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Carin Cross Design leads you
through the integrative design process with comfort and style in mind.

Building a home may be your dream, but the process itself can be overwhelming. Often endless sourcing options, both local and online, and the complex interplay of design decisions and tight construction schedules can quickly transform that dream into a nightmare.

As an interior designer, my role is to help you visualize what you want and walk you through all the necessary steps to making it a reality. Because I consult on an hourly basis, I can move in and out of the process as needed. Done correctly, the design process is rewarding as well as fruitful, resulting in a new home or remodeled space that both reflects and enhances your life. A successful space flows well, respects the architecture, utilizes natural light to its best advantage, and blends colors, textures, and finishes successfully. Above all, it is a place you want to be. A popular misconception is that interior design is just about selection of color schemes, countertops, window treatments, and fabrics. To the contrary, integrated interior design embraces every aspect of a building.

In my work, I like to think of the design process as broken down into four stages: defining concept and overall project scope; considering space planning, lighting, and color; executing interior details and finishes; and adding furniture, art, fabrics, rugs, and window treatments. The progression of these stages, like the design process itself, is fluid: it folds back on itself as decisions are shifted and new choices made.

Defining the concept and overall scope of the project is an exciting and often underrated first step. I listen intently to what you envision and together we thoroughly explore your needs and expectations. Do you want a vacation retreat for two, or a place that can easily accommodate visiting family and friends? Is entertaining a priority? Do you want to emulate the look of a mountain cabin or prefer French Country?

This conceptual stage may seem to take an inordinate amount of time; however, it lays the groundwork for all design decisions. A well-established concept ensures that everything works together harmoniously so that the total is more than the sum of its parts. Without it, you’re apt to make decisions in isolation or as dictated by the construction schedule, which can lead to a fragmented result. Thoughtful planning also pays off in spades by saving you frustration, delayed schedules, and costly change orders. Once we’ve formulated a design concept, we’re ready to consider space planning, lighting, and color. Space planning involves anticipating activities and routines to create comfort and order. Do the spaces flow naturally into one another? How will you carry groceries into the kitchen? Will your kids study in their bedrooms or at the kitchen table? Will the mudroom be large enough to handle all your sports equipment?

Looking over the plans at this point enables us to ensure that the flow and transition from one space to the next suits your lifestyle. This is the time to tweak or customize generic designs for a kitchen, bath, or entry. A 4-foot range won’t fit into a space allocated for a 3-ft range, for example. All pieces of the design puzzle need to be integrated into the overall vision of the project. Effective lighting is a careful blending of natural, ambient, and task light, with an occasional accent light for emphasis. Lighting includes not only fixtures but also recessed lighting. Good lighting is like an English garden that doesn’t appear orchestrated or contrived, but as though it was effortless. Coming up with a color palette can be a daunting task. You’ll have to live with these colors, so they must represent your taste, not mine as the designer or the current trend. A color palette consists of a number of different colors or several colors with their various tones, shades, and tints. All interior finishes—stains, flooring, natural stone, and fabric—need to complement the color palette. An element of the planning process is identifying an anchor for the design. An anchor is a starting point or a focus around which other design decisions (e.g., color and style) are formed. Sometimes this anchor is readily apparent as a special item you want to highlight or material you’ve already chosen. Examples might be a favorite painting or sculpture, reclaimed lumber for flooring or mantel, an heirloom piece of furniture, or dramatic chandelier. When an anchor isn’t obvious, you might start with kitchen cabinets. It’s useful to begin in a room with a specific purpose, such as the kitchen, rather than in multi-use and living areas that can present more of a design challenge.

At this point in the process, we’re ready to tackle interior detailing and finishes. Interior details include built-in bookshelves, entertainment centers, cabinets, mudroom cubbies, and other architectural elements. Finishes include the gamut of stains, cabinet and door hardware, door style, trim package, fireplace materials, countertops, plumbing fixtures, kitchen appliances, and floor surfaces. It’s critical that all design decisions are sequenced so that materials are on hand when needed. The design process must anticipate and accommodate the construction schedule, not be driven by it or delay it. I’m always mindful not to be a thorn in the contractor’s side by causing a holdup while awaiting delivery of some essential item or material.

With interior detailing and finishes well underway, it’s time to select furniture, art, fabrics, rugs, and window treatments. Because the internet affords clients innumerable choices, you can spend endless amounts of time with sourcing decisions. I can streamline this process by pointing you to excellent local and online sources as well as help you balance aesthetics with budget considerations. The design process takes time, planning, and hard work, but my goal is to make the experience seamless and positive. Your dream—a place that is comfortable, life-affirming, and mirrors your personality—can be both manageable and attainable with Carin Cross Design. ~ By Carin Cross and Nancy Reece Jones

Carin Cross is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers. For more information, call Carin Cross Design at 406-862-6277 or visit online at

Carin Cross Design | 750 W. 2nd St. Suite G PO Box 4968 | Whitefish MT 59937 (Map)
Phone: 406 862 6277 | Email: | Website:
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