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  • Writer's pictureSarah Smalling

The Traditional Five-Step Design Process: What To Expect When Working With A Design Professional

Updated: Jan 20, 2020

The design process is a creative journey, unique to each client's individual needs. Many people don't know what to expect when working with an interior designer; this post provides a brief overview of our process.

Traditional full-service design takes place in five steps:

1.) Programming

2.) Schematics

3.) Development

4.) Implementation

5.) Execution


Who are you? Who do you want to become? What inspires you? These are all things we will need to know about you during this phase. Communication is vital in this stage to identify your lifestyle needs, your goals, and desires so we can materialize them by putting a plan together. Communication takes place a few different ways. During the initial phone call, we gather information and determine if our services are a fit for your needs. If so, an in-home consultation will follow, during which we will walk through the space with you and discuss your goals. During this meeting, we will gather any data, take any photos, and take any measurements necessary to begin finding a solution to your design challenges.

Getting to know you is the most important part of the process. An in-home consultation will allow us to experience your space together while addressing your wants and needs.


It's time to develop your look. We need to familiarize with your aesthetic before creating your haven, and one of the best ways to do that is through a shared Pinterest board. This allows us to develop a unique communication process in which we communicate through images and on a deeper level. From here, we will develop a budget and itemize a list of what your expenses will be. Depending on your needs, we will start with a space plan, develop a floor plan/furniture plan, and construct digital design boards in Photoshop.

Design boards allow us to communicate a specific look to you as we develop a clear design direction.


During design development, we will get your approval on a final design concept so we can refine and develop it into a plan. Lots of decisions will be made during this phase, but don't fret: we are here to help you make educated decisions. We will allow you to experience finishes and furnishings in both visual and tactile ways. We will shop together and decide together. All details will be solidified in this step, including drawings, finish selections, and product orders. Often times, clients choose to order 2D or 3D renderings from us during this phase to help visualize and give them confidence in their selections before moving on to the implementation phase.

Many clients choose to take advantage of the advanced visualization services we offer before finalizing their interior selections.


This is the phase where we put our plan into action. All orders are placed, all contractors and installations are scheduled and coordinated, and all preparations are made. It is important to understand that this phase could potentially be the longest due to a variety of factors. Custom furnishings are made to order. The companies we source from are typically domestic, family-owned, smaller operations and due to their artisan craftsmanship and attention to detail, turnaround times can take anywhere from four to twelve weeks. Backorders on some products should be anticipated when scheduling contractors. It is also important to remember that contractors may have a wait time, too, especially during certain times of the year. This part of the process takes an exorbitant amount of patience and understanding.

When commitments and final decisions are made, it's important to let go of control, be patient, and trust your designer.


It's time to bring your design to tangible life. During this phase, Contractors will complete work orders, any deliveries will be coordinated and completed, and installation will be done. Any small finishing touches needed, such as accessories, will be obtained locally by us. Delivery times can vary, and contractor schedules can unexpectedly change, thus extending this phase. Once all work is completed and all furnishings have arrived on site, we will then style your space right down to the last finishing touch. By the end of this phase, your design will be 100% completed.

Once all furnishings have arrived on site, we will style your space to designer standards and show you how to maintain your new look.

The Big Reveal is the best part...time to enjoy your luxurious new interior.


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