Design 101: Function Before Form

Design 101: Function Before Form

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Design 101: Function Before Form

by Cynthia Soda
photography: Stephani Buchman

The building blocks of design always begin with function, beauty is just the cherry on top

Let’s face it: we’re all drawn to beautiful things. I personally have a knack for coveting the most luxurious item in a store—not unlike many people I know. However, committing the faux-pas of purchasing that very beautiful, very expensive item, only to find that it won’t fit into your space, is something we designers use our trained eye to guard against.


Selecting finishes, furniture and accessories is inconsequential if the space lacks function. It’s heartbreaking when I field requests from potential clients, who are halfway through a renovation, asking for help on picking paint colours and cabinet-door styles amidst missed opportunities to add value through sightlines, accent features, or integrated storage. It is the “putting lipstick on a pig” idiom—you can dress it up all you want but the main issues remain unresolved.


Coffee tables with drawers to store children’s colouring books and crayons, or ottomans with hidden toy storage, work for families, as well as quartz countertops do to protect against stains. For flooring, try wire-brushed engineered hardwood, or even waterproof, scratch-resistant vinyl-click flooring with that wood look.


Function is at the forefront of every great designer’s mind. It’s absolutely essential to plan with people and purpose in mind. Once the needs of the client and issues of a space are identified at the outset, every decision made stems from there. Empty nesters, who travel frequently and love to collect and display art, have different needs from a couple with young children and weekly extracurricular activities to attend.


Interior design is constantly evolving. Styles change, but function is much more difficult (read: expensive) to modify once it’s been laid out. Sightlines are one of the most important considerations to make. Imagine sitting down to an elegant dinner, and from the table your guests can see the powder room door is open with a glorious view of the toilet. Or think of the parent making dinner, having to run back and forth from the kitchen to the family room in order to keep watch over their toddler playing beyond the wall dividing the spaces. Paint colours, wallpaper and fabrics (no matter how pretty) won’t fix these issues. With a focus on layout and function at the beginning, each of these finishes would enhance the spaces they’re in, instead of acting as a distraction from more serious, underlying issues.


To stand the test of time, big purchases like the sofa should be upholstered in a durable, easily cleanable and beautiful finish. Alendel, Maxwell and JF, among other companies, offer versatile, simple-to-clean-and-to-care-for fabrics, which have been (or have the option to be) treated with inherent stain-repellents.


When designers put together furniture concepts for a space, each piece is carefully considered in order for all parts to contribute to the whole. Even if it’s not in the clients’ budget to purchase everything at once, they will have a road map to follow in order to build upon their design over time, piece by piece. You can change the cushions, the rug, the accessories when styles change, but as long as the layout works, you will always have a home that is equal parts stylish and functional.

CYNTHIA SODA is owner and principal interior designer of Soda Pop Design Inc., a multi-disciplinary interior design firm providing complete custom renovation and design services for residential and commercial clients throughout the GTA.

Soda Pop Design focuses on merging the client’s lifestyle, personality and architecture to create customized liveable luxury.
Instagram @CSodaPop
Twitter @SodaPopDesign


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