The bedroom walls are covered in sample splotches of last year’s lilac paint colours (it seemed like a good idea at the time!), the 15-year-old nylon carpet laid directly over the floorboards by the previous owner is shedding tufts of grey fuzz, and the living room chimney breast that your partner excavated last winter is still awaiting its reclaimed Victorian fireplace. It’s not that you haven’t got ideas, but somehow last winter turns into this, the summer holidays fly by, the well-intentioned DIY Bank Holiday weekends end up at the in-laws, and you still haven’t managed to decorate. What you need is someone to help you get organised, someone to focus your ideas, someone to tell you how much it’s all going to cost! Maybe it’s time you talked to an interior designer.
Isn’t that going to be expensive? What if they take over and convert my Edwardian house into nouveau American rodeo ranch style? What am I committing myself to with that first phone call?
Don’t worry. Interior designers are professionals. They are there to offer you, the client, a service. Many offer first consultations free of charge. This means you can dip your toe into the interior design water without any risk whatsoever.
So, what can you expect at this first meeting? Your designer should, by talking to you and looking at your existing environment, diagnose your taste and pinpoint your favourite style. Show them the room or rooms you want decorated, and if you have any photos of styles you like or dislike, show them to the designer. They should ask you about your hobbies, your family, your colour preferences, your pets, whether you entertain at home, whether you frequently have overnight guests. By learning about you and analysing your requirements, the designer is putting together the first building blocks of the eventual design.
At the second meeting, often charged at an hourly rate, the designer should have a package of ideas to show you. This may be presented in any number of ways; a sample board of fabrics and pictures of furniture is one option, sketches and swatches of fabric to discuss is another. Whichever style of presentation the designers choose, find out in advance what you will be paying for it and what happens if you don’t like what you see. Many designers will “go back to the drawing board” until you’re happy, free of charge or at a nominal fee.
A client once told me that a design was “just what I wanted but didn’t know I wanted”. Interior designers have the training and resources to explore design options. They can often help you see a room in a whole new light, just by the addition of some built-in furniture, a new colour scheme, a different curtain design, or by re-arranging the furniture. A designer is adept at combining elements in total harmony with each other while staying within the guidelines of your initial brief (no matter how simple or how bizarre that brief may be).
For example, illustrated on the projects page is an exhibition room set that I designed this year. The brief was to design a dining room based on the theme of “Fire”. I suspect that very few people who saw the room would commission it for their own home. But that wasn’t the point. The purpose of the room set was to show that the combination of furniture, wall finish, lighting and accessories, when carefully considered and sourced, will please the eye and satisfy an aesthetic need.
A good interior designer will nudge you further along pathways upon which you may have already placed a tentative step. But a good interior designer will never impose their taste on your environment. Designers are there to work for you and to help you to achieve your design goal. If you’re not happy with something, always remember you can say no.