Do I need an interior designer when I’ve got an architect?

When you’re undertaking a major refurbishment, or building a new house, there are, quite literally, thousands of decisions to be made.  Everything from what’s going to go on the roof – slate? zinc? fibreglass? sedum? – down to colour of the grout between the tiles and the design of the skirting boards.  And every decision is a balance of aesthetics, practicality, quality, availability and price.

Your architect will, quite rightly, have his/her eye on what I call, the Big Picture.  Their main concerns will be the major constructional elements – how big does the steel beam need to be? – the architectural detailing, the overall budget, the timeframe and the programme.  They’ll work up lots of detailed drawings, showing every construction joint (roof meets walls, walls meet floors etc etc) and they’ll draw up detailed specifications to satisfy Building Regulations.  On site, they’ll be looking to see that the work is being carried out in accordance with all of this and that the detailing of the construction is right.

As the client you need to be 3 steps ahead of the work on site in your decision making.

If Realisation No.1 is just how many decisions have to be made, then Realisation No. 2 is just how early these decisions are needed.

You may not have a roof on or windows in, but don’t be surprised when the contractor starts asking for details of the bath you’ve chosen and where exactly you’d like all your sockets and switches.  Because whilst relaxing in the bubble bath might still seem like a distant pipe dream as you stand on the draughty site, the plumber needs to know where to install the pipework for the bath taps and the waste when he does what’s called “first fix”.  Are you going for a simple mixer at one end of the bath? or floor mounted taps in the middle of the side? or even taps mounted on the wall?  And you can’t choose the taps, until you’ve chosen the type of bath you’d like…..

Essentially, you have three options.  Option 1 you could call “DIY”.  “It’ll be fun choosing everything!” you think, until Realisation No. 3 hits you, and you realise just what a monumental task the whole thing is….  If you’re inexperienced in running such a project/holding down a job/short on time/juggling childcare, or worse, all of the above, how exactly are you going to conjure up the time to sort out all these things???

Option 2 is to get the architect to help you.  But is this the best use of the architect?  They don’t come cheap and as I’ve said, they’ll be concentrating on all those Big Picture things and quite right too – you need them to do that!  What’s more, will they be up to speed on which is the best brand of bath to look at for the style you’d like, at a price you can afford?  Maybe, maybe not.

Option 3  involves employing an Interior Designer to help specify and source all those nitty gritty details like door handles, taps and skirting boards.  Everyone knows interior designers do colour and curtains, but there’s a whole lot more to fitting out and furnishing an interior than just the purely decorative elements.  A good designer will be quicker at sourcing suitable products because it’s what we do all the time.  We know the reliable suppliers, who produce quality products when they say they’re going to (and yes, we’ll work within your budget and won’t “go mad”)



so if your decision making is behind the curve, and the plumber has to come back for a return visit to fit the pipes, or worse, change them if you’ve suddenly changed your mind, then this will add to the costs….

An interior designer who is experienced and knowledgeable in construction, will make sure that decisions are made in good time and orders placed to allow for lead times, which can be weeks and weeks.  This really does help SAVE MONEY.

So, before you embark on a project, think through these options carefully and realistically.  Many designers will offer an initial meeting free of charge, so don’t hesitate to ask their advice EARLY ON.  Bear in mind, some designers may not be prepared to take on a project if you wait until you’re feeling overwhelmed…..  You are probably so far behind where you need to be, that it’s a tall order to ask even a professional to sprint to help you catch up – it’s frustrating for them to spend the whole project behind where they should (and could) have been in the planning process.

So as soon as you start talking to an architect, have a chat to an interior designer too.  Don’t be scared!  Look for one who’s a Registered Interior Designer, as this tells you that they’ve met the stringent criteria of the British Institute of Interior Design – they’re professionally qualified and experienced and we know that everyone has a budget!

Good interior designers enjoy collaborating with architects and clients, so that the interior complements, and blends seamlessly with the architecture and creates the perfect space for the client.


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