Fairly often, interior designer Lori Wiles gets emails asking for design advice. While she’s happy to help, questions like, “What shade of yellow should I use in my kitchen?” are impossible to answer out of context. Color looks different according to quantity, quality of light, and contrasting or complementing surrounding color. A particular shade on one person’s monitor may look like something else entirely on another, so even suggesting specific paint brands and colors might yield less-than-ideal results in real life.

How does a designer provide expert guidance for each project and person behind it? By taking the time to get to know the space, the client, and understanding context.

Context is a crucial consideration in interior design. Incorporating perspectives of a varied–or very specific–clientele significantly influences the optimal form, function, and aesthetic of a space.

Consider, for instance, a commercial waiting room intended for people of varied ages and backgrounds. Here, knowledge of design elements is essential to appeal to the largest possible base. Neutral colors–beige, taupe, gray tones–are generally appealing to most people. Blues are an accepted accent for most as well, considered calming in many shades. So a waiting area decorated in neutral and blue tones should be widely agreeable.

Of course, the lighting of a place, the style and layout of furniture, the architecture of the building, and adjacent spaces all need to be weighed to create an acceptable space.

But a skilled designer won’t stop at acceptable. A well-designed space should be interesting as well as functional and comfortable; in our neutral and blue waiting room, a thread of orange could elevate the space. Orange in the context of an accent in a waiting room can evoke nostalgia for and be a nod to a past era for an older generation. A younger generation can appreciate the fresh appeal of a mid-modern influence.

Region is also important part when considering context. Chicago and St. Louis spaces tend to favor more classic and storied design traditions, while cities like Cedar Rapids may appreciate a more contemporary bent. In general, Midwestern cities recognize space in design and art. Lori Wiles cites the artistic work of Mauricio Lasansky, well-known and respected throughout Iowa and the Midwest, that often features large portraits surrounded by whitespace. This consideration of space echoes the expanses of land in this region; for a talented designer like Lori, regional preferences are a key aspect of context.

There are endless ways to take a design from good to exquisite while honoring context and an expert designer will make it happen. Making sure a space is appealing to the people who use it is important but Lori challenges herself and her team to think outside the box to make each project “knock you out gorgeous.” She explains that there are plenty of designers who create decent end results, but she takes the craft of interior design to a new level. “Amazing takes risk,” she says, and in the hands of a designer with such a breadth of knowledge and experience, who considers context and preference to create breath-taking, functional, and satisfying spaces, the risk most definitely pays off.