If I had a pound for every time I’ve been referred to as an interior designer in things like interviews or features, I’d have already purchased every luxury item that turns my head. It’s something that’s difficult for people to get their head around – the fact that I write about interior design on my blog and yet, I’m not an interior designer by trade doesn’t seem to add up. The other thing that I always get is that people automatically assume that becoming an interior designer is my ‘end goal’ of this here blog. As though having a blog in and of itself isn’t somehow seen as a practical career path (well, fair enough, I never said it was) or that a blog should really only be a stepping stone on to other more lofty goals (not that I don’t have goals but really… why?).
The truth is, despite many protestations in the past from well-meaning friends and acquaintances, I don’t consider myself an interior designer nor do I have any intention of becoming one. It’s not that I don’t think I’m any good at design. Or that I have not created a ‘worthy-enough’ home. Or that I don’t have a piece of paper from a recognised body saying I am. Nope, these aren’t the reasons why I don’t consider myself an interior designer. It’s simply because I understand what interior designers do and I have far too much respect for the field to say that what I’ve done in my own home is enough to call myself an interior designer by trade.
The fact is, interior designers do a lot more than just pretty up a home. Well, they do that too but that’s just the end product of a lot of work and a lot of communication and organisation with a client. And the client is the most important factor of why I don’t use that term to describe myself. When you are working with your own home, you have all the time in the world, you know your own style well and can adapt and change things as you go. With a client? Not so much.
So I thought today, I’d chat to one of my blogging friends, Karen from Making Spaces who is in fact, an interior designer by trade. She works with clients, has a number of amazing projects in her portfolio and who, alongside Fiona Duke of Fiona Duke Interiors, has just started the Interior Design Collective which we’ll be talking about in a bit.
I thought it’d be interesting for you guys to see what an interior designer really does and whether or not it’s practical to think of getting one. Do you have to be posh and rich to afford one? How much say do you get in the final look? How long will it all take? What do interior designers actually do?? Let’s find out…
Who are you and how did you get into interior design?
My name is Karen Knox, I’m a 38-year-old mum, worse half, interior designer and writer. Some people might know me as Making Spaces, but it’s all one and the same. My background is in dance, which is something I started aged 5 and trained in until Degree level, which became my career for over a decade. But I’ve kind of always designed, but mainly for myself and family. Then friends would ask for advice and ideas. So after the Tories got in back in 2010 and shocked everyone in arts and education, I made the tricky decision to take a different career path.
In 2014 I started to wonder if I could make this interior design lark a reality. I ummed and ahhed for a while about whether to re-train or not and decided against it, mainly because I was impatient and I’m a do-er. So I just started, crossed my fingers and worked my butt off to build a portfolio. I built a website, set up a Houzz account and all the social media gubbins and Making Spaces was launched in January 2015.
What’s the best way to choose an interior designer to work with?
There are so many things to consider really. Location is first and foremost. You really do need someone local. Remote design can be great, and I offer that as a service which has been really successful, but for interior design, nothing beats having someone there in the space with you. Look at their portfolio, and actually look. Because not all designers are the same. It’s a creative industry and each person has their own style and way of working.
Then there’s cost. Some designers might baulk at a budget of £3k where as I relish the opportunity to make good design accessible to all whilst creating something unique. Your first consultation should give you a good indication of how the designer works. Clear communication and defined roles are absolutely key to a successful project. You don’t have to be best mates with your designer but getting on certainly makes a big difference. Your designer is there to not only make sure the project moves forward to completion, but they’re there to hold your hand when the proverbial hits the fan. There’s always a moment in every project where something goes wrong but they’re there to keep the momentum going.
Do I need to be rich or posh to hire an interior designer?
No. And no. I’m neither of those, although I certainly wouldn’t mind being a little better off financially (who wouldn’t?). Most people I’ve worked with have been families on regular incomes in three/four bedroom houses. People just don’t have the time to sit down and spend hours planning a room these days. Working full time, family commitments and just running a home is hard work, so a lot of people contact me just to get things moving. I put all my charges on my website and can work by the hour or by the day. So it’s completely up to you how much you want to spend on my role.
Hiring an interior designer for the design alone isn’t expensive. I can normally get an average-sized room concept, layout and shopping list complete in a day – two maximum depending on how many changes you need to make. The expense lies in the project management and coordination. Let’s say a living room refurb takes 12 weeks from initial meeting to completion. That’s 12 weeks where I’m going to be designing, planning, organising, sourcing, dealing with trades… to get your room complete. That’s the expensive bit.
How exactly does the process work? What should I expect?
I always recommend a two-hour consultation to start with. This gives us plenty of time to meet, for me to see the property, discuss your needs and requirements and go into more detail how I can help. At this stage, I also complete a site survey so I’m able to take the room’s measurements and details away for any future work. For some people, they find the consultation and my initial ideas so helpful, they’re happy to crack on with the rest themselves, so for the people that just need the reassurance their ideas will work or just need a little push or a tweak to get them started, working with an interior designer is very cost effective. For those that need more, I recommend they begin with booking a full day. I use this day to collate a private Pinterest board with general room ideas. I draw up a to-scale room plan and begin sourcing products that fit the brief. Once the ideas start to come together, I begin to create an electronic mood board.
A second meeting is then arranged where I present my initial design concept. Then we take things from there. Some people feel confident enough to manage the project themselves from this point and others prefer me to coordinate the work, book the trades and manage the project as a whole. I’m normally able to bag my clients a good discount from various places, which I pass on to my client. In fact, I’ve managed to save some people enough to cover my fee. So it can actually be more cost effective to hire a designer overall.
Highs and lows are to be expected too. The start of any project is full of energy as it’s all ideas and inspiration, then there’s the slower and trickier middle bit where you have to unravel everything in a room in order to put things back together again… the middle bit takes the longest and this is where energy and enthusiasm can waiver. But then there’s the bit where you finally see your room come back to life, from a 2D mood board on a screen to a real life space to live in. This bit is super rewarding and makes all the hard work worthwhile. And just when you swore you’d never do another room again, you finally see what all that hard work achieved and are itching to do the next one.
How do I determine whether I need the help of an interior designer?
There are just so many reasons people have contacted me before. Those people out there who are self-confessed procrastinators, or those that just don’t have the time. People who have different ideas to their partner (some stealth marriage counselling) or just have too many ideas and feel overwhelmed with the amount of choice out there. Decision-making definitely seems to be a problem for some people and having someone objective and neutral to take that away helps to maintain a level of harmony at home. Storage problems seem to be a biggie (which normally means you need to downsize on actual stuff) and sometimes people just need a fresh set of eyes. Alternatively, they know exactly what they want, but just don’t know how to get there so need help with the practical stuff like coordination, product sourcing and project management. This job really does entail so many different things which are why I really don’t like the term “interior designer” because it kind of minimises the job we actually do.
How long should I expect the whole process to take?
Again depending on the room, it can take anywhere from 3-4 weeks for a simple redecoration and refresh, up to 6 months for several rooms and longer for a full house refurbishment. It really does all depend on the amount of work that is required, how many trades are needed and how many changes are made along the way. Period properties always throw up a few fun curveballs too, so always be prepared to add time and budget to your planning of those projects. But not one project has been the same as the last so far. Every house is different, every client is different, every brief is different and every design is different.
What is The Interior Design Collective?
Ah, I’m really excited about this. Fiona Duke, a super talented interior designer based in Essex and I have been planning it for a while now.
Accessible, client-led Interior Design has never been in greater demand. Interiors are the new fashion for the 30-50 something crowd. Not only that, “E-Design” is a rapidly growing business, and advances in technology have allowed online design services to be successfully brought to the market, making interior design more accessible, convenient and affordable. However, there are still restrictions in this modern-day digital age and fully interactive, face to face communication holds many benefits. I receive emails and enquiries from people outside of Leeds all the time but I instinctively know when a project requires someone there in person.
The Interior Design Collective (IDC) is UK-based network of specially selected, freelance Interior Design Creatives launching in September. The IDC enables homeowners to find a designer locally who can help. Someone who approaches their work in the same way, with similar working practices, ethos and charges. We have twelve designers in the community so far from Northumberland to Devon and Leeds to London, but we are still searching as would love to reach thirty designers spanning the UK by the end of next year.
This all sounds incredibly exciting! Best of luck, Karen!
I think it really goes to show that just about anyone could hire an interior design professional to help move along their project and their involvement can be as little or as much as you require, whether you have a large budget or a more modest one. Would hiring an interior designer be something you would consider for your home?
All images copyright Karen Knox, Making Spaces and used with kind permission.