The Interior Design Process What to Expect Step by Step

When I was in design school there was a lot of time and attention spent learning about the Design Process.  It is a very detailed, step-by-step program that is meant for you to reach your desired design in a very scholastic, schematic manner.  It involves bubble diagrams and the like, something I have never done since I was in college.  After all the years I have been an interior designer I have learned that the design process I was taught was an exercise meant to reign in all the random thoughts to reach a design cohesive end. 

This is an example of a bubble diagram, meant to show relationships from space to space. 

 I have my process and never felt the “proper” manner suited me.  But that’s another story.

Below is an outline of my Design Process

The design process for each of my interior design clients is the same for every project.  Even though every project is unique and there are different needs for a new custom home build home, a home renovation, and a move-in-ready home the process remains the same.  


Step 1 - Discovery

This is where all great design collaborations start.  The Getting to Know Each Other Phase.  Not only do we get acquainted, but get to dig into the house plans. The discovery phase is also when we have the budget talk.


Step 2 - Design / Draft

This is when I gather all the information you have provided and I Deep Dive into the floor plans.  I don’t leave anything to chance, everything is thought out at this stage and addressed.  


Step 3 - Product Specification  - Procurement & Administration and Order Follow Up

This is perhaps the largest phase of any design project, the specification and procurement of products.  This phase is also where people seem to have the most difficulty.  The product specification phase inevitably requires you to have some ability to visualize the selections in the yet-to-be-competed home.  And the procurement portion is where the most of the cost is incurred.


Step 4 - Home Installation

The grand finale!  When all the puzzle pieces come together.  All the decisions that have been made are finally brought together and put into place.

Here is a little on How Each Stage Works

1.  The Discovery Phase and how to prepare for it.

Gather all those inspiration photos you have collected and bring them with you to share.  In reality, these days I see very few actual paper images and if I do it’s from the most recent newsstand issue of any given design magazine.  Digital images, Pinterest boards, photos from my portfolio, and yes, you can even bring or share photos of other local designers. Everything helps.

 You must be specific about what you like in an inspiration.  This is a funny conversation that I have often –

Client: Shares an image and says, “I LOVE this room!”

Designer: “Oh Yes, I love it too, especially that coffee table!”

Client: “Oh, no, I don’t like that coffee table – I like the pillow on the sofa”

Designer: “OK, I see, what about the paint color, it’s a nice neutral?”

Client: “Oh gosh, I didn’t notice the paint color – no, that’s not a color for me, I just like the pillow.”

  This happens time and time again.  Moral of the story:  Explain what it is about a room that you like. I have found that unless you specifically explain what you like about the photo we will not be on the same page.  

I have shown clients furniture pieces for their project that came from a design concept photo they shared with me and they say "oh, no too (insert whatever objection here).  Then I show them the concept photo of that item in a room and they like it.

 There is no such thing as too much information.

The process also works in reverse just as well.  I gain just as much information from a photo of something you dislike as I do something you do like.  While you’re digging through images make sure to note what about the image are you drawn to.  The more information you give me the better result I can give you.


Below is a screen shot of my Pintrest page.  I have hundreds of pages with tons of ideas.  Click on the image to go to my Pintrest.  A great source for inspiration.  

Jill Shevlin Design Pintrest Page

2.  Design Drafting Phase – Where the magic happens!

During the design and drafting phase, I work through all the information gathered to this point.  

Space planning is the key.  

I love to problem-solve and the design phase is where I start to develop what will become our working bible, the floor plan.  For every design project, every single thing starts and ends with the floor plan.  The floor plan is the manual for the entire process.  Everything I do is on a drawing that starts from the floor plan.  From a floor plan elevation drawings are created to give a better visual explanation of the design.  I refer back to my floor plans and elevations constantly throughout the entirety of the project.  Floor plans are the base for all the additional drawings that need to be developed during this phase.  If the project is a renovation, i begin with any alterations that need to be made to the plan.  In conjunction I usually start to work in a furniture layout and then move to flooring detail drawings.  From there we can move to elevation drawings, cabinet drawings, tile layouts, plumbing fixture locations, lighting and switch locations and so much more.   Renderings are developed during this stage if the project requires it.  Almost all of the drawings ultimately become Construction Documents that are supplied to the contractor for implementation.  If it’s not on a drawing, they will inevitably do it the opposite of what you wanted.

Below is a Flooring Plan showing the layout and direction to lay wood floor planks.

Wood Floor Layout

Shower Tile Details 

Bathroom Vanity Elevation with Sconce Placement

Bath Elevation for Sconces

3.  Product Specification- Procurement & Follow Up

What gets ordered and all the details.

Product specification is different for each type of project.   If the design project is a new custom home build we start with the last thing anyone wants to start with, but it’s a must, appliances, plumbing fixtures, cabinets, and hard scape tile selections.  Furniture placement is critical at this juncture as well for the proper placement of light fixtures and floor outlets.

For a New Custom Home

In a new custom home build we start with the last thing anyone thinks we would start with.   Or the very last thing anyone wants to think about at the beginning stage of the design process. Unfortunately, it’s a must and you have to start with the items that drive other portions.  Appliances need to be selected to give to the cabinet designer for the correct size.  Plumbing fixtures need to be selected to have the plumbing in the correct location in the slab. Cabinets, and hard scape tile selections all need to be considered at the earliest stages. Furniture placement is critical at this juncture for the proper placement of light fixtures and floor outlets.

For a Home Renovation

The selections for a renovation a similar to those of a new build, but not as critical in advance as in a new build since all the groundwork is already complete.  Unless you are moving plumbing locations.

For a Move-in in Ready Home

Furniture, fabrics, area rugs, window treatments, paint and wall coverings, lighting, and decorative accessories are all specified during this stage.  Any project has hundreds of moving parts that involve workrooms, vendors, sub-contractors, trucking companies, warehouse and storage, and all the issues that come along with each portion.  We can talk more about this later!


This is a pretty inclusive list of the products that need to be selected for a kitchen. This list will become individual selection sheets for each item on the list.

selection sheet for a new kitchen

Bathroom Specification List

List of Bathroom specifications for new home or remodel

Countertop Schedule

Below is a Countertop Schedule.  Each room designated along with the material selection, the edge detail and any other pertinent information.  The goal is to have a binder with all the information needed at your or the builders fingertips.  

Below is an example of a bathroom sconce lighting location.

bathroom sconce location

There is then....finally....the fun stuff!  Fabrics, furniture, rugs, lighting, paint colors oh my!  Lots to choose!

Below is a presentation I did for a recent client with a small cabana renovation and redesign.

bathroom selections jill shevlin design

Below is a presentation for a clients kitchen.

Kitchen Design Presentation Jill Shevlin Design
kitchen counter top jillshevlin design

4.  Home Installation The Big Reveal!!


Well, fingers crossed if all goes well.  

Installation is a long and slow process that takes time.  There will be problems, there will be issues.  It's just the way it is.  But installation is the culmination of so many things and it is great to see it all...finally come together.  

I would say that in reality, the last day of an installation week is the Best Day Ever!!!  After all the packing paper and boxes are gone, the electronics are up and working, every last detail is in place.  Ahhhh....the best!  If you have never experienced walking into your home - completely finished - it is something to experience.  I've had many clients cry, overwhelmed by what they see.  It's an awesome thing!

In conclusion

I have to say each phase integral to an overall smooth design and construction process.  Each phase feeds into the next and the ultimate end result.  It might sound funny, but design projects are like living creatures, they grown, change, move and have issues, and problems.  There is something new to encounter in every project.  They can be rewarding and emotional for all involved.  


A completed guest bedroom project below.  

blue and white two queen beds in a bedroom

Some of my favorite things below.  Like them click for more info.  

pendant light fixutre glass
shell mirror

For more

Or check out this post 4 Crucial Things You Need to know about remodels

Looking for more? Check out some of my other shopping pages,

Beds - Nightstands - Coffee Tables - Chandeliers - Lamps -

Be sure to read all about a home designed by Jill Shevlin in this Luxe Magazine Article

Read an article by Jill HERE to get the Bedroom Look

Here's another Bathroom Remodel blog post to check out

Bathroom renovation by Vero Beach Interior Designer

what to expect in the interior design process
the process of interior design
what to expect from the interior design process