design…

How her powder room feels like a portal to the tropics…

How the colors of the palm leaf matches the cabinet color, and the flooring flows into the mural’s dock…

How the cabinet and countertop look great with the new accent wall color…

The ocean art is actually fabric-from my quilting stash- stretched over a canvas.

She continued on about the custom made (by me) cord covers, the light shades, accessories, and cabinet hardware.

The conversation changed and she went deeper…she tells me that what she finds most amazing is how I was able to create inside the box. I’ve heard “think outside the box” (a metaphor to think differently, from a new perspective, or creatively)-never think inside the box and yet I knew what she meant by it. My client gave me a specific and limited amount of money ($200), and a room with pre-existing design elements-to put it kindly. She had created a box for me, and then gave me design freedom. Instead of creating outside the box by going over budget to design a completely new room I used the $200.00 and the original fixtures as creative inspiration and worked within those restrictions- inside the box. She recognized how placing constraints on me actually challenged me to be more creative than if had I been given unlimited resources and the capability to change everything (I had to think outside the box to create inside the box). Designing a space is overwhelming when you don’t know what you’re doing; in fact, it can be overwhelming when you do know if you aren’t given any guidelines. Before decorating a room, build a box by asking yourself: How much do I have to spend? How much time do I have to complete this project? How do I want my room to feel? Then work creatively within it. I find it nearly impossible to dream up a creative design idea without at least these questions being answered. Use boundaries to narrow your focus and guide your creativeness and it won’t be long before you understand that you must think outside the box to create within it.

by Gina Paris

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