Before redesigning a room - as I did for 10 years as an interior designer and, in the past few weeks, in my own campus apartment in Sharjah - there are a few "first steps" that help get me organised.
Every project needs a plan, which may include floor plans, a phasing plan and budget. You will also need some equipment: a tape measure (metric and inches), ruler or scale, a notebook (ideally one with a graphic grid), coloured markers or pens and a digital camera.
I ask my clients to collect images from magazines and books and mark things they like and don't like. It can be a piece of furniture, a wall colour, a light fixture or just the feel and character of the room.
Secondly, it helps to draw a scaled floor plan of the rooms to be made over. I like to draw the "base plan" in black, then print copies and use coloured pens to add details. Blue might be used for electrical outlets, red for switches, and so on.
I always indicate the locations of doors and windows, noting objects such as pipes or electrical panels. I measure the locations from the closest end of a wall and record it on the drawing to remember the positions. You don't want to plan a layout and then realise after the delivery team leaves that a new table lamp is nowhere near an electrical outlet or a large mirror can't be hung because it will cover up a light switch.
A scaled plan is easy to draw, and a reasonably sized room will fit on an A4 sheet at a scale of 1:20 (in other words, every five centimetres equals one metre). Doors are best indicated in the open position to ensure they can be opened after furniture is placed. Also note the location of lighting and light fixtures. When the time comes to purchase furniture and select art and accessories to hang on the wall, planning ahead to make sure everything fits and is correctly scaled eliminates disappointment.
It's also important to take photos of the space you're working on - before, during and after. Photos of odd conditions in the room, windows, doors and special details help you visualise the room when you're out shopping for furniture. It helps to turn the camera flash off and take a couple of photos of rooms with just the overhead or table lamps turned on to identify dark zones in a room. For projects in which existing furniture will be reused, it helps tocut off a piece textile or finish material to ensure it relates with the new items that will be acquired.
Although it may sound like a lot of upfront work, with all of this documentation complete, I'm ready to start planning the general layout, furniture types and placement options.
Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah. His new column can be read every week in House & Home.