Since this is an article about the importance of intention, let me start with mine: to give you a valuable tool that can bring meaning and purpose to what you choose to make, be it to build a lovely new kitchen, your dream home, or just infuse a little more joy into everyday life.
How I define intention
Big picture, intention is your purpose behind what you do; it’s not the what you create, it’s the why you create it, though it heavily influences and informs the what. Intention brings focus to what is important, clarifies a vision, and can fill that vision with authenticity. Consider this:
What makes your heart sing?
What fills you with joy?
What brings meaning and purpose into your daily life?
What nourishes the being part of you (not the doing part of you!)
These are questions that can lead you to what feels most important to you, so what you create – whether it’s the home of your dreams, a kitchen that makes your cooking come to life, or a garden that brings a smile to your face – is an authentic expression of purpose and meaning for you.
How intention translates to home design
So how does intention translate to home design and construction? Simple: Your intention becomes the litmus test for all decisions surrounding what you create. It protects what’s important, simplifies seemingly complex choices, and elbows out all that does not fit, so that you create purpose and on purpose in all that you do.
Without intention, spaces can feel chaotic; without cohesion; confusing; without vision. You can sense this in material choices, or in the flow from room to room; it shows up in conversation: “I wish we had thought about…” or “I wish we had done that differently…” Designing a space and seeing it through to fruition is challenging enough; why not make the process easier and the result more authentic if you can! That’s what intention does!
Intention influences not just the end result, but the process by which you create it, in effect, allowing the whole journey to be beautiful and purposeful, not just the goal.
And why is intention important in practical terms? Because it helps inform the best design decisions possible for everyone and everything involved or impacted, now and into the future.
Your intention becomes the litmus test for all decisions surrounding what you create. It protects what’s important, simplifies seemingly complex choices, and elbows out all that does not fit, so that you create purpose and on purpose in all that you do.
A practical process to form intention
I love processes and systems (yes, creatives have systems!), and the process of determining intention for a design project is, to me, the foundational process for all of it (hence the name of my business). Without it, a design project can feel like throwing mud at twelve different walls in three different countries and seeing what sticks. Not fun.
Here’s the process I’ve identified to really get to the core of intention. If follow-the-recipe-to-the-letter is your jam, do that here too. If you’re a recipes-are-suggestions person, that works also. Uncovering deeper intention is first and foremost a practice in intuition and understanding what drives you, so make this your own process.
Involve everyone who has a seat at the table in this process. Having a shared vision that has buy-in from all decisions makers helps to prevent unnecessary strife throughout the process, but more importantly gives value and space to hear everyone’s voices – yes, even the kids! So when I refer to you, include all of the decision makers in that you.
Ready? Let’s dig in.
Here are the parts:
- Get Clarity
- Perspective Check
Intention is so important because it will clarify one of three things: 1) confirm what you want to create and why, and that you’re on the right track; 2) illuminate adjustments needed to your vision; or 3) bring clarity for a full pivot that should be considered.
It starts with questions. This is a place to question everything, even the goal itself. Ask yourself questions to clarify the reasons, the needs, the wants, and the potential challenges for your project.
Here’s an example of what this can look like:
What do I/we want to create?
I want to have a new kitchen with space and proper storage, with cabinets that aren’t falling apart.
Who is creating this with me?
My partner and our two children.
Why is this important to me/us now?
Because I’m tired of cabinet doors hanging loose. I’m tired of wearing shoes in the kitchen because otherwise I’ll cut my feet on that broken piece of tile!
It’s not fun being in the kitchen. I have young children and I want them to have beautiful memories of making meals and baking treats together. It’s just too much to have them in the kitchen with me now. NO SPACE!
What challenges do I/we need to be aware of?
Saving enough money to pay for it out of pocket.
Unknown issues with building an addition to create more space.
Fear of what we don’t know.
Do we need to live elsewhere during the remodel? Can we stay here? What kind of strain will that add to this?
Is creating this vision worth finding solutions to these challenges?
Because having a kitchen space that encourages quality time together is that important to us. The time with my littles goes really fast and I want to have every opportunity to create beautiful experiences with them.
Can I/we envision being in this new space? (Close your eyes and move about your new space. Describe it!)
It’s easy to get from the sink to the stove; everything has it’s own place and the countertops are CLUTTER FREE! I’ve got my son sitting on the countertop and my daughter standing next to me. We are making cookies together – no one is crying (including me, lol); there’s sunlight pouring in through big open windows. Music is playing!
Can I/we connect to the feelings this creates?
It feels peaceful, energetic, fun; there’s possibility in this space; I feel connected to my children…I am living in the moment! There’s a lack of annoyance due to not bumping into each other and items being organized.
What feels important about this?
Connecting to my family and friends is so important to me. This new space allows opportunities for that connection to happen.
Is there anything that surprises me/us in this process?
I could picture being in the kitchen with my children, but until I really started to think about how I wanted to feel and what I wanted to experience, I didn’t realize it was the connection I needed.
What is the most important thing about creating this space?
Opportunities for CONNECTION.
Now, Re-ask this question: What do I/we want to create?
I want to create a space that fosters connection with those I love.
Focus your intention into a word or phrase so that you can have a clear lightening rod to check all decisions with.
This is your intention; your why; it is what gives joy to your heart and fuels your purpose. All decisions for this project are now tested against this intention. It clarifies what is necessary and what is not to meet the aim. The rest is just fun!
If you’d like more real world examples of intention, check out the stories about my projects in my Gallery.
Now that you have a clear picture of what you want to create and why, we start filling in the picture with details. It’s time to organize visual aids that help represent your intention. This is not the place to edit ideas; this is a place to say yes to everything that meets the criteria you’ve set with your intention.
Create a vision board. I encourage you to do this with physical materials before digital materials. This may sound archaic to you and even eye-roll worthy, but there is reason behind it: the tactile process of finding pictures, textures, colors, and materials that represent your intention requires mental and physical cohesion that digital materials just don’t offer. (Take a deep breath, I’ll get to valuable digital tools shortly…) For those that express and think visually, this can help surface areas of importance that might not otherwise get seen.
What you’ll need: cardboard or posterboard, glue or tape, scissors, markers, magazines, and the time to play! Gather any visual materials that help represent your intention, including materials that speak to the feelings elicited, not just a pretty end result. You may be surprised where inspiration comes…the bark of a tree, the texture of a passerby’s jacket, the color in the sunset…)
If you’ve got co-decision makers, this is a great visual exercise to go through together to build cohesion with everyone involved. And it’s fun.
Hang this beautiful original artwork where you can see it daily, especially while you move from dreaming to planning to construction and share it with your team of designers and builders.
Utilize Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz, etc. There is no question about the value of seeing “done” spaces that represent your vision. The amount of content in the digital world is inspiring and, well, overwhelming. When using these tools, give yourself helpful boundaries of time and numbers. For example, I usually tell clients to limit the number of photos on Houzz to 20. And if you tend to lose all sense of time and space when you get on Instagram or Pinterest, SET A TIMER and actually stop when it dings!
It’s helpful to utilize the comments on these sites, so that when you go back, you’ve got notes of why you saved a certain cabinet detail or paint color. Plus, when you share it with your designer, we have valuable insight into your vision.
As you progress through the process of design, you may notice something happening: your intention at work for you. This is where it may feel like you say no just as much as you say yes. At this point, you’ve seen a lot, you’ve learned a lot, and that creates natural editing for all that does not serve your goal. Ideas begin to “design themselves out”. Intention creates a focus, which is a natural boundary for anything that just doesn’t fit.
And…there may be room now for other ideas to “design themselves in”. Keep an open mind/ear/eye for inspiration that can elevate what you are creating. I know it sounds contradictory, and, well, it is. But we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can edit out all that does not fit AND save room for surprise, innovation, and inspiration at the same time!
Intention creates a focus, which is a natural boundary for anything that just doesn’t fit.
Perspective checks are a time to step back and take the 40,000-foot view to make sure you are still on track. Perspective checks happen many times throughout the design and construction of a project. If you like to have something scheduled to keep you in line, put it on your calendar once a week (or once a day if it feels particularly stressful!)
Are you still honoring your vision? Where have you missed and where have you nailed it? You may feel, especially in the physical process of constructing a design project, that you’re too close to the trees to see the forest, and you just might be! Revisit your intention – your “why” – regularly. Keep it physically posted so you can see it. And do something to clear your palette: visit a museum; engage in physical activity; meditate; create a piece of art; talk to supportive friends about what you are creating; go outside and connect with nature!
Use this time of re-focus to let your intention help clear up negative thoughts that pop in. Construction can be tedious and stressful under the best of circumstances, and it’s easy to feel fatigued and frustrated. When this happens, rely on the power of visualization to see past the dust and debris to what it will be, connect back to the feelings your vision creates, and re-commit to your intention. And maybe tape it up on one of those dusty walls as a reminder for what is to come.
Intention is our why behind the what we choose to create. It cuts through the noise of what so-and-so did, or current fads, and gets to the core of what is important to us.
I challenge you to start here when you are committing to a hearty re-design of your space. Follow the process of getting clarity, visualizing, editing and checking your perspective, and I bet you’ll create a result that feels authentically yours and fills you with meaning and joy.
Lastly, consider this: intention is not static, and it requires our participation. So even after the last tile is installed and the paint touch up is done, the way you choose to live your intention in your new space continues to unfold as an open dialogue of sorts, with your space, but also with yourself and those you choose to surround yourself with. It’s a lifelong symbiotic relationship you have developed. Enjoy the process.