Essayinterior designInteriors

Designing Rooms with Intention

by Lauren Chorpening

Designing Rooms with Intention | Design*Sponge

Interior decorating is fully aesthetic. It adds beauty to a space but does so on instinct or trend. Interior design, on the other hand, is equal parts style and function. It uses the lifestyle, life-stage and abilities of the household to determine how to make the room accessible and useable and then mixes in the adornments. I majored in Housing and minored in Interior Design Studies in college. My courses included topics like Psychology of Housing, Aging in the Environment, Residential Design Principles and Interior Design Standards.

I was hungry to know the impact our shelters had on us: How they improved our lives psychologically and physiologically. I already knew that I was most at rest in beautiful spaces that reflected my taste and that I was most productive in spaces that were laid out well. What my time in school taught me is that design needs are fluid. There are different needs for different socio-economic groups. There are different needs for single people vs. households with young children. There are different needs for people with disabilities vs. people without. There are different needs for those that are 60 years old and those that are 80. It may seem like common sense, but it’s more convenient to find homes that a suit current lifestyles and forget that life happens.

It should come as no surprise that the whole Design*Sponge team is obsessed with interiors. But what may come as a surprise is how often our team has to readdress our own spaces to accommodate familial changes, debilitating sicknesses and general life stuff. No one is immune to sudden deviations from the ideal life. When we choose to design our spaces, rather than just decorate them, our havens aren’t turned completely upside down when everything unexpectedly changes in our lives.

Life is going to throw us things. Even if health and family size never change, aging is inevitable. A well designed home doesn’t just meet your needs in this moment, it is able to carry life changes with a few adjustments to layout or decor pieces. No matter what size or budget, a home can be intentionally styled and thoughtfully decorated to include functionality and purpose in the space. Below I’m sharing some helpful tips (not rules, we don’t believe in those) I’ve learned when it comes to designing rooms with intention. –Lauren

Images above: Skye and Jeremy’s Brooklyn Living Room (top) and Brittney and Jeff’s New Brunswick, Canada Bedroom are stylish, cool and transitional if needed for added family, sickness or other impactful life events.

Designing Rooms with Intention | Design*Sponge
Tracey’s home in Detroit, MI has tons of personality and open walkways throughout.

Tips for Designing While You Decorate:

  1. Create a spacial layout that is not cumbersome to move around. Furniture shouldn’t be in the way. Widen main walkways between furniture to at least 36″ for the best flow and accessibility.
  2. Use the William Morris rule of thumb when purging: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
  3. When undertaking big projects, address aging and loss of function if possible. e.g. A walk-in shower is gorgeous and luxurious and could benefit you in the event of unforeseen loss of strength or ability.
  4. Remember that our homes are there to work for us and our needs, not us working around them. Don’t feel bad changing from what looks the best to what works the best if the time comes. Aesthetics can still be part of the equation without making life unnecessarily harder.

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  • Thanks so much for this post. It really resonated with me as we’re in the midst of redesigning our home from the ground up after a fire this fall. We loved the previous iteration of our house (design flaws and all), but we’re now trying to reimagine our space to include a new baby, growing preschooler, and looking toward the future because we never want to have to move to do a huge renovation after this. It’s definitely a challenge trying to imagine the needs of our family years from now.


  • Thanks for the advice.My aspergers son who collects everything badly needs a room that works. I feel fired up and ready to tackle designing his space so that it works. I will keep a flexible approach as his hobbies will change over the years.

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