I always have a lot of people asking me how I choose a look and develop the concept for a project, which can be as complicated as using a keyword derived from primary and secondary research or as simple as a 'style' of living.
My first port of call would be looking at what I have been supplied in terms of drawings, photos, pictures. The client might have started a Pinterest board which shows me their aesthetic and what style they like and might want to go forward with. I might look at the space and research the building, a lot of people are converting Edwardian and Victorian buildings and this really interests me. I would research the relevant trends for those times and what colours and materials were around at these times. Most of the time clients want to work sympathetically with the building style which is a nice way to design.
In addition I would start brainstorming about the clients requirements and eventually pool all the information together in order to write myself a brief. This would then allow me to create a structure for what I would need to create in order for my client and contractors to understand what I had created.
The brief (to me) forms the basis of every project and it makes certain that both the client and I are aligned in our thinking. It is great to review the brief with the client to make sure neither of us work towards nor get to an end result that we didn't want.
I then start researching and collating visual research such as images. I also always start collecting various samples like fabric swatches, colour samples, tiles, wallpaper and so forth because this helps me to build up a visual reference for the space which is ideal when you're trying to help the client understand the space. This is the time that I also start to look at furniture and lighting as it really helps clients to start understanding the space.
That with the aid of sketches, doodles and diagrammatic spider drawings helps the client to understand what I am trying to create in their space. Putting these together in mood and concept boards is what usually sells the design scheme to the client and helps to sign the project off and move forward to the next stage.
So as potential clients when you're thinking about using an interior designer the more visual aids you can give a designer the better, bring along photos, materials that you may like or want to keep (old upholstered items that are staying) as well as thoughts on how you would be using the space. This helps us to build up a better idea of your lifestyle and how you will live in it. Believe it or not i have an old shoe box full of samples, colours, textures that I will soon enough be implementing into my own space! Designing for yourself is even harder, but that's another story!!