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.
I don’t normally write about trends. Don’t get me wrong, trends are fun, and they can bring unexpected inspiration. And as a designer, it’s part of my job to be aware of emerging trends. It’s just I don’t think people should be led by trends, and I think too many new-year-new-trend posts can perpetuate this. So this post isn’t one of those. I won’t be telling you what colour I think will be hot this year, or what material you should be sourcing for your kitchen island unit. Instead, I’ll be talking about how I think 2021 is an important one for interior design. After 2020, the year we stayed at home, our relationship with our homes has changed dramatically, and even when (hopefully) covid is a distant memory, I’m sure lockdown living will have a lasting impact on our homes.
So here’s how I think the pandemic has changed how we design our homes, and the general trends we might see as a result in 2021…
More Multifunctional Spaces
Staying at home means working from home, learning from home and teaching from home. And most of us have compromised with our space in some way, at some point. The kitchen table has seen it all. It has been a craft table, school table, office and breakfast spot. Many a spare room has become a make-shift office. But even after the pandemic eases, the reality will be more working-from-home, and more learning-from-home than before. So it makes sense that we’ll be looking to create stylish work and learning zones within our homes, and often they’ll be within rooms or spaces that already have a function. Homes will need hard-working, multifunctional spaces and in the long-term these have every right to be as beautiful as the rest of the home.
There’s nothing like a global pandemic to focus our mind on health and wellbeing. There’s also nothing quite like lockdown restrictions to make us crave the great outdoors. Biophilic design has becoming increasingly popular but expect to see more in the coming year. It’s all about connecting with the natural world through design, and is aimed at promoting wellbeing. Adding plants is a good start but there’s also so much more. Think natural patterns, organic shapes and designs that work with, and maximise natural light and space.
Online shopping has been a saviour throughout lockdowns. But let’s be honest, it’s not the same as browsing the shops in person, and I’m sure most people at some point have found it hard to get hold of exactly what they want or need. Many people have also found themselves with more time (although with 4 children at home all day during lockdown I can confirm I am not one of those people!) so it’s not surprising that people are becoming more creative, and more resourceful. With more time to craft, knit, draw, paint and generally DIY, 2021 could see a much more imaginative and inventive approach to making a home. And that’s before we discuss the increasing financial hardship faced by many which means that being resourceful and reworking your home with what you have already got will be here to stay for a while.
The shopping that we are doing has become more considered. It’s not as easy to pop into a showroom, fall in love with a piece and hand over our credit card. Instead, there’s a greater need (and opportunity) to research, to think, to consider. Its been a thought-provoking year in other ways too; diversity, sustainability and environmental issues have all been under the spotlight. I suspect (or hope) as a result there’ll be a shift in shopping patterns; that there’ll be a move towards sustainable materials, support for local and independent brands, and a move to promote and support a more diverse range of artists, designers and brands.
Keep it personal
Having spent so much time at home, having really lived in our homes, my hope is that people start designing for themselves. Not for visitors, not for trends and not for resale. People have spent more time than ever within their homes and I’m sure, as a result, now really get what works, and what doesn’t. We’ve all realised the impact out home has on our mood and our wellbeing; we’ve experienced the impact our surroundings have on us. It may be as simple as changing a layout, or decluttering and improving storage. Or it may be taking your maximalist styling to the next level, or embracing a few more minimalist clean lines. I think we’re moving away from needing a perfect home to wanting a home that reflects our family life, that lets us tell our story.
And don’t forget the children
I’ve had so many new enquiries about childrens’ bedrooms, and in the main it’s prompted by a feeling that kids are spending so much more time at home, in their rooms, learning, playing and sleeping that they need (and deserve) and functional happy space to do this. Interior design can have such an impact on mental wellbeing and we shouldn’t forget that this applies to children too. Making sure they have a safe, creative space to play, work and sleep is so important. I think there’ll be some fun childrens’ room designs this year!
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!).
Whether it’s for your bedtime reading or morning cuppa, a good bedside lamp is essential. Not only practical, but a pair of bedside lamps leaves your bedroom beautifully styled. And, if you’re feel confident, mix them up. No one ever said they had to match.
Take a look at the lamps I’m loving right now….
#1 Rose tinted glass makes everything better.
Glass shade lamp (£78) from www.oliverbonas.com
#2 Simple style. Beautiful combination of marble and glass; just add a vintage bulb.
Oracle domed £49.99 from www.dowsingandreynolds.com
#3 Easy and elegant. Choose the dark pleated shade for a touch of sophistication.
Bessy Table Lamp £145 from www.loaf.com
#4 Soft and dreamy. Perfect in light airy rooms as well as dark moody spaces.
Eos tripod lamp from www.vitacopenhagen
#5 Sleek and stylish. Brass finish adds a touch of elegance.
Octavia £39 from www.made.com
#6 Classic combination of blush pink and polished brass. A favourite of mine.
Ewer £59 from www.made.com