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Dressing the Toddler: Styling your Space

If you haven’t read February’s blog, STOP RIGHT NOW and go back before proceeding any further. Without some context for this month’s content, you’re going to ask yourself: “What on earth is this woman talking about?” Why is she dressing a toddler? Isn’t this an interior design blog?!  

Yes, it is… stay with me, it will all make sense.  

Imagine… your construction project is now complete; whether it was new build, a minor renovation, or a major overhaul. The walls are built, the paint is rolled, the cabinetry and countertops are in, the flooring is installed, and the lighting is hung (there are likely a hundred other things that have been done, but that sentence didn’t need to run any longer). Your new space is shiny and brand new! What began as a design baby was raised well. Your space stands tall and proud, like a toddler on its own two feet. It’s impressive. But there’s one problem… despite its architectural beauty, it’s still… naked! 

Now it’s time to dress the toddler. 

When it comes to completing a space… I mean TRULY finishing it… there’s a big difference between constructed and finished. Renovating or building is like raising a baby, but styling a space is like dressing that amazing little human in the cutest, picture-perfect outfit.   

Adding the finishing touches to a space is the process we refer to as “styling”. Styling encompasses everything from placing the furniture and area rugs, to hanging the art, mirrors, and window coverings to arranging the perfect grouping of accessories on a shelf or table.  Generally, these furniture & décor items are selected during the design phase and ordered while construction is underway. Items that the clients already own are also inventoried and stored. Once construction is complete, the items are delivered and thoughtfully arranged and installed.  

Styling is often an overlooked part of a project. There are a number of reasons for this: 

  • The architectural design (the parts that need to be built) take precedence, so styling the space is put on the back burner. 
  • The project budget didn’t allow for new furniture & décor pieces; basically, all the money went towards the construction. 
  • The importance of styling was never considered in the first place. 

It’s understandable (yet unfortunate) that this is the case, because a well styled, detailed space is truly transformative. It takes your home or office from nice to Exceptional.  It creates warmth, personalization, and uniqueness.  

As famed designer, Charles Eames once said…

The details are not the details. They make the design.

One of my favourite architects, Sarah Susanka, wrote a book called: “The Not So Big House.” This book, and the series that followed, is based on the principle of building less square footage for the sake of maintaining enough budget for the beautiful finishing details. I highly respect this mindset. 

So how do you plan and budget for décor and styling? 


Here are a few of my recommendations: 

  • As you plan your new space (hopefully with the guidance of an interior design professional 😉) start by listing all the items you already own and intend to reuse. Then fill in all the gaps by listing all the pieces you will need to purchase. 
  • Create a high-low budget list for each major décor item. For example, a new sofa at the high-end costs $10,000 and at the low-end costs $3,500. Searching a few retailer websites can help you to determine the high and low pricing of each item. Decide on a figure within the range that you’re comfortable spending for each item, then tally up this total to establish your budget. 
  • Don’t forget a line item for minor décor items. Minor décor items include plants and small accessories that you purchase once the major items are in place. I generally estimate 15-20% of your major budget for these miscellaneous items. 
  • Consider hiring a professional to take on the styling (shameless plug 😀). A seasoned eye will understand proportion & scale and know which items are necessary and which ones are not. If the designer or stylist you hire has access to trade discounts, the cost for their services will often be covered in the savings you receive by ordering product through them. Also, by hiring a professional, your space will come together relatively quickly (and hopefully painlessly) rather than taking months or years as you purchase an item here or there. 

As you contemplate your upcoming project, remember to design thoughtfully (grow the baby), manage the construction process well (raise the baby), and then add the personalized touches (dress the toddler)!  

If you have any questions or comments about styling, or any part of the design-build process, we’d love to hear from you! 

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