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RISMEDIA, March 10, 2011—(MCT)—A wedding. A kitchen renovation. A nursery. A new garden or a new bathroom. What do these projects have in common? A tremendous number of decisions and details, and the need for a way to pull them altogether.

Homeowners can take a page from the professionals and begin by creating a vision board. Also known as design boards or color boards, concept boards or inspiration boards, they are collages that help you focus on the elements in your project.

Vision boards can be as simple as pictures, paint chips and fabric swatches glued to a poster board. Or they can be as complex as a rendering done to scale on a computer screen.

“Each of us can easily create a different vision in our minds,” said Dawn Esposito, a design consultant from Nottingham, M.D. “Story boards bring everyone to the same vision. Everything can fall into place from that moment on.”

Once everything is in place, you can take the vision board with you to a home and garden show, a furniture or fabric store, or even a big-box retailer.

We asked experts for tips for creating a vision board. Here are their suggestions:

Start at the beginning
For Debbie McHale of Interior Transformations of Columbia, M.D., the first step in creating a vision board for a room is to decide how that room will be used. “Entertaining or snuggling with your kids and reading books?” she asked. The same would be true for a new garden—shade or sun? Formal or informal? The first step in planning an event might be the bride’s dress or the location. “What theme are you going for?” she asked.

Next, use quarter-inch graph paper to record the dimensions of the space. You can also do this on a computer. There are programs that allow you to design your new flower bed to scale or to create a diagram of, say, the country club ballroom where the reception will be held.

Cut and paste
Anybody who has saved magazine clippings of a dream house, a cottage at the seashore or a romantic bedroom knows that pictures are your best friends when it comes to any new project.

Add these to your vision board. You can also cut and paste pictures of furniture, lighting fixtures or appliances from a catalog or a website. If you are using a computer program, you can often “drop” these things into a room to help create an idea of scale.

“Ask yourself what treasures you want to keep,” said McHale. “Then place the furniture you already have.” You can do that with scale drawings on the graph paper or with pictures you drop into the computer program. “Some people start with a piece of art or the beautiful area rug or a fabulous chair that is central to the design,” said McHale. “Then you start to think about filling in the gaps, the lighting and a general sense of style.”

Wall color is often the final choice, followed by window treatments. Both are easy to change once the finished room has taken shape.

Work in layers, then in details
Nicole Ingram of Stacy Nicole Interior Design and Furnishing in Rockville, M.D., says she works in layers. For example: the flooring, the area rug and the sofa that will sit on top of the rug will be grouped in one area of her story board. The lighting in another, the colors in a third, the diagram of the space is in a corner of her story board “so that I never lose sight of it.”

You’ll want to make notations on the story board. Perhaps the style name, the finish and the source for the cabinetry. Or the appliance name, the source and its price. The number of centerpieces and the name of the florist. The sketch of an architectural detail you’d like to have made.

Call in a professional, if needed
“At some point, you may decide that you need to call a professional,” said Ingram. She just finished a design board for a law school graduate who was overwhelmed at the thought of trying to create a livable space in a 480-square-foot apartment. “Sometimes, you can save a ton of money if you just call in a professional,” said Ingram, who was able to create a storyboard that would give her client spaces for sleeping, eating, relaxing and working.

Her client’s apartment won’t be furnished in a day. “You can do it in phases. Maybe next month you buy the sofa. Later you replace the light fixtures. You do the accessories at your leisure.”

That is the advantage of a design board: the final vision is always in view.

Take it with you
There might be a million shades of blue. The advantage of a vision board is that you can take it with you when you are choosing other elements for your project. A swatch from the bride’s dress, a copy of the invitation, ribbon from the bridesmaids’ dresses or a picture of the cake will help you make the right color choices.

A sample of the cabinet wood or the countertop can help you choose the right paint for the walls.

“I try to keep everything in a three-ring binder,” said Ingram. When she visits shops or her clients, she has everything she needs. McHale agreed. “You aren’t guessing,” she said.

(c) 2011, The Baltimore Sun.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.