House Doctor: Invest in research and a design strategy

Developing a plan of action at the start of an interior redesign will help keep the project focused and organised.

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An initial "design concept" is a great tool for project organisation. Whether you are a do-it-yourself homeowner, a student or a professional designer, having a preliminary idea to direct your focus and attention will prove very helpful.

In last week's column, I recommended collecting images from books and magazines that represent the character and detail of your ideal living environment. I use this method to understand shapes, forms, textures, scale, proportion, finishes, details and style of furniture - everything that embodies the overall qualities of the interior space that are appealing to the inhabitant.

When considering the character of my own apartment, I had two ideas. I initially thought that I would develop a 1950s Mad Men-style interior, but as I began to consider the internationally influenced environment in which I now live, I found the idea of translating a 1920s-1930s New York or Paris flat appealing. Although my apartment is rather basic and lacks the elegant and elaborate moulding details and high ceilings typically found in an old Paris apartment, using furniture, finishes and decorative elements that are representative of the period will allow me to create an interpretation of that environment here.

Although I am familiar with interior design history and the French and American style of this era, I recently browsed through design reference books and searched online for descriptions of key characteristics I may consider implementing in my design plan. Spending a little time researching the important designers and decorators of the era will highlight the style points that are important to think about when planning a design strategy.

For my home, I focused on the work of modernist French interior and furniture designers including Jean-Michel Frank, Le Corbusier, Pierre Chareau and Eileen Gray. Since my goal is to create an international interior, I have spent time expanding my design concept, researching other movements and influential designers from across Europe, including the Bauhaus, Mies van der Rohe and Poul Henningsen. With a little research, anyone can find the designers, style and furniture that will make their simple white box into a home.

Instead of a "showroom to modernism", my plan is to design an apartment that looks like it was built over time, inspired by the style of furniture and decoration from the 1920s and 1930s, and influenced by the innovative architects and interior designers who changed the concept of "home".

Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah. His column, House Doctor, can be read every week in House & Home.