By Rita Wilkins
The Downsizing Designer


“I love problem-solving!”

In my design world, I am often confronted with design dilemmas that require creative design thinking and solutions.

This is actually one of my favorite things to do as a designer and over the years, I’ve had to address so many issues that occur in the field, that I’ve gotten really good at troubleshooting and creating solutions that work.

Having a great team to brainstorm with and propose multiple options is part of what gets me excited to do what I do every day.

Learning to embrace these design dilemmas has become part of my signature and what my clients, tradespeople, and team rely on me for.


3 Most Common Design Dilemmas

and How to Solve Them


#1. One of the most common design dilemmas I run into is a client who is so anxious to get the project going that they call in a general contractor before they even have proper drawings and selections.

My recommendation at that point is to slow down, go through the entire design process to create all necessary drawings including a functional layout, finish selections, and then work with the general contractor and trades people to provide budget estimates and a contract prior to implementing the design.


#2. A second common design dilemma is a client going way over budget with their selections, and then needing to reign in the cost without sacrificing the design intent.

Clients frequently get excited and over-enthusiastic about getting to the selection part of the process without having a handle on the material budget.

Whether it’s tile, countertops, cabinets, flooring, or lighting, each item should have cost estimates and budgets associated with them to prevent disappointment at being over budget.

The good news is it is often possible to keep some of those special items in the budget (a unique granite or tile or special light fixture), and then reduce the budget elsewhere.

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#3. A third design dilemma is how to integrate unattractive structural elements into the design.

  • i.e., metal structural columns, ceiling beams, radiators, existing windows or doors that are poorly placed.


There are inevitable “discoveries” that we find during the renovation project. These unforeseen conditions frequently cause concern and angst with homeowners. When this occurs and when something unusual is uncovered in the field, we meet with the client and the tradespeople to troubleshoot and propose options to either “play up” or “play down” the structural elements.


  • A metal column can be wrapped, cased in wood to make it look intended.
  • An unattractive ceiling beam can also be wrapped in wood and have additional faux beams added to the ceiling to make it look as if it were intentional.


Here’s a blog that I have recently written, Most Common Design Mistakes and How to Prevent Them.

These are just a few ways that design dilemmas can be embraced so that the final outcome is exactly what the client wanted. While this can be a challenging process, having the right team on board can help you solve any design dilemma.

Have you faced any design dilemmas on your recent design project?

Let us know how you how dealt with them.

Leave a comment below in the comment box!