Olioboard for Professional Interior Designers

By Linda Merrill
Olioboard for Professional Interior Designers

A quick and easy tool for creating sketches of your design plans for clients.

It seems that everyday brings a new digital design toy to play with. If you're not pinning images to Pinterest, you're participating in a Tweet Chat on Twitter, or creating full scale designs on SketchUp or Icovia. The latest of these is an online resource called Olioboard. At its heart, Olioboard offers users the ability to create design "mood boards" from products already in their library or from items the user can add themselves via upload or clipping tool. When I mentioned this service to a design colleague of mine, her immediate response was something like "so everybody can play interior designer?" And, to an extent, the answer is yes. Anyone who is interested in decorating their home can use this tool to help them do just that. Does it take something away from professional interior designers? My personal belief is that it does not. I could pick up my photographer's super deluxe expensive camera and fire off some shots, but they will not come out as well as his do because I don't have his skill and expertise.

That said, can Olioboard be useful to a professional designer? Yes, it can. Unless you truly are an "old school" designer with hand drawn design plans and hand crafted presentation boards, the tools of modern technology are important to master. And quick and easy tools can be big time savers.

Product Libraries: Olioboard has made deals with several furniture and accessories vendors whose products make up the basic image library, all sorted by type, color, etc. All of these products have item descriptions and prices and may be purchased with a click of the mouse. However, any product can be uploaded to your own private library, including descriptions, pricing and more. Olioboard offers an "Add to Olioboard" tool that can be placed in your browser tool bar that makes adding products to your library a snap. Any image can be added, including fabric, furnishings, lighting, art, etc. If the image is not available online, you can easily upload it from your computer, including floor plans, sketches, your logo, and more as long as they are in .JPG format. In most cases, the system will crop out the white space around the images you upload, leaving you with the image itself, which can be sized and flip/flopped as needed. It is important to note that the images cannot be rotated around, per se. If it's a head-on view of a sofa, it can't be turned around or placed on an angle.

2-D Moodboards: This is simply a digital display board of the products you wish to use in a room plan. You can include photos of the existing space, paint color swatches, your logo and any text descriptions you need. Once the images you need are in your private library, creating a 2-D board is a snap and can take maybe 10-20 minutes once you’re familiar with the process. Actually, I would recommend that you create the style of mood board you want to use and make that a template for future boards. Then all you need do is duplicate your template and add in the specific project related items and text.

3-D Moodboards: If you scan through some of the published user moodboards on Olioboard, you will truly be amazed at the 3-dimensional rooms users have created. Some are truly spectacular. As with any digital tool, there are some who will truly plum the depths of how to use the system and others whose skills are more limited. Either way, a decent 3-D board is not difficult to create. The process is exactly the same as with the 2-D board – images are dragged onto the blank page and sized accordingly. It is more time consuming, however, because the placement of images, orientation and sizing take much more time to do if you want the result to feel fully 3-D. Therefore the time spent needs to be balanced against the outcome achieved. An ROI decision only the designer can make. Since any .JPG image can be uploaded to your library, you can make use of photographs of the actual spaces you are decorating (photo of an empty space is best) or, as I have done, create a digital rendering of the empty space and upload as an image for the background. The only issue I have is that these uploaded background images seem to lose a good deal of clarity.

Privacy: Unlike some other online tools like Pinterest, Olioboard can be saved without being published for public viewing. If you wanted to create a board, or boards for a client, or others associated with the project, to view the easiest way is to create a new account dedicated to that client and then give them access. While setting up a separate account is one more step, it does offer the option for active collaboration if that is how you wish to work. If juggling accounts doesn't work for you, you can easily download a .JPG of the board and email it, or print it out, for your client.

Olioboard Pro Plan: Olioboard's basic plan is free to any user and this option offers nearly everything the average user would ever need. The Pro Plan, at $8.99 per month, has three added features: Color Scheme, Text Tool and Budget Tool. The color scheme tool creates a color swatch panel that is placed on your board to highlight the color scheme. I would say this is a nice visual add on that is not particularly useful. It doesn't analyze the board for you and find the colors automatically; you must pick the colors by eye. And the colors don't equate to a Pantone color code. So, as I said, it's visual but not professionally useful. The text tool is a useful one for adding in text anywhere in the document, which can greatly enhance the value of the board. The final tool is Budgeting. All the items that come loaded in the Olioboard libraries via their partners having pricing attached to the product. Any product that is uploaded can include the price if you wish it to and since you are entering the price directly, you may enter the price you are charging your client for the product and not just the SRP. Note that this is not the case with the Olioboard partner products – those prices are SRP and can't be changed. A budget report, complete with image of the design board and images with descriptions and prices of all products can be downloaded at the click of a button to a PDF. This list can be edited prior to printing if you wish to exclude some items from the total.

As with any tool, Olioboard isn't a panacea for designers. It can't be integrated into any other systems such as project planners, accounting software or estimators. Its strength is really in the ability to create a fairly quick "sketch" of a plan, to bounce ideas and to gather one's thoughts. Plus, it's pretty fun!

Images: Olioboards by Linda Merrill

Linda Merrill is a residential interior decorator based in Massachusetts. Linda's design style can be described as "comfortable luxury" and she believes in working closely with clients throughout the entire design process. Her clients are mainly located between metro-Boston and Cape Cod and the Islands. Linda writes a nationally regarded design blog called ::Surroundings:: and is the host of the design podcast series The Skirted Roundtable.