Think Big

“If you are going to be thinking, you might as well be thinking big.” – Donald Trump

Last month I hosted some design students in my studio. I assigned them the task of conceiving a space and presenting their ideas to me. What struck me was the interest that was given to the small things, likes lamps and tabletop objects, while disregarding the formation of the big picture.

I see this time and again with homeowners that get so excited about doing a room that they go out and start buying the small stuff, like picture frames, pillows and occasional pieces of furniture. There are now home goods store filled to the brim with every kind of knickknack imaginable. But a room full of accessories is not the starting point to a cohesive end product. In fact, this approach can ruin a room before you’ve even begun.

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When I’m called in on a project, I always start by forming the big picture. Questions are asked about how a space needs to function, clients needs and tastes, and how it relates to the rest of the home. From this big picture options are considered and those not aligned with our end goal are dismissed. This constant culling eventually leaves us with a laser sharp vision of what we are working toward. With game plan in hand we are now ready to start. By keeping focused on the intended outcome we are much less likely to get distracted by insignificant purchases that add nothing in the end.

All too often I am the bearer of bad news and have to tell someone that there is no place for a purchase they have made. I once had a client impulsively buy a collection of antique doors at auction, and at considerable cost. The purchase was made before the big picture was finalized and, as the project took shape, it was evident that the doors would not work. What seemed like a good idea at the time turned into nothing more than wasted dollars.

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It takes great restraint to resist the smaller, less expensive purchases that give us instant gratification.

I have a dear friend who remodeled her home years ago. While shopping one day she showed great restraint and resisted making an unnecessary purchase. I was so impressed with her will power and even more impressed with her logic. Instead of wasting money on something small and insignificant she had more money to put towards higher quality furnishings for her home. All those resisted temptations made it possible to get the exquisite flooring and hardware she wanted, instead of a cheaper compromise. I have thought of that lesson many times over the years when weighing the value of an intended purchase.

When looking for inspiration for the big picture, many people look to online sights or shelter magazines. While these can be useful tools, they all too often feature vignettes that narrow your focus instead of giving a broader sense of the space. Tables full of picture frames, gaggles of small occasional furniture and seemingly haphazard collections of collectibles might be great in a photo shoot, but without the context of the bigger picture, using them as a starting point can leave one with a wandering, disjoined and disappointing end product.

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Spending time creating the big picture, whether in our homes or in our lives, is time well spent. If we think first, create the vision and then execute, we’re less likely to waste time, money or effort. With a vision of where we’re going we are less likely to find ourselves lost in the unknown.