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First meeting with potential client

It all starts with a design problem, and somebody calling me to see if I can help. After a first phone conversation we have a first meeting, free of charge, where the potential client and I talk about their project and assess if we could work together. It is necessary for a potential client to feel comfortable working with me as trust is the base of a relation between a client end his/her interior designer. It happens that both the potential client and I feel it will be difficult to establish a good working relationship, and in this case I always have another good interior design to recommend, that would suit them better. The important thing for me is to have happy clients only

Brief

This meeting is the occasion to know more about the project and the clients. It is important for me to fully understand the needs of the clients, how they live, what they like and what they don’t like in order to create the best scheme that will suit them perfectly. I very often think that there should be a module in psychology in the Interior Design school, as designing for people is so much more than assembling colours and texture because it is about people’s life. This is why I take it so seriously to understand my clients, their dreams and how to help them transform their house into their beloved home.

Contract

After we have established that we are suited for each other, the new client and I sign a contract. As a BIID Associate I follow the BIID directions (the BIID Interior Design Job books) and use two contracts according to the size of the project. For bigger projects I use the BIID agreement for interior design CID12 (or for even bigger project the ID10). And of course, the fees are explained in the contract.

Measured survey

This part is probably the part that requires the most discipline and forbids you to be creative, as it aims to take and accurately record every measure that will be used to draw an accurate plan and any needed elevation drawings. This can be considered as an extremely stressful task as you are not allowed a mistake as the rest of the design work will be based on the drawings that result from the survey. I sometimes have to indulge the paranoid side of me and re-take some measurements just to be sure! (In a previous project, I have measured the same wall at least 5 times; just to make sure the ordered furniture will exactly fit in the space… no need to say that the measurements were the same each time!).

Design analysis

After the brief, I can digest all the given information and analyse the design problem given by the client in order to solve it in the best possible way. At this stage I also make any needed research; yes, every project is different and if you want to address it properly you have to update your knowledge. (This is also why I like the BIID so much, as the institute is also behind you to remind you that you have to take a certain number of CPDs every year! Interior design is a life-time learning process).

Plan drawing and furniture layout

Thanks to the measured survey the scaled plans can be drawn. In every design solving stage, space planning is an important part, and having accurate plans is necessary to plan the space efficiently. With the plan we can also draw what we call a furniture layout. It is a plan on which we indicate where the furniture goes. The furniture is drawn to scale as well. This flat representation allows checking the traffic flow and will be used later as a shopping list.

Lighting plans

This is a good occasion to mention my love for lightings. A fantastic design scheme will only appear average if the lighting is not good, whereas an average scheme will appear fantastic when the lighting is right. Too often, lighting is forgotten or even worst left to the end, when it is too late to rectify as you certainly don’t want the electrician to come and chase cables in the walls after the decorator has done his job! Lighting plans are created according to the furniture layout. What is the point of creating a lighting plan if you don’t know there is an art piece to light on a specific wall, or if you don’t know where the dining table will need to be lit to create this intimate atmosphere while allowing seeing what is in your plate? Let say it again, lighting plans need to be made according to the furniture layout and has to be considered from the beginning of the project!

Window treatment

Curtains play a very important place in the design as they give the overall atmosphere in a room. They can create a modern feel when kept simple with modern fabric, or give a very luxurious feel when drape over poles or swags and tails are used etc. Curtains have to be designed for a specific room and according to the wanted final result. Sometimes a property can have some unusual windows placed in a weird corner, and the owner simply doesn’t know what to do with them. If it is the case, I am always happy to take the challenge and find a design solution for awkward windows. “Next stages…”

Sourcing

The sourcing stage is also the perfect time to consider eco-friendly materials and specifications. If you want to design without hurting the planet, there is no need to go for the “hippy look”. Sourcing the right products, that come from a renewable source and that can bio-degrade at their end of life cycle is the solution. And there are more and more available products that can be rated as eco-friendly or green on the market. It is only a question of looking for them.

Now that we have a plan with the furniture layout, a lighting plan and relevant curtains, the next stage can begin: sourcing.

Buying all new furniture is not always needed as sometimes re-using furniture can be very effective and is an eco-friendly solution as well. But there is always the need to select which furniture will be re-used and what will need to be bought.

Sourcing is a time consuming stage as it is important to find the right item for the project. We are not only designing for beauty but also for comfort, good quality etc. and all this within a given budget.

Budget writing

Yes, here is the time to talk about the budget. Every project has a budget. The client decides what amount he/she is happy to spend on a project and we work within the given amount. If, from the beginning we feel that the budget is not realistic considering the amount of work that needs to be done, we mention it to the client, so that either the scope of work or the budget can be adjusted.

All the sourced items are recorded and included in the budget. The budget is regularly presented to the client. The process is transparent and there are no surprises.

As a professional interior designer, I charge a design fee. I am not a retail shop so all the discount I am eligible for furniture, fabric, light fitting etc. are passed directly to the client.

Second meeting with client

Now we have a first proposition to make to the client a new meeting is needed. This meeting is the occasion for the client to check the design solution we have in mind and give us their feedback. We usually come with two or three design solutions and the client select their favourite one or sometime a mixture of the different solutions. This meeting is very important to us as it is the occasion to rectify and improve the design according to the client’s response.

Sample boards and finished plan and furniture layout

When we have agreed with the client on a design solution, we can go back to the studio and amend the schemes, carry on more sourcing when necessary.

The design schemes are presented on sample boards, with visuals when necessary, along with a file containing all the specifications of the different selected items, without forgetting the budget.

At this stage, the client can either choose to implement the work on their own or ask us to do so.

Calling out relevant trade for quotes (people that I trust)

When the design schemes are ready, we can call the different trade people to give us quotes. I have a team of trusted people I am used to work with and who will meet the high standards I expect for all of my projects. I am happy to ask two or three quotes to make sure the client will get the best quote and the best people.

Updating budget

With the selected quotes, it is now possible to refine the budget. This is an important phase for the client to exactly know what is happening and at what cost.

Third meeting with client

With the refines budget and all the sample boards and specification, we meet the client again to check everything is according to the client’s expectation. We can now organise how the work is going to happen. We can book the different trade people in the relevant order (for example and as you already understood, the electrics have to go first!)

Ordering

The planning phase is now finished. You can see that interior design is really about planning ahead every little detail. We order the different items needed for the project, may it be fabrics, wall paper, paint, carpets, rugs…

I order the items for the client (with a trade discount) and send the invoices directly to the client to pay. The process is as transparent as can be; the client gets all the discounts.

When clients are very busy and would rather pay all the invoices in once, we set up a specific bank account where the project money is transferred and from where all the project invoices will be paid. This is a worry free process that can be checked by the client at any time.

Schedule of work and project co-ordination

I always remember in one of my first project installing a new kitchen, being called by the plumber who was needed before the carpenter could do his job (the plumber was the equivalent of the first domino, if it fell, all the following ones would fall as well).

On site the plumber told me (he was supposed to start his work two days later) that he couldn’t make it before another 3-4 weeks…. What a disaster!

I couldn’t hold the whole project for an extra 4 weeks as my client was waiting to go back into her house). So I had to find a new good plumber in one day… the client wasn’t aware of this and my new plumber arrived on time and did a great job! After the schedule of work has been established, it can be put into action. The different trade are coming to do their job at a specific time. I co-ordinate the project and make sure everything is done according to the plan.

I am always available to go on site to answer questions and make sure that the work is done according to our high standards.

I take all the stress away from the client who just has to wait until it is all finished as I will resolve any arising problem.

Installation

When the electrics (second fix), flooring, decorating and other work are finished, it is time to go to the penultimate stage, the installation. In here I include the curtains fitting. Curtains have to be fitted at the end when there is no more risk of damaging them in any way. And furniture is brought in and installed at their determined position. The different accessories also come into place.

Snagging

This is the last stage of a project, checking that everything is at the exact place, that everything is perfect (that no wall has been scratched during the installation of the furniture etc.). This is a detail phase where every square cm of the property is scrutinized before we can call the client in.

I hope this helps you to understand the design process and how it is to work with an interior designer, and more specifically Emmanuelle Lemoine Interiors. Our aim is to create beautiful interiors for people to enjoy their life in style in a painless process. In another word, we want happy clients only!

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