Truth be told, becoming my own design client is always quite an undertaking. Working on others’ spaces feels like second nature, but when I step into the hot seat, things tend to get a bit more complicated. Designing for myself means navigating an endless supply of ideas, creative resources, and trusted partners who can make any vision happen. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but the sheer amount of options can also paralyze the decision making process.
Throughout our home renovation journey, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experiment and create as we carefully work towards crafting our dream home. But let me tell you — I’ve also learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way. Thankfully, with some added practice under my belt, our home project has taught me the art of designing for myself comes down to three basic principles. Over the years, they’ve become some of my personal design guidelines that can apply to nearly anyone else, too.
SHY AWAY FROM TRENDS
While I love keeping an eye on major design movements, I’ve never been one chase after each and every trend. This concept is especially true when I’m designing my own spaces. As I approached our own home project (better known as #jmiriverroad on the ‘gram), one of my top priorities was to tune out the noise and the inspiration overload. More than anything, I wanted our home to reflect my personal style and the needs of our family rather than whatever happened to be “hot” in the current moment.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to avoid trends comes down to defining (and owning!) your personal tastes. That means spending time discovering what styles you naturally gravitate towards time and time again. When you come across an image you love, I find it helpful to take a moment and pinpoint exactly what you’re drawn towards. Whether it’s the materials, the furniture lines, the colors, or all of the above, it’s important to find what makes your style distinct and use that as the starting point.
NO CUTTING CORNERS
As an interior designer, I’m often working under the necessary constraints of timelines and budgets, but designing for myself allows me to opt for top workmanship and quality every step of the way.
When it came time to renovate our Minneapolis home, one thing was certain — no skipping steps allowed! For this project, ensuring quality looked like working with both a skilled architect and contractor throughout the process. I wanted to retain full design control, but given the vast size of the renovation, I knew I needed an architect’s help to put all my ideas on paper. The goal was to handcraft our dream home step-by-step, so everything from custom cabinetry to floor selections to fixtures and trims were hand-selected with the utmost care.
Saying no to quick fixes and budget selects requires tons of patience, but I’ve never regretted taking the time to research, save, and wait for a project to be done just right.
BALANCE FUNCTION + FEEL
Whenever I’m tackling a personal design project, it’s easy to fall into a second-guessing trap. With so many possible choices and inspiration sources, feelings of “option overwhelm” can be real. But, my experience has also taught me that exercising creative freedom and confident decision-making is always the right move.
As my latest project, the J Miller Interiors office space has given me the opportunity to put all my personal design theories to the test. The process of curating the perfect workspace has been an exercise in identifying what I truly love, and keeping the priorities of function and feel in balance. Whether I’m designing for others or designing for myself, the principle holds the same: first determine function, then determine feel, and the rest will always follow. My design journey for my office has embodied that exact concept, and I’m so excited to unveil the finished space in the weeks ahead.
Over time, I’ve come to love designing for myself, and with these three principles in place, I hope you’ll feel the same!