How to Design a Room if You Don't Have a Vision Yet

To start designing a room, you must first have a vision.

Or do you?

Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, and every other design or home makeover shows on HGTV make it look easy-peasy to have this "vision" all packaged up and ready to go on an ipad when designing the ideal made-over home.  

I see vision as something that is separate from design. To me, a vision is the foundation from which your design is built. It’s a conceptual idea of how this space will work and what it will become, but the detail and the design, the choice of furniture and home decor items may not be all worked out yet.


As for myself, a vision may not always come first when it comes to design. To me, that is okay! If it happens to you too, take it easy on yourself, stop doubting your design skills, and just be patient. Give yourself some time and look for cost-effective opportunities to practice, where it won’t be too painful if it doesn’t turn out the way you’d like. Many times, I find myself piecing together parts of this "vision" while I am stuck in the middle of my so-called design process.

“...through this experimentation, you can exercise your creative abilities and continue to discover your style that will bring out the everyday designer in you.”

Your “vision” could start with a piece of furniture or a particular wall in the room. It could stem from a specific style theme or a bold and bright color that you want to incorporate. Whatever it might be, I believe there is no "wrong" way to come up with a design. After all, a design is a design. It is the end result that we are all trying to achieve, professional designer or not. How we get there can be created from a detailed blueprint we’ve had in our minds forever ago … or trial and error ... or just puzzle pieces we are trying to fit together to reveal the whole picture as reality to us. The key is to maintain flexibility and open-mindedness for new ideas to start forming. Don't be afraid to experiment and to take risks every now and then because through this experimentation, you can exercise your creative abilities and continue to discover your style that will bring out the everyday designer in you.


When I don’t have a vision to start, I realized that there are steps that I subconsciously take to help organize my thoughts to help me begin to formulate a vision when I’m designing a particular space. If you don’t organize your thoughts a little bit before you start designing, you could end up wasting a lot of time and left with a lot of disjointed items that look more like a collection of random items in storage instead of a cohesive thought-out look.

So I jotted down my thought process for a recent project, so that I can share it with you here! There are 7 questions that you can ask yourself to prepare and structure your thoughts to build a foundation for your design. You might not always have an immediate answer for every single one of these questions (I certainly don't), but at least this way, you can start the process of creating a vision for your design that will be practical, functional, affordable, and suitable for you. Some of these might be obvious to you, but I found that when you write things down, it helps you design with more intention, and it reminds you of the whole purpose you're designing in the first place.



1. What is the purpose of this room or space?

Sure, the room might have originally been meant to be a formal dining room, but are you and your family running out of room that you’re thinking of turning this space into a playroom for the kids? Or do you have an extra bedroom that you want to convert into an office space you’ve been desperately needing? Think about why this space exists in your home currently.

2. Who is your target audience?

This sounds like a marketing tactic, but you want to know who you will be designing this room for, so that your “target audience” will get to enjoy the room to its fullest potential. Who will be using the room the most? Is it you, your children, guests, your husband, parents? But remember that even though you might not be the one who will be using this room the most, it doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself and your personality when you are designing the room.

3. How will this space be used?

Is this the room where we will sit on the couch for family movie night? Is this room for some “me” time when I need to relax or read a book away from the chaos of everyday life? Is this room for entertaining guests when we have get-togethers with our friends and family?  


4. What are your goals and must-haves for this space?

Whether it’s more storage space, comfortable seating area, lots of color, minimalist goals, you should determine a few items or characteristics you must have for this room. I should say try your best not to be too ambitious because it could start getting overwhelming when you have a list of 34 must-haves. No, I never did that.. The number of must-haves will depend on the space as well. If it’s a large space that you can realistically incorporate more must-haves, then go for it! For me, I try really hard to keep it under 5...

5. How do you want your target audience to feel when they are in this room?

Is this space somewhere you’d like to spend time relaxing? If so, this might influence your choice of colors to make the space more serene and spa-like.  Is this space where you’d like to entertain guests? If so, then perhaps this will influence your decision to incorporate additional seating or accent tables to set food and drinks.  Are your kids going to be using the room for playtime and craft time? If so, that might impact what you decide to use for durable flooring or the type of furniture.


6. Start with one item and branch out from there.

This could be a piece of furniture, a single wall, a particular style, or a favorite color. Go easy on yourself and just start with one item or must-have that is important to you, and start building your design from there. Perhaps, it’s a statement color that you know you want to incorporate. Maybe it’s a piece of artwork that was passed down for generations that you want to display with pride. Whatever it is, start with that item and build your design from there.

7. What is your budget?

This is probably one of the more difficult steps out of the ones I listed above. You need to have in your mind a reasonable budget range that you are going to target for this design. What works for me is that I typically target the lower end or middle of the range I set, giving myself a little cushion if there is something I see that I just absolutely cannot live without that would’ve put me over my budget otherwise. For me, this one is much harder than I make it sound, so I might have to dedicate a whole 'nother post(s) about budgeting at a later time.


Every now and then, remember to Take a step back and absorb the whole picture.

Ask yourself these same questions again to see if your “vision” may have changed. When you’re deep in the details, sometimes you lose focus of what you are trying to design in the first place.  Step back, take some photos, view from different perspectives, and evaluate.

Congratulations! Now that you have defined your thoughts into more of a structure of what you intend to do with the space, it’s time to start designing!

Stay tuned for a later post where I'll walk you through a simple design process that I went through recently that'll show what piecing together a vision might look like!