Intuition guides our lives from all the big to little decisions—where we see ourselves in 5 years, the careers we’re meant to pursue, even what to eat for breakfast. We’re intuitively guided to try new things, but it can be difficult to tap into that intuition when designing our spaces. Why is that?
Some choices just seem obvious to us, but trusting our design intuition can become difficult when surrounded by so many different trends and influences.
We find ourselves purchasing décor simply because someone else on Instagram styled it well, and that was enough to check our boxes. That’s why we turn to experts to help us craft our spaces, entrusting interior designers to help us hone in on what speaks to us.
Designers know the way and can see the potential a space has more clearly than we can—a quality that designer Iman Stewart coins “designer’s intuition.”
“Designer’s intuition shows how things intuitively line up for me as a designer,” Stewart says. “It really shows how things come together so organically. With designer’s intuition, we innately know that certain elements will match other elements, we can lay down samples and make decisions just from seeing those once, and we know it’ll all come together because of the energy that we put into it.”
Discovering Her Designer's Intuition
Stewart shared the moment when she recognized that she was designing with her intuition in mind, which came while selecting curtains for a space. For the space she was working on—The Pryce Project—the curtains she wanted were only available to be ordered online.
She took a chance on them without seeing them in person, but when she put them in the space, the blue velvet hue perfectly matched a framed Carnival mask hanging in the room that Stewart hadn’t seen prior to decorating.
Stewart notes that this was surely designer’s intuition at work. All she had to do was trust her gut that this décor element was going to be the right choice for the space, and it turned out to be the perfect fit.
“It has to do with your innate purpose, understanding that we are gifted with the intuition to know what a client wants," she notes. "We can see how things will all come together before it happens."
How Stewart's Intuition Guides Her Design
Being a native Canadian designer, Stewart feels the country’s design is influenced by many different cultures, but Eurocentric trends do take center stage—and many designers abide by them. Stewart notes that she simply follows the philosophy that people should not be afraid to take risks in their home if they feel drawn to them.
“I think I've gone completely against the simplistic, white-room trend because I like to tell people to live boldly, live out loud, and put that color on the wall,” she shares.
Designer’s intuition comes into play in all aspects of design, including layout. Stewart recalls a client of hers who had one layout in mind, and by the time Stewart was finished brainstorming, an entirely different layout came to fruition.
“It’s my job to guide the client in the right direction while taking their wants into consideration,” Stewart shares. “I just had to tell her what I was seeing, what I was feeling, and what my intuition was telling me,” Stewart says.
Stewart says her client was completely understanding of her vision and was in love with the final version of the room.
“I told her that of course, we’re going to do what works with you, but this is what I see, and this is the most functional way possible—trust me,” Stewart says. "The vision for the room was just coming to me. I acknowledged that my client wanted it a certain way, but she was ultimately thrilled with how it came out.”
Why Design Rules Are Meant to Be Broken—Sometimes
A large part of designer’s intuition for Stewart is knowing when to give way to trends. Design trends come and go, and design rules are meant to be broken sometimes. Stewart often reconsiders traditional rules when she’s designing a space—for example, giving trim a fresh splash of color or choosing textile colors that don’t appear anywhere else in the room.
“Design doesn't have to stick to one genre,” she suggests. “Layer many-colored textiles, play with different patterns, pick colorful palettes that we haven’t used before. This is a skill that’s important for designers to nail.”
Home has to speak personally. So much influences the way a home looks and functions, and Stewart knows how to push boundaries while she’s designing, stepping outside her own framework and adapting designs to each individual client.
“You don’t have to have one specific genre that you stick to—I’ve had clients tell me that they lean traditional, but are picking out contemporary décor for their spaces,” Stewart says. “We can push the limits as designers and let styles flow freely.”
Style has to speak to culture as well, as the two are largely intertwined. Stewart grew up surrounded by a blend of cultures—Jamaican, German, and French—all of which have woven together and influenced the spaces she designs. Designer’s intuition, therefore, also has to pick up on what makes different clients feel at home and add more of that into their spaces.
Stewart notes that her intuition as a designer helps clients combat fluctuating trends and avoid choosing pieces simply because they’re having a moment in the spotlight.
“There are two main things that I'm focused on when designing a space: aesthetics and functionality,” she notes. “It has to be functional for a client and their lifestyle, but it also has to be aesthetically pleasing. I pull what the client actually wants and needs out of them—I find that they know deep-down, but sometimes it's hard to articulate it. It’s truly a collaboration.”
There’s much more to being a designer than simply choosing paint colors and layouts. Designers rely on their intuitions to guide their choices, but also to read their clients as well as they deserve.
“I help them by being confident in who they are and what they want,” Stewart explains. “One great thing about being a designer is working with people. You have to be able to read people quite well and make them confident in their spaces.”
It’s a designer’s purpose to share their intuition with us—and we should listen to it. Their intuitive guidance when it comes to decorating is much appreciated; it leads to beautiful spaces, happy decorators, and a well-lived life at home.