The Interivew: Kate Mooney on working with an interior designer

A conversation with Houseology CEO, Kate Mooney on the advantages and benefits of working with an interior designer on your next project.


The Interview

"Hiring an interior designer might seem like a bit of a luxury or something reserved for the rich and famous, but the reality is that it could save you time and money, while making your budget go further," says Kate, who has over 20 years of experience in the interior design world. "Working with an interior designer will open up a world of possibilities, knowledge and new ideas - and might just be the best move you'll make on your next project."

Q. What does an interior designer do?

A. The professional interior design process is a layered approach to three key aspects of design - architectural interiors, interior design and the decorative arts. Subsequently, an interior designer works on a project in three different stages:

1. Architectural Stage
In the early stages of your project, your interior designer can work with your architect and engineer, or independently, to survey the space and draw existing plans, sections and elevations of the project. Interior designers are creative, three-dimensional thinkers, so getting them involved at this stage means that new layouts will be designed with aspects such as light, electrics, plumbing remodelling work and locations of openings in mind, which ensures that the space works effortlessly. Opting to bring an interior designer in at this stage often ensures that costly oversights are avoided.

2. Interiors Stage
If you bring your interior designer in once the architectural layouts are complete, or major building works don't form part of your brief, they will be working on the space, lighting designs, flooring materials, wall finishes, doors and ironmongery. They will look at the architectural features in your home, the ergonomics and the function of the space and how you want to use it and then work these into the overall design. Your designer can really tap into their library of products, materials and knowledge of suppliers to work with you to select the key furniture and design elements that will make up your room.

3. Decorative Stage
Now that the foundations of the project and technical aspects of your space are resolved, the decorating starts and the professional designer’s trained eye and attention to detail can be invaluable. The designer will work closely with you to decorate the scheme, build the aesthetic and create the style and mood of your space by pulling together a strong theme, working with shapes, colours, materials and interior accessories.

Working with an interior designer

Q. What’s the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?

A. Interior design is the art and science of understanding the use of a space. It involves the application of creative and technical skills that produce interiors designed to enhance the quality of life of the user. An interior designer is professionally qualified in design principles including form, space, architecture, building regulations, safety and disability codes, services, lighting, acoustics and much more.

Decoration is the furnishing or dressing of a space, typically with fashionable or beautiful things to create a mood or ambience that makes the space appealing. Interior designers are also trained in the decorative arts such as the room style, aesthetics, colour schemes and accessorising. Interior designers design and decorate spaces while interior decorators focus solely on decorating them.

Q. Who can use an interior designer?

A. Everyone! Contrary to popular belief, an interior designer isn’t just for the rich and famous. In fact, one of the best reasons for using a designer is that it can save you time, money and expensive mistakes while making your budget go much further than you thought. An interior designer not only ensures your creative ideas are brought to life in a cost effective way, they will also help you manage your budgets.

Interior designers are trained to see the full picture; everything from the less glamorous aspects of design, such as positioning services and sockets, to commissioning bespoke furniture and window dressings. Involving an interior designer will take the pressure off you, as they will ensure nothing is missed and costly mistakes are avoided. He or she will bring professional knowledge, experience and a great source of materials and products to you – so the design fees are likely to be far outweighed by all the advantages you gain.

Working with an interior designer - creating moodboards

Q. How do you pick the right interior designer for a project?

A. Interior designers have a huge mix of skills and experience. Some work on domestic projects, others on commercial jobs or hotels. Some will have significant construction experience while others will be great decorators. The best way to figure out what’s right for you is to work up your project brief is in advance, outlining all the aspects your project will cover, and then discuss it with a number of designers to find the right fit for you.

Pulling together a scrapbook of images and interiors you love and then looking at designer’s portfolios is a great way to start thinking about which designer is likely to work best for you. Inviting potential designers into your home for a coffee and a chat about your style and aspirations and showing them how you use the space is a great way to get a feeling for how you might work together. This is an emotional as well as a business relationship that will take place in your home, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with the designer and that you can trust and engage with them through each step of your interior design journey.

Q. Do interior designers only work in their own particular style?

A. There are interior designers and decorators that have a strong aesthetic that they roll out across all their projects and many clients love the ease of this get-the-look approach. However, if that's not for you, all professional interior designers are trained to work in a variety of styles and will work with you to create a beautiful interior that works well on every level and is also infused with your personality - delivering a scheme that reflects you or your family's style and individual character.

Q. How much does an interior designer cost?

A. In the UK, designers typically charge in one of three ways:

1. An Hourly Rate
The hourly rate for an interior designer in the UK can vary between about £50 per hour to over £500, depending on the designer’s experience, their portfolio and what you need them to do on the project. In an hourly rate contract, the designer will give you an estimate of the time they think the project will take to complete and will usually provide time sheets and expense forms at the end of each month prior to invoicing you on a monthly basis.

2. A Fixed Project Fee
With a fixed project fee, your designer will tell you how much the full project will cost to complete and will work within that fixed fee. Fees will be based on the amount of time and the expertise needed on the project or as a percentage of the overall cost as well as additional time that may be required to supervise contractors or project manage. Additional expenses, which could include things like travel or printing, are usually charged separately in a fixed fee contract and it's a good idea to understand and agree these in advance.

3. A Mark-Up or Cost-Plus Fee
A mark-up or cost-plus fee is the preferred method of designers when they are not only specifying the products, but purchasing them on your behalf too. They will typically buy products and materials at a pre-arranged trade discount from the manufacturers or suppliers and then sell them back to you at retail cost. The margin that they make on selling you the goods is the equivalent of their fee for the project and covers their design concepts and all the time that they put into delivering the project for you. Again, expenses will be additional to this fee.

Working with an interior designer - adding interior personality

Q. Is it really worth hiring an interior designer?

A. There are many advantages to be gained when hiring an interior designer. Whether you need some help with a basic scheme or you’re remodelling a full house, having a designer on board will make your life much easier and the project will run more smoothly as your design decisions will be more informed and your budgets will go further.

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