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The Tech of Spatial Design, Featuring Camille Peignet

Spatial designer Camille Peignet discusses the role of tech in modern spatial design and interior architecture.

Pic: Dolores_byOpenHomesPhotography

Architecture has always been a field that requires staggering levels of precision. In almost every case, architects and designers create or renovate structures meant to last for many decades, and even a seemingly tiny mistake could cause serious issues years down the line. Tech has always excelled in the area of accuracy and precision, but in this field, innovative professionals have also been looking for ways to use tech-driven tools to enhance both precision and creativity, and that’s the challenge we’d like to discuss today.

TechSling reached out to renowned Spatial Designer/Interior Architect Camille Peignet for comments on how tech aids in her work with Red Dot Studio, a leading architecture and design studio based in San Francisco.

With a background in Interior Architecture and Sustainable Cities, Peignet is an expert when it comes to using every tool available to her to understand the needs and wants of clients and execute very livable, human-centric design choices across many projects.

These days, tech is a major part of Peignet’s process, and we think you’ll agree that her take on the pluses and drawbacks of tech-driven tools is a fascinating one.

The benefits (and limits) of software


Before moving forward, we would like to provide some additional information about Peignet’s line of work.

Although Spatial design is its discipline, it encompasses a combination of several previously disparate disciplines, such as architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and urban design. This makes it one of the most challenging disciplines in the field of architecture and design.

We’ll have more details on some of Peignet’s projects soon enough, but Spatial Designers might be asked to work on a brand-new structure or the renovation/redux of an existing structure.

As we alluded to before, consideration of many precise factors is key, especially in the middle and later stages of a project. The software has become an undeniably important part of this process.


“Software is more and more important to our process. It’s crucial for the communication, representation, and detailing phases. The era of architects meticulously drafting plans on paper is over. On a day-to-day basis, I use more software than paper and spend the majority of my day in front of a computer.”

Clarifying creativity

Now, that doesn’t mean that software is present every step of the way. Peignet explained that, early on, she prefers working with physical materials to externalize certain ideas.

“In the early phases of a project, I still like to use tracing paper and explore with materials and diverse inspirations. I find it more inspiring and meditative, more unexpected things can happen as I turn around my sheets of paper and move them in the space.”

Following this early experimentation, Peignet moves on to a robust digital art program called Procreate. From there, additional programs help to more accurately envision a project.

“Procreate is a really good tool to explore as well and gain time as we propose diverse options. Unlike with tracing paper, an error is reversible. For example, I find it useful to roughly represent a plan without focusing on details, to show the diverse zonings and flows of the space. Then, as we develop the design, I will use AutoCAD for plans, elevations, sections, and details, and SketchUp for rough volumes.”


The flexibility and impermanence of actions performed within the software are definitel one of the greatest advantages of software. Changes can always be made, with a minimal amount of effort.

Perhaps more crucial is how these programs facilitate communication with various professionals and stakeholders.

“Software is key to communicating with our clients but also the different professionals we work with: structural and civil engineers, contractors, lighting and interior designers, etc. as well as the city for permit requests.”

Major limitations

But of course, the software has its limitations as well, and for a high-level Spatial Designer like Peignet, one of the most critical limitations pertains to sustainability.

At the moment, certain software can indeed offer some insights in this area, but much of this software isn’t specialized to certain types of common projects, as Peignet explains here.

“At Red Dot Studio, we’re trying to build more and more sustainably. We are currently trying to explore how software can help with sustainability through energy or water consumption calculations and daylighting, for example. Some software currently exists, but we have found it harder to use for single-family houses, which is what we work on most often.”

When it comes to renovation projects, Peignet finds that software isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, requiring a more hands-on approach at times.

“As I mostly work on specific home renovations, software also has its limits. It’s sometimes hard to faithfully represent the existing conditions of a building. So a lot of adjustment happens in the field during construction. I enjoy this balance between the developing technology and the tangible start and result of the architectural and interior design process.”

To sum up, before moving on, there’s no denying that relevant software provides a fantastic amount of value and utility, but only in certain situations. Further, individual designers and architects might prefer another approach during a particular step of their process, an approach that may only include occasional use of the software.

Still, the landscape of available software evolves quickly, and in the coming years, we could easily see the release of some key programs more specialized to parts of this process that haven’t been effectively addressed before.

The power of data

Moving on to a rather different topic, let’s talk about data.

In tech circles, data is often discussed from the perspective of automated data collection and analysis. But in this instance, data is collected with the aim of better understanding the specifics of a project.


Data, once organized, becomes information, and in these situations, the more information in hand, the better.

As Peignet reminded us, these projects necessitate holistic design thinking that considers various factors and dimensions, e.g. function, purpose, budget and upkeep, sociocultural factors, and, of course, aesthetics.

For many of these factors, data can be vital, especially when it informs decision-making. Peignet pointed out that data regarding environmental impact and sustainability is particularly useful.

“Data is becoming more and more important during the design process to predict energy and water consumption, daylighting, embodied carbon, cost of installation, and use of a system. Finally, data is important after construction, once the building is being used, to compare results with our initial predictions.”

Peignet also mentioned the prestigious organization “Living Future” has a certification known as the Living Building Challenge. The goal of this certification is to promote ‘regenerative design,’ which describes the design of various processes that in some way renew or regenerate relevant energy sources or materials.

This certification, only earned by a few experts in the sustainable design field around the world, is in part based on data collected following the first year of a building’s active use.

Peignet is Living Future Accredited, making her a leader in sustainable design, and a highly sought-after talent for her clients at Red Dot Studio.

The data collected as part of this certification is a clear example of how data can influence smart design choices that aren’t just great for the people who live in any given building, but also for the surrounding buildings, the surrounding community, and the environment at large.

Technical difficulties

We’ve talked quite a bit about some of the common tech-based solutions for the planning stages of a design project as well as the aftermath of project completion. Now we’d like to get into some of the nooks and crannies, so to speak: the technical challenges that arise amid an active project, when things have already been set in motion.

As the lead designer on many premium projects with Red Dot Studio, Peignet has faced and solved any number of these types of challenges on various projects, and she shared a handful of stories with us.


While working on the renovation of a three-story home on Dolores Street in San Francisco, it was decided that the original stair structure would be kept, while other interior design elements would be re-designed to improve flow and aesthetics. Tight quarters made it difficult to improve on the original design while working around a key feature.

Peignet used a balance of software, data, and creativity to surmount these obstacles, achieving a magnificent result. The house was listed on Sotheby’s website and sold for over $3.5 million!

Similarly, during the renovation of a scenic Yosemite house overlooking a waterfall, Peignet led her team to completely renovate the deck built on uneven rock surfaces, which needed to bridge the interior and exterior spaces.

The deck also needed to be safe as well as highly functional – no small feat. Once again, Peignet overcame all these challenges using the Tech resources available to her, including software and data. She achieved a masterful renovation of the entire deck, allowing it to offer additional amenities and beautiful outdoor spaces safely, adding a whole new level of value to the house.

Currently, Peignet is conducting the renovation of the Herb House in the historic Shaker Village of Sabbathday Lake, Maine. To make the building functional year-round, it needs to have insulation, heat, ventilation, and be electrified as well.

“All of these modern systems were not planned for an old building, and it’s challenging to preserve as much of the building as possible, including the exterior siding and the interior plaster. We’re working with specialized consultants and contractors to get help with these priorities.”

In all those cases, sharing data, tools, and opinions greatly helped to reveal solutions that may not have been considered before. In other words, tech is a piece of the puzzle, a big one at times, although ultimately, these spaces are being designed and those challenges handled for and by real skilled professionals like Camille Peignet.

As mentioned, Peignet has managed to balance software, data, creativity,  collaboration, and of course, her masterly knowledge in the field, to achieve fantastic results in the many high-end projects she has worked on with Red Dot Studio, and that’s the mark of a real expert.

That’s all for now, but if you’re interested in exploring design tools, Peignet recommends a program called SketchUp, the base version of which can be accessed for free.

Even if you’re not in the design field yourself, it can be incredibly compelling to put yourself in the headspace of a designer who’s trying to solve about a hundred separate problems with a small number of decisions.

Written By

I'm a long time fan of tech innovation, especially its capacity to cross over into the realms of art and social justice. The paradigms are constantly changing, and we need to change with them.

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