The 8 Steps to Successful Interior Design (and Why It’s Worth the Wait)
How long does the design process take? This is a question every client asks. It’s a great question – with an answer that often surprises clients.
We live in a society that has come to expect that everything is available immediately -whether fast food, stock trades or having your car delivered the day after you order it. We are consumed by reality TV, and somehow believe that what we’re watching is actually real. We think that anything can be done cheaper and faster and that to expect anything less would make us foolish.
In my experience, quality design not only takes time, it requires time. It requires thoughtfulness. It requires skills that take years to develop. Real listening involves more than being in the same room while a client is talking. It requires absorbing more than the words being spoken. Knowing how to elicit the right information from the right people at the right time and effective communication is critical, not just with clients, but also with architects, contractors, sub-contractors, landscape architects, furniture builders, artisans, etc.
In my experience, an interior design project from inception to completion takes 10-12 months on average – and that’s if most everything goes as planned. There are many variables that affect the time required to complete a project.
Outlined below are the basic steps:
- Getting to know the client. This requires a series of conversations to understand who the clients are, how they live and how they want to be perceived in the world.
- Establishing a common language to communicate spirit, concept, and nuance. This involves an exchange of rich and detailed imagery along with commentary and conversation to determine the values that matter.
- Space planning -to determine scale and traffic flow as well as what specific furnishings are needed.
- Architectural Detailing or interior architecture –refers to creating the palette of materials and finishes that will define the personality of the spaces and designing how they will be constructed and applied.
- Furniture designs, finds, and selections. This is what many people consider the fun part –and it is, but the uninitiated may also be surprised to learn that this process also involves a mind-boggling myriad of details that have to be considered, dreamed-up, designed, engineered, and managed before they can be realized.
- Buying, ordering and commissioning the production of furnishings. The process from order to completion of a single piece of furniture often takes 6 months or more. Every piece ordered requires much thought and many decisions all of which have to be effectively communicated to the artisan, craftsman or supplier. For example, here’s a rundown of some of the details that go into ordering a single sofa:
- Select the style and type of frame.
- When customizing to a particular client’s body type or comfort profile, we will often make a series of modifications including seat height and depth, type of seat and cushions and the type of fill for each, overall back height, back cushion height, back pitch and arm height.
- Select wood or metal finishes for legs or exposed portion of the frames and determine whether or not to use nail heads, passementary trims, welts, or no welts.
- Then there’s the upholstery. Fabrics and leathers each have their own unique requirements. If using leather, what size are the hides? How much waste will be involved? Is the finish on the leather suitable for the application? What kind of seaming and stitching is appropriate for the use and style? For fabrics, is there a pattern? How will it be oriented and positioned at each section of the sofa? Again, what kind of seams and how will those seams be executed? If all of these considerations go into the ordering of a single sofa, multiply that process by the number of pieces in a home and you begin to understand the complexity involved.
- Waiting. Waiting for all those pieces to arrive, be inspected, modified or repaired, refinished, or reupholstered (often required when buying vintage pieces). In addition to the normal production and shipping time required, there is likely to be a host of activity going on behind the scenes in an effort to assure each piece arrives as intended. Freight damage is common and has to be handled appropriately from minor repairs, to total replacement. Manufacturers sometimes misinterpret or just get orders wrong, and corrections have to be made. There are also many more ways a single order may go off the rails, and it’s the designer’s job to handle every eventuality so that our clients experience what appears to be a seamless and effortless process. This waiting is typically the most painful part. All the time spent in design and all the money on furnishings and nothing yet to show for it! Breathe. It will all be worth the wait. The payoff is coming.
- Installation. This is the moment we’ve been working toward and waiting for. Everything has arrived and is staged at the warehouse. Getting everything moved-in, placed and in perfect order can take anywhere from 12 hours to 2 weeks depending on the scale and complexity of the design. We want our clients to come into a complete home, to experience a complete transformation. As with any skilled performance, we hope to make it seem effortless -to utterly surprise and delight.
A well-designed environment is worth the time it takes to create. The result is more than mere decoration. Home should be a place you love being in and escaping to. Your home can embrace a sense of history and adventure and become part of your biography.
“If death and insignificance are our greatest fears, then surrounding ourselves with things that are cheap and disposable only heightens this feeling.” -Jamie Brisick
I couldn’t agree more.