How do you organize your sample library?

In a world of products, making sense of every sample is more than a skill, it’s an art. Here we ask four designers—whitney jones, Kelly Taylor, Brooke Wilbratte and Nathalie Hara— how they manage their sample library.

whitney jonesCourtesy of Whitney Jones

Make room for color

“We have a sample room where we organize our wallpapers and fabrics. We separate by style and color, while keeping bold and unexpected materials together so I can easily access them as a starting point for my projects. It’s not the prettiest sample room, but it’s effective. I keep my plumbing and lighting samples in a locker in my office, as I refer to them almost daily. When we take a sample for a customer, we note it on a sample spreadsheet that notes everything the materials we use by the supplier and the customer, and we try not to reference them again [in future projects]. For all samples we ship from the studio, whether for our e-design clients or other designers, we remove the tags and place them in a task box to quickly reorganize them. —Whitney Jones, Whitney J Decor, Gretna, Louisiana

How do you organize your sample library?

Kelly TaylorCourtesy of KTID

Wheel of Fortune

“While shelf space is limited in our office, we couldn’t design our projects without an extensive library of physical samples. Colors, tones and textures read very differently online. [relying on] digital imaging can be a recipe for design disaster. We are very selective in what we keep for the long term, as we can only adapt to a certain limit. Depending on the projects we are working on at any given time and the new products we are looking forward to seeing, we rotate samples. By organizing all of our samples by type and supplier, our sales reps can easily keep our sample collections up to date. » —Kelly Taylor, Kelly Taylor Interior Design, Providence, Rhode Island

How do you organize your sample library?

Brooke WilbratteCourtesy of Tribe Design Group

Bins for days

“All of our samples, from fabrics, wallpapers and rugs to wood and metal samples, are organized in labeled clear plastic bins inside floor-to-ceiling cabinets. They are categorized in a way that works for [our firm]. For example, we have tons of textured fabric swatches from many different suppliers, which is an essential part of our work, which we have divided into light, medium and heavy textures. We are also constantly modifying, as well as removing discontinued items. The worst thing you can do is collect an entire piece and find that a crucial fabric is no longer being made. Another office essential is an “organize” bin. It gets messy when putting together a design using swatches, so as we weed out some of them, we throw them into that trash can to keep the process tidy. Then we put them back in their original bins when we have time. —Brooke Wilbratte, Tribe Design Group, Austin, TX

How do you organize your sample library?

Nathalie HaraCourtesy of One Design


“I like to organize my samples by type (tile, carpet, fabric, etc.), not only on shelves and drawers with labels, but also in an Excel spreadsheet. Each time we receive a new sample, we take a photo and include the information in the spreadsheet. We also have a drawer for each client to store all samples for a particular project. In the inventory worksheet, we note where the sample is and for how long. » —Nathalia Hara, One Design, Toronto

Homepage image: A home office designed by Whitney Jones | Britt Smith Photography

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