How do you know which contractor to use? Part 3 - Interior Designer

interior designer london

You have just undertaken a heap of building work and your build is reaching completion. Now comes the exciting bit of the interiors. This is the phase of building work that will actually see your visions come to life. Your home will actually start looking like a home! 

Here is the hard bit though. Where do you start? How do you start? Do you work on the floor first or the walls? The fixtures or the decorative elements. The builders are still working away and they will be pushing hard for you to make decisions now. This is where the problems begin. You have been so occupied with the construction phase, you have not had time to think about the interiors.

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I know what I want my house to look like, I don't need any help!

For many people this is true, you will be able to tell your builders, I know where I want the kitchen to be, I know exactly where the furniture will go and I know exactly what materials I need for each room. 

The problem I see time and time again is TIME! The builders finished the external work outside and tomorrow they will start on the internal work, most of the time you won't be pre-warned about the questions they will ask. Where is the radiator going? Where do you want the lights to go? These first fix questions may seem trivial, but if you think about it, these decisions are going to determine your whole interior. You have given zero thought to it, as you have been so pressured to give an answer on the spot!

There are two fundamental reasons anyone hires an interior designer, they are:

1. They have no time

2. They have no idea what they want

Whichever category you fall into, read on!

1. I have no time to do this myself

This is the most common reason clients come to me, A lot of the time they have good ideas on what they want for their home, but have no time to see it through. It is also very likely that you hate dealing with contractors for sake of time and sanity.

An interior designer will take everything on board so you don't have to. The time taken to make decisions over where the utilities need to go, the time taken to find and source the tiles you want for the bathroom, the furniture, the lighting. Think about how long it takes just to look around one showroom, and quickly you realise you need a few years before you feel you have made a well informed decision. 

2. I have no idea what I want

Let me tell you a secret....90% of the people that think they know exactly what they want....don't. In the age we live in, so many people see an image on Houzz or Pinterest or instagram that they fall in love with. Automatic reaction is "I wish my house looked like that" or " I want my room to look like that!" The problem is, you have looked at that image for a mere few seconds. How do you know you can live in that space? How do you know that space will actually work for you?

How can an Interior Designer Help me?

How do I know which Interior Designer to choose?

Here are a few things to think about before you hire an interior designer, before they can help you:

  • Look at their website, do they seem like the kind of person you would want to spend months even years working with?
  • Look at their portfolio and social media channels. Do you like their style?
  • Phone them and try to arrange a first consultation. Some designers will offer a free consultation (they normally work the cost of the visit into their proposal). Some will charge you for a visit but will provide the opportunity to brainstorm ideas.
    • The benefit of this is that you get to meet the real person,, can you get on with them? Do you like and trust them?
    • You can ask questions and get real time answers
    • You get an idea of their personality and style and see whether or not this is in line with your design style.
    • You will have a good understanding of what the relationship will look and feel like when you do work together.
    • If it doesn't work out, you have invested very little time and money at the early start!
  • Ask them about their charging structure, interior designers typically work under 1 of the following structures
    • No fees, they will charge commission on each product/contractor that they recommend. This is a brilliant cost effective solution. However be aware as it is commission based, you may not necessarily be getting the best for your money.
    • A set percentage based on the total budget, typically this is between 5-10%. Note this is normally done on large value projects and is difficult to do if you are unsure about your budget.
    • A set fee based on the work produced. This is the way I work as it enables me to charge for my time, while ensuring I get the best value for money within the allocated budget. Charges typically start from £500 per room depending on deliverables.

How can an Interior Designer help me?

The following outlines the phases of work an interior designer may undertake:

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Phase 1

Preparation of layout plans covering:

·        Planning and location of internal walls to maximise space

·        Bathrooms, kitchen spatial planning, to inform location of utilities

·        Consideration of storage requirements

·        Furniture placement, joinery style

·        Location of electrical points aligned with room design

·        Lighting location and arrangement for desired ambiance

With all of the above in hand, you can go in to meet your builders with all the tools you need to answer literally any question they may have! In addition all the contractors will have clarity and be able to work from the same hymn sheet, resulting in a more efficient execution!

Phase 2

·        Determine design concept – selecting the right style to fit what you are looking for and bring the ideas together in a cohesive way. 

·        Create sample boards – bring the textures and colours to life with actual materials that can be used in the design with examples of wall coverings, joinery and ironmongery – shows how the elements of the design work together.

·        Artwork consultation – assess the suitability of artwork for a location,  and identify styles

This is the magic phase! You will know exactly what paint colour to choose, what light fittings to get, even down to finer details such as the colour and style of your light switches will be identified. Removing all the guess work for you to be able to shop easily without feeling indecisive.  The result is a well considered and cohesive scheme, that has a "designer feel". The best schemes will work so well and be so in line with your personality, your guests will have no idea you had help with it!

Execution Phase if required

·        Furniture and fittings sourcing for each room - a list of suppliers covering each room within allocated budgets saving time and enabling a smooth execution

·        Identifying contractors, requesting tenders and  managing lead times

·        Managing/ coordinating contractors completing the interior works such as electrical, plumbing, carpentry, plastering, flooring, painting, and tiling.

These are the time heavy activities that take the longest in any build. 

As always I welcome your feedback, are there any other points I should have included? What would help you make your decision. I would love to hear from you! Just drop a message in the comments below!