How do Interior Designers Work?

How do Interior Designers Work?

Can you tell us about how Interior Designers work? 

With a depth of experience both as an interior designer and business owner, Andrew is director of leading Melbourne based interior design studio MR MITCHELL, and is an enthusiastic contributor to Designers Place.

 Having worked as an interior designer for more than 17 years, the most common question I am asked is “How does it work?” Most people are a little intimidated by the whole process and are even a little afraid of interior designers. I can promise you, we aren’t that frightening!

 Every designer works a bit differently with regard to how they operate their business and the services they offer their customers. We generally follow a seven step process:

 Initial Consultation

  1. Provide clients with a Scope of Work and Design Proposal
  2. Client Briefing
  3. Creation of the Design Concept
  4. Design Development
  5. Documentation
  6. Estimation
  7. Project management 

We offer an Initial Consultation free of charge as this is a time to meet the clients, and to share thoughts and talk about what they hope to achieve. A consultation carries no obligation so that the client can assess how comfortable they feel with us as their potential designer. 

At the initial consultation, ask your designer some key questions about how they operate, and what they will deliver. Always look for a connection beyond style and design.

Some examples of such questions would include: 

  • How do they problem-solve? Remember that the real test of an interior designer is how they will deliver the project to you. 
  • What is your designer’s current workload?  Do you have time frame you need to work to?
  • Does your interior designer collaborate with reputable builders and suppliers? A designer is only as good as the people they work with.
  • How does your designer manage your budget? Be clear about what you can spend, and how flexible you are about any variation from this figure. 

 We then spend time to formulate and organise a Scope of Work for your project.  A detailed scope will outline your project details prior to discussing fee packages.  Take the time to understand your scope and raise any uncertainties. More importantly, don’t forget to ask for Terms and Conditions, as all designers should provide these.  

Once you are satisfied with the scope, your designer will have all the information to provide you with a suitable Design Proposal.  Generally speaking, fees can be structured in a few different ways: as a percentage of your total job (on larger jobs), a fixed rate, or at an hourly rate (smaller jobs). Let your designer guide you as to which fee structure will suit your project.  

Once the client has engaged our services, we sit down with them for the Client Briefing. During this important stage, we discuss with the client all of their practical and aesthetic requirements for the project. Any visual references that you have collected at this stage can be shared to convey your design ideas. 

With a grasp of your vision, budget and requirements, the Concept Stage is the first major design step. We use this important time to research all the aspects of your design, drawing upon their image archives and build upon any thoughts and ideas you have presented to deliver a visual presentation.  We provide a comprehensive Concept Presentation, including images that will convey our vision and our interpretation of your brief.  

At this stage, you should find out how your designer plans to present to you and ensure that you will understand what is being communicated, remembering that designers have their own way of presenting.  Ask your designer for an example of some past presentations; this will prepare you for what will be delivered.    Offer your designer any inspiring images that you have that will help point them in the right direction.  

Documentation is a crucial step in realising your design and understanding how your space will work aesthetically and practically, including floor plans, elevations, detail drawings & product schedules. These elements will form a necessary component during final planning, building and construction.  

The Estimation stage involves all the collation of quotes. The importance of this stage is often overlooked by clients; it is a timely process that requires good business and organisational skills on your designer’s behalf. Use this time to revisit your budget and discuss where you would like to prioritise your spending, allowing your designer to use their experience to guide you. Be sure that your designer has a clear process of estimation. 

During the Project Management stage quality control is exercised. It is less a question of…

“Will problems arise?”

and more realistically… 

“When problems arise, how will you deal with them?”

A designer’s ability to deal with situations effectively and efficiently will make the difference between a pleasurable experience and a stressful one. 

All experienced designers should have their own recommended builders, suppliers and manufacturers. Although you may have your own, it may be wise to take lead from your designer.  More often than not, the loyalty that your designer has built with their collaborators will ensure that they provide the best service in terms of quality, lead times and price. Arrange weekly face to face meetings and request that your designer keep you informed about any variations before they take place. You don’t want to be faced with unforseen costs that could be avoided. 

Although all aspects of your project should be well considered , the process of using an interior designer should be an enjoyable one. You want to be sure that you have a confident leader and someone that you trust and respect.  Be open in communication and enjoy the journey; it should be immensely rewarding.  

Good luck with your next exciting project.

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