Embrace Design Constraints

Creativity maximizes itself when you embrace design parameters as an exciting challenge. Don’t avoid challenges, embrace them. A blank page may let you do whatever you want, but it won’t always bend, twist or stretch your ability to create. Creativity is an ever changing phenomenon and your personal creativity can grow when you don’t let design constraints scare you. Instead, see that design constraints are going to result in a more thoughtful, educated, tested and explored product. The design process won’t hurt you, it’ll grow you!

My husband and I have a very small room that we are working on turning into an office/art room. While we have lots of art supplies, we also do not want to have excess. We do believe that less is more. We also care deeply about the layout and design of the room. So for us, it is all about finding the balance of functional and aesthetic in the space. So how do we fit all our hobbies and interests into one tiny room without feeling claustrophobic in the space? My husband and I are a great team, he is so great at the aesthetics of minimalism, and I always bring in the functional aspect. A room can be so beautifully designed (by adding the proper elements), but why not use the room too! This is why we make a great team. Together, we are the balance that we are trying to achieve in design.

So here we are, facing our tiny room and big dreams…and this is our strategy.

Motto: Spaces are beautifully designed when the functional items in a space are purposefully placed in an artful way. 

Design Constraints:

1. Teeny tiny room (about 8′ x 6′)

2. Loads of art supplies (drafting pencils/pens, quilting fabric/batting, sewing machine, computer, design journals/notebooks…you get the jist)

3. Heavy traffic space (always an active project underway)

4. One window that doesn’t get too much sun (bummer)

From the design constraints, we learned that this room needs to hold our supplies but also allow room for everything to be in use while not being cluttered. It’s not purely a storage room and it’s not purely a work space. It’s both. These are great constraints because here we learned that living simply is not just a design concept but a functional concept as well! And more importantly, living simply can balance form and function.

Creative Actions:

1. White Walls (the room is so small with little light, we need to add light and the illusion of more space via color theory…white walls!)

2. Clean (yes, sometimes you do need to downsize to make it all work. And downsizing is not a bad thing. We said goodbye to some supplies and books we loved but haven’t touched in a while…and the world did no crumble around us. Someone else can hopefully find joy in those things)

3. Consider making functional items as art in the room (this may be one of my favorite design decisions that we made)


4. When there isn’t a lot of floor space, consider how you can use wall space (this made the biggest difference in pulling off this design)


My husband and I are so thrilled with how the room turned out. We chose to celebrate our art hobbies by making their existence known in the room through intentional design details to highlight their storage and function in the space.

I talk about this a lot, but organization does not have to mean cute categorized boxes neatly stored. Next time you have any dreams/ideas for a room or space, make a list of design constraints and discuss creative actions you can take. This will help see design constraints as fun avenues to more creative outcomes!


Thread Peg-Board: Joann’s Fabrics

Shelf: Lowe’s

Photo Hanger: Re-purposed curtain rod