The majority of my clients have never worked with an Interior Designer before they hire me. So, if you’ve never used a designer before, and you aren’t familiar with the services they offer, how do you know if you need one? In this post I’ll shed light onto the process of working with an interior designer; WHAT they do and WHY you might need one. For the WHO and WHEN (i.e. who should you appoint, and when should you engage them) tune in next week!
The WHAT. So, what do Interior Designers do?
There’s often a preconception that Interior Designers spend their days plumping cushions and hanging pictures. And yes, designers do often get involved in the final styling stages but there’s so much that happens before the cushions are plumped and the pictures are hung. So let’s start at the beginning…
LAYOUT & FLOOR-PLANNING
Designers spend much of their time floor-planning; creating layouts that form the basis of a design. See it as the framework; without getting that right, nothing else will work as it should. A good layout takes into account your lifestyle, your space and how you plan to use it. It is the starting point of any great design and is an essential part of the design process. Without a floorplan that works for you, a room can look utterly stunning, but it won’t function properly. And if a space doesn’t function well, you won’t love it. Not for long anyway. A good designer will talk through who will use the space, when and what for. They will think about practicalities (sockets, switches, natural light etc), alongside the aesthetics.
Most designers offer a full room design service. This will combine a layout and design concept, resulting in a full design schedule to create a space that you love. All designers have a slightly different process, but they nearly always start by taking a brief from you, the client, considering what you want and need from a space as well as looking at your likes and dislikes in terms of interior style. Then it’s over to the designer to create a scheme that works for you. A good design needs to work for you and reflect your story, so I like to make sure there is a two-way process here; a conversation between client and designer throughout which ensures any tweaks are made to ensure the design is something you really love, rather than an on-trend design which is created and imposed.
Some designers offer design-only, others only take on jobs they can fully implement too. Others can offer both design-only and implementation, depending on what the client wants or needs. The project management part of the design process is the implementation; bringing the scheme to life. It consists of scheduling trades, monitoring works, places orders, taking deliveries, making sure everything is finished, on-time and on-budget. It is perfect for clients who don’t have the time (or the energy!) to get involved in the detail of the practicalities.
Some designers will offer stand-alone consultations, or a series of consultations to deal with specific design issues you may have. Perhaps you need help choosing colours for rooms, or perhaps you have a tricky spot and want some bespoke joinery designing. An interior designer can take a more objective approach, looking at that element as part of your wider living arrangements. They also have a wealth of experience and, in the case of colour consultations for example, is not tied to one particular paint brand.
Some designers and stylists will offer separate interior styling services. Often this is part of a full deign scheme; it’s the finishing touches, the cushions, the artwork, the accessories. But sometimes you may have a room that you don’t want to change much, but feel like the finishing touches are missing. That’s when the services of an interior stylist can help bring your scheme together, adding those important final elements to make your design sing.
The WHY? Why do you need an Interior Designer?
You may well not need one! But I am also conscious that lots of people are unsure whether the services of an Interior Designer are for them. Interior Design is no longer the preserve of the rich and famous. Interior Design is so much more accessible than it used to be and with people spending so much more time within their home than ever before, they are recognising the need to create something that truly works for them and which they truly love.
The reality is, people hire designers for many different reasons. You may well have a great eye for interiors but simply not have the time to focus on pulling a design together, let-alone the time to implement and project manage it all.
Or you may have a great eye for interiors and want to create the scheme yourself but working with a designer may help you think about the layout in a different way. Perhaps you’re drawing up plans with an architect for a new extension; a designer will bring a different perspective to the plans, considering your lifestyle and the internal flow to make sure that the space you create can be used how you need it to be used.
Alternatively you may just not know where to start when it comes to colour and pattern. You’ve read all the blogs out there, got lost down many a Pinterest rabbit-hole and now just feel completely overwhelmed. Perhaps you need an interior designer to get to help you define your style and create something that works for you.
Or maybe you’re a creative who loves design and interiors but wants to be challenged and pushed outside of your usual comfort-zone a little. Using a designer allows you to tap into their wealth of knowledge, suppliers, products and materials.
Whatever you want help with, whether it’s a lot or a little, a good designer will help you create a space you love and that works for you. As with any professional service, there’s obviously a financial investment but it results in an enjoyable process which helps you define your interior style and ultimately creates a home that tells your story.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 – Working with an Interior Designer – The WHO and the WHEN, out next week.
Or should this be the year to discover your true interior style?
The one with a little more substance than trend following. The one you’re happy to grow old with through New Years to come.
But designing for life, not just following a trend can feel tricky. It’s far easier to try and replicate a look you’ve seen a hundred times before. Once you start to discover your style though, you’ll find that design decisions command an authenticity and you can begin to create a space that really feels like you. Like Home.
So where do you start?
Mad About the House’s Kate Watson-Smyth would suggest your wardrobe and I have to agree (unless, of course, it’s mine which is currently jam-packed with maternity leggings and big woolly jumpers). Look at the colours, the style, the patterns you like to wear. If it feels good wearing certain colours, you’re likely to respond well to them in your home too. If you like lots of pattern, chances are you’ll want at least a pop of pattern somewhere in your home.
Then look at your home (or previous homes). How have your past design decisions made you feel? Do you love that dark inky paint on the wall or does it leave you feeling a little out-of-sorts? In wanting a new start, a new design, it is all too easy to focus on something new without considering what we already have. But you may already have elements that work. And if nothing works, then at least you know what to avoid next time!
Inspiration not imitation
Then it’s time to look for some inspiration. Whereas a few years ago, we’d have flicked through the pages of a few magazines, now Pinterest and Instagram provide us with endless images of beautifully curated interiors. Colourful. Minimalist. Industrial. Maximalist. Granny Chic. We’re spoilt for choice with images to influence our design choices.
So how do you navigate your way through the plethora of perfectly styled interiors to find your own style and create a space you love?
By all means start online. Create Pinterest boards; it’s the modern equivalent of tearing out magazine pages (which, by the way, I still love to do). Feel free to get lost down the rabbit holes of Instagram; follow accounts whose interiors you love.
But the key to inspirational images is to use them as just that; inspiration. You want to identify looks and styles that you like and respond well to. You’re not looking to copy, but to create something new. You’re building up the layers of your style – not just finding an image to copy.
So, save all the images you love (and I wouldn’t limit the images to the specific room you’re decorating – I’d keep it general if you want to help identify your style). Then take a break. When you come back to the images, look at them critically. Try and identify what it is you like about the images you’ve chosen. Is it the colours, the patterns, the textures you like? And be ruthless, delete any you don’t really, really love. You should then start to see strands of consistency as you build up your style library of images.
Your home should reflect your personality. You’re looking to discover your decorating style; a way to tell your story. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest and Instagram provide a wonderful forum for creativity and inspiration. But you can have too much of a good thing. Either it just becomes overwhelming or, worse, you loose sight of what will actually make you happy in your own home. Styled shots are beautiful to look at but they are often just that; styled shots. Not real life.
And just because something’s nice to look at, doesn’t mean you’d want to live with it!
So think about how you want your interior space to make to you feel. I try and ask clients to choose 3 words to help them focus. Do you want your home to to feel vibrant, bright and alive? Or do you want it to feel calm, cool and airy? Identifying early on words to represent your style will really help you make specific design decisions later on.
The Design Process
When I’m working with clients, it’s at this stage that I ask them to walk away from Pinterest and Instagram. Once we’ve been through all their images and started to build up the layers of their style, we leave the Pinterest boards and focus on a specific brief for the space we are designing.
And when you’re designing a room for yourself, I’d really recommend you do the same. It can actually be quite liberating. Create a brief, work out how you want the room to feel, the colours you like, the style of furniture you want to work with, and then stop pinning. It starts to get confusing, contradictory and that’s when you end up with a space that isn’t cohesive.
So what about the rest of the design process? Here are a few tips to help you pull your design together.
Get practical: It might not be as exciting as the pinning part, but it’s just as important. List your practical requirements for the space. Identify where you can compromise and where you cannot.
Lay it out: Next think spatial flow. If you’re replacing large pieces of furniture it’s worth drawing a floorpan; either electronically or just with pencil and paper. Measure the room to see what space you have to play with. It’ll give you a much better sense of scale and proportion. If you need more help visualising, then mark out the outline of new furniture pieces with newspaper. And especially if you’re tight for space, make sure your measurements include skirting boards, rather than just wall-to-wall; those few centimetres can make all the difference as to whether a piece fits.
Store it: It may not be glamorous and it isn’t always apparent when you look at beautifully styled interior shots, but storage is key to the success of most rooms. Have a good declutter by all means to reduce the amount you need. But make sure you’re honest and realistic and your needs and your lifestyle. Neatly curated open shelves don’t look quite so fabulous when they have piles of everyday clutter stacked up next to them!
Photo: P.Westwall @ 100% Design, London
Above all, have fun. Whether it’s just a room, or your whole house, it should most definitely be fun. Take your time if you can, and enjoy the process. You’re designing your home after all! So, get out from behind your screen and experience some design in real life. Have lunch in a fabulous restaurant (it’s research, honestly!), visit showrooms (nothing beats seeing and feeling products) or head to a design show (you’ll find products and brands you’d never heard of before).
And a final tip, once you’ve pulled your design together? Add in something a little unexpected. It keeps things fresh, adding a truly personal touch to your design and helping gently nudge you out of your comfort zone (go on, try it!).
Autumn is definitely in the air, but what a glorious weekend we had in Yorkshire. After such a long, sunny summer I’ve got rather used to spending time in the garden, so it was nice to be out there again. I’m certainly not ready to close the door on my outdoor space yet. Admittedly, I am excited about updating the interior for the seasonal changes, but this year I’m keen to incorporate the garden a little more, alive to the possibility that it too is a magical place to be enjoyed all year round. Garden lighting may not be the obvious choice for an Autumnal Design Edit, but when it’s cold and dark outside, what’s better than looking out into your very own enchanted forest?
And if you’re garden-ready, as soon as there’s another sunny day, you have the perfect excuse to get outside. Throws, lanterns and candles; perhaps even throw a log on the fire pit. Now’s the time to wrap up and enjoy some cosy, alfresco autumnal evenings. Who’s with me?
So here are my top picks for the optimists who refuse to make the garden redundant for the next half of the year …
#1 I love a floor lamp. And now there’s one to take outside. Make a sophisticated statement with this Elsa outdoor floor lamp, £120 from Cox and Cox (www.coxandcox.co.uk/elsa-outdoor-floor-lamp)
#2 Hang these squirrel festoon lights in a tree for a magical effect all year round, £45 from Garden Trading (www.gardentrading.co.uk/lighting/outdoor-lighting/festoon-lights-squirrel-10-bulbs.htm)
#3 Now’s a good time to update your hardwired outdoor lighting; welcome your guests in style with this contemporary carriage light, £95 from Garden Trading (www.gardentrading.co.uk/lighting/outdoor-lighting/wall-lighting/belgrave-carriage-light.htm)
#4 Giant lanterns are a great way of creating a bold look while making an outdoor snug cosy and inviting. I love the Mosi giant lantern, £140 – £190 from Nkuku (www.nkuku.com/product/mosi-giant-lantern)
#5 Admittedly alfresco dining opportunities may be few and far between until the Spring, but these pendants would look amazing hung from a tree over a cosy seating area. And then you’re ready for next year’s outdoor dinner parties! £75 from Amara (www.amara.com/products/sunlight-pendant)
#6 Add some architectural definition to your patio area with these luminous orbs, £50-100 from Cox and Cox (www.coxandcox.co.uk/stone-effect-boulder-lights)
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of dark, inky hues for creating spaces which envelope and cocoon. Dark, rich walls evoke a real sense of drama, which I love. But, whilst dark greys and navy have been recent go-to dark tones, here I want to explore some other options.
Source: The Design Chaser
So, in this blog post I’m looking at chocolate brown. Brown is not a colour often embraced in interiors and it can be met with a love/hate response. Yet, I’m keen to explore what this often overlooked, rich colour has to offer. Well suited for an Autumnal post, the earthier tones of deep brown can give a really warm and comforting feel.
Perfect for creating a modern elegance, dark browns work well with other deep, earthy colours such as greens and reds. Layering these rich tones gives a really sophisticated feel. Add in a pop of vibrant blue and you’ve got something really rather decadent.
Or keep things simple and dark for a smart, contemporary look. All you need is a little colour pop to finish off the look. As with all dark hues; creating depth in the backdrop really lets a touch of colour sing!
It’s a really effective colour for creating an eclectic look too. Mix up some vintage-style wooden frames for a quirky look or, if you prefer a sharper look use simple black frames and mix in some colourful, vibrant artwork.
Source: Unknown via Pinterst
For a more laid back look, soften it slightly and mix in some simple linens. The warmth of the brown walls here creates a relaxing, sensuous vibe. I really rather like it.
Whilst it might not be a look as easy to pull-off as a moody dark grey or a sultry navy, the earthy, rich qualities of dark brown are really quite endearing. If you want to give it a go, Abigail Ahern’s Bedford Brown is a really good starting point. It’s dark, rich and versatile, creating a really cosy space. Which all sounds perfect for the start of Autumn.