Each unique interior design project begins with an initial brief, accompanied by a variety of important aspects. Not as simple as purely having an eye for design (although that plays a big part), the interior design process includes planning, analytical thinking and project management.
Without this systematic approach used by interior designers across the globe, there would certainly be a lot of unhappy clients alongside many unpolished interiors.
To help explain the ins and outs of a single interior design project, The LuxPad has created an outline of some of the fundamental interior design elements in the form of a periodic table infographic.
We have also gained some expert advice from some experienced interior designers, which details exactly why these aspects are vital for ensuring a smooth design process and ultimately, a happy client.
Whether you would like to become an interior designer and want to understand the detail each project requires, or if you are looking to update your home interior and want to find out what the design process entails, here is an insight into the elements involved in each interior design project.
The most important aspect of each interior design project is undoubtedly the initial brief. This combines every element of the process and details what will happen and when at each stage. The brief is the glue that holds a project together.
Interior designer, Nicky Percival, explains what the purpose of an interior design brief is, and why it is so important.
“No project can begin without the brief. It is the start of the design process, so understanding your client and their needs is the most important part of the creative journey.
A good brief will lead to better, more effective, measurable work, and save time and money. It is also the source material for the creative vision. It is a waste of both client and designer’s resources to go through a process of developing solutions without concrete direction.
A good brief usually starts with the client and designer having some rapport and developing true communication. Having the combination of a written and verbal brief is ideal for working towards a common goal.
Whether the project is private or commercial, practical points that must be addressed are lead times, budget, project management and liaising with all involved in the creation of the design vision.
It is the designer’s role to guide the client towards creating the design vision which the brief outlines. Understanding their aspirations, lifestyle choices, brand guidelines, as well as their practical problems, is key to creating an admirable design.”
Although no interior design project is the same, there are certain aspects that apply to some project types more than others. When planning catering and commercial projects, for example, it’s important to take into account how user-friendly the space will be for customers.
Samantha Morphew from Morph Designs details the elements used in each of her residential projects:
“Before designing a room, I consider the space, natural lighting, symmetry and focal point of the room. Establishing with the client their vision, budget and timescale are all key factors in making the design work.
I always discuss style comfort zones and how far we can push the client’s brief, I refer to this as the ‘wild card option’ when presenting mood boards.
In a recently completed project, I looked at creating symmetry in the client’s sitting room. The fireplace was certainly the focal point of the room but we needed an area for the client’s Television and AV equipment. We created a bespoke piece of cabinetry that housed all the equipment and also provided storage. We introduced a dedicated space for a reading zone at the front of the room.
The overall look of the room added color through accents of blue and balance in its furniture layout. The room was functional, practical and unique in its design.”
Each project must have a final goal in mind. What do you want to achieve? Whether it’s more space for a growing family, or to improve the overall aesthetic, there is a reason behind each project, and this must be established right at the beginning.
“Whenever I visit a new interior design client I always ask two initial questions. Firstly, what problem or issue do they want to resolve in the room and why? Secondly, why do they believe they need the services of an interior designer to achieve that? The combination of these two questions will generally make it very clear to me what is in the client’s mind and what will be a successful project for them.
My experience is that clients often find it much easier to describe what they do not like, or what they feel is wrong with a room first. After this, it is much easier to define what a fabulous design might feel like for them and what the interior design project much achieve.
Asking clients why they believe they need the services of an interior designer allows me to explore what they feel are their own weaknesses, and therefore what their expectations of me are. It is very important for me to be confident that the client knows exactly what activities I will perform and I also want to be able to clearly state what design objective we’re aiming for.
Once I know these factors, the fun stuff regarding room-remodeling options, floor and window treatments, color preferences, textiles, furniture configuration and wall-art options all have something solid and clear to hang off.”
There are certain foundations or principles that all interior designers adhere to and these create the basis of each project. Important things to think about for each space are details, architecture, lighting and practicality, along with creating balance and harmony. Interior Designer, Natalie Holden, explains why the interior brief and interior design foundations should go hand in hand.
“The elements within the interior design foundations should all work hand in hand with each other and it’s essential to get a strong understanding of your budget and needs before you start the design process.
Your lifestyle and tastes can be vastly different from another’s and this will have a big influence on your design choices and what will work best for you. Do you like reading? Do you like to cook? Do you like to entertain? Asking yourself these types of questions will help to give you a good understanding of your priorities and your practical needs.
I also start off by setting up a Pinterest board to store all my visual inspiration for a room in one place. Once you know your budget, your practical needs and your visual tastes, you have a strong brief to tailor each element of your design foundations too.”
Each interior design firm offers a selection of different services. There are full-service companies, offering everything from consultation to construction, utilizing their own workforce, and those that have a strong, trusting relationship with outsourced suppliers and workers.
We asked Anatoly Alekseev from Black and Milk Interiors to take us through the services his firm offers and the process involved.
“We work together with the client in stages from the design concept to installation and styling. We start with concept design, where we develop a design brief and work with the client to form the vision of their future home. Deliverables at this stage include a clear design vision, furniture layout, budget outline and schedule of works.
Next is detailed design, where we develop technical drawings, specifications of the furniture and finishes, design and estimation of bespoke and made-to-measure items.
We then move onto the sourcing and installation stages, where we use our extensive contacts within the interior world to source the best furniture and fittings. We begin placing and managing all orders with suppliers and oversee manufacturing and installation of bespoke items. During this stage, we manage decoration works on site to ensure the design intent is carried through.
Finally, we go into the dressing and styling stage. Once the design work is complete and all items are installed, we review the visual styling and source decorative objects, textiles, houseplants and curate the artwork. These final touches pull the interior together and complete the overall look. To finish the process off, we arrange a photo shoot for our portfolio and the client’s memories.”
Each interior designer must take on board certain client considerations before confirming a brief. Some of these important aspects are personality, what the space will be used for, their budget and their vision for the property. Phoebe Oldrey from Smart Style Interiors, explains why understanding each individual client is vital to the interior design process.
“You can’t be an interior designer without clients, and a client doesn’t want to hire a designer who doesn’t build a home which is just right for them, so your client considerations are the foundations to everything.
It is a very personal relationship, and it is all about taking time to understand these lovely people, who have asked you to be part of the amazing journey of building their dream home.
It is so much bigger than just trying to figure what style and colors they like, it is about picking apart every aspect of how people live and aspire to live and how does their home accommodate and reflect that. From the big information about their lifestyle to the small detail about how people like to sort their socks, we need to know it all.
Only then can a designer build a home that is a pleasure for the client to live in, because it works in harmony with its occupants and tells their story in the decoration.”
Although trends come and go, there are certain interior styles that each of these trends fit into. Many interior designers use a combination of interior styles, for example, merging traditional and contemporary elements to create a timeless aesthetic.
Interior designer, Bella Whiteley, explains the process she follows to define a client’s style.
“When working with a new client, the first step is to determine where their tastes and preferences fall within the framework of defined interior styles. A decorative style is a visual expression of a place in time and a snapshot of the lifestyles our clients want to live. Once form, functionality, and flow have been quantified in the spatial design process, it’s time to layer-on your key style.
There are three main categories used in defining interior design style; traditional, modern, and transitional. We then branch out into numerous sub-styles or variations on these as we hone a style. Themes like coastal, industrial or exotic can then be applied.
Tools we use to visually brainstorm with clients are Pinterest, Houzz and even tear-sheets from magazines. Asking clients to gather objects from their homes they like also helps us analyze their personal tastes. I like to use paint color charts to see which area of the color spectrum a client is drawn to.
This image shows a client’s orangery attached to a pool house. Her personal style was traditional, but it evolved into global eclectic due to her keen like of African artifacts. By layering on accessories and carefully curated pieces, whilst referring back to your key style identity, you can portray your client’s ideal style.”