Design Scheme

Design Scheme - 10 Points for a Successful Project

Before I studied Interior Design I could envisage how I wanted a finished project to look, but I struggled with how to achieve it. Throughout my studies and, more importantly, my career - I gained the understanding on how to bring any interior design scheme to fruition.

In this blog I would like to look at the way I approach a Project Journey, and help others understand the elements to a successful interior design project. If you are brave enough to endeavor on a project on your own, and looking at creating a design scheme, or just curious - I hope this will help!

1. Design Vision

Before I create a design scheme my first step is to understand a client's individual personality and how the room's function should reflect their particular lifestyle. The best way to achieve this is to have the initial design consultation at the client's home. I find it useful to ask as many questions as possible, to pick up any clues as to their preferred style. This could be anything from an existing piece of furniture they love or a favourite piece of art. This is my rock! I have learned they like/love it, so I stick with it. This spells the concept for the design scheme.

Sometimes it can be a challenge for some clients to know what they want; a way to get the ball rolling is to ask if they want to visit a gallery or furniture showroom. When first meeting a client I use my New Client Enquiry form. This acts as a foundation we can refer back to as the project evolves, helping us to bring clarity on what we are setting out to achieve.

At this point I find it useful to set out a guide project timeline, as in the example below. This helps to keep structure to the project for both the client and myself.

Example Project Timeline Example Project Timeline

2. Space Planning

Once I have established how the client wishes to use the room/s, and have an understanding on their lifestyle, I will begin space planning and the furniture layout. To do this I will carry out a full measured survey of the room/house, including any windows/doors, lighting, electric and plumbing points. With these measurements I will draw up the existing plans, using AutoCAD.

The space planning process is gaining a full understanding of the spatial capabilities of the existing structure of a room/building. My goal is to maximize the useable space. This is developed with a considered approach to scale, proportion & most importantly… my imagination. My aim is to create a space that flows harmoniously and enhances the way in which my clients live.

3. Drawing Package

Once the spatial and furniture layout has been approved I will work on the drawings for the services, for example electrical, lighting or plumbing. I normally draw all plans/ elevations and detailed drawings whilst I am preparing the design scheme; as I will need to factor in the specifications of products I am planning to present to the client. For example, will the ceiling be able to carry the weight of a chandelier. There are many components to consider, and each project brings its individual challenges.

For the purpose of this blog please see example drawings of a small lounge project below:

Small Lounge Project Example 1 Small Lounge Project Example 1
Small Lounge Project Example 2 Small Lounge Project Example 2

4. Design Scheme

Whilst working on the drawing package I will begin working on the design scheme. As I will have completed the furniture layouts, I will know what dimensions each element of the room should be - including furniture, lighting and cabinetry. I am fortunate enough to have a fully stocked library at my studio (click here to see more), and use this tool to create moodboards. Here in Beaconsfield, I am a short drive away to the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour – which means if I can’t source something from my library, I know I will find it there!

Here is an example moodboard, which corresponds with the example estimate and drawings in this blog:

Example Fabric & Finishes Moodboard Example Fabric & Finishes Moodboard

5. Client Presentation

After the completion of the design scheme and drawings I will present these to my client. At this point I will note any points the client makes, even subtle facial gestures can really help – so I make a note of that too! Generally speaking I am able to get the design 90% right, but – it’s okay not to… the design process is a developmental one. During the presentation new ideas from the client can come into play. For example a client may like the design scheme, but may want another choice for a particular element of the design. This is why I will normally ask for the presentation to take place at my studio – where we have plenty of resources at our fingertips to use.

I find it very useful to have "returnable" samples for the main pieces of upholstery and/or curtains/blinds. These are much larger pieces of fabric, than the normal sample format and help to give the client a much clearer idea of how the fabric looks and feels. The same goes for finishes for larger furniture pieces or cabinetry - for example wood veneer (click here to see my take on veneers and marquetry). Of course, after the presentation these are sent back to the relevant suppliers.

If there are any adjustments to be made, I will carry out the extra work and re-present the design scheme and plans for client approval.

6. Scope of Works

If there is building work involved, I will create a Builders Scope of Works. This detailed document communicates each item the builder will need to cost, and relates directly to the approved drawings and design scheme. I normally send this document out to tender with 2-3 Builders/Tradesmen. I keep building work separate from my Estimate, as the contract will usually be between the client and the building contractor.

I will thoroughly check each item has been costed correctly in the builders quotation, and pass the document on to the client.

7. The Estimate

On approval of the design scheme and drawings, I will produce an Estimate document that produces costs for each individual element within the design, room by room. This will include items such as bespoke cabinetry through to cushion trim details. This can be a lengthy exercise! At the beginning of the project, the client will set a budget - I need to make sure my proposed design scheme will keep in that budget.

My aim is to give my client their ultimate interior design dream, however – to achieve this I need to be mindful where to use the budget to create the desired affect. For example, if the client loves a fabric for curtains that is particularly expensive - an option could be to use this fabric on the front of a cushion instead. There are countless ways and means of juggling items in the design scheme to achieve the design vision, and keep within budget. On the estimate each item is clearly described, with sizes, finishes images and cost. See an example of an estimate below.

8. Procurement

On approval of the Estimate & all drawings I will place all the orders for the client's project. These are carefully coordinated, scheduled & closely monitored to ensure a seamless process. At this stage I will also produce all fabric & finish schedules for all soft furnishings and wallpapers to all suppliers & manufacturers. All products for each project are stored at a secure warehouse with 24 hour CCTV. I personally check each item when it is delivered to ensure there has been no damage during transportation.

9. Project Management

This is where your organistational skills will be tested. Every element of the design scheme needs to be translated to each individual tradesman, and then a carefully orchestrated timetable put into place to make sure at each stage of the installation - the correct sequence of events has taken place.

Now, this is easier said than done as I can prepare the schedule, but when one cog in the wheel gets stuck, it's my job to find a solution - quickly. Sometimes there will be multiple cogs stuck; but by being prepared for this eventuality will stand you in good stead. Fail to prepare - prepare to fail!

Having a mutually positive relationship between client and contractor determines the success of each project. It's my job to maintain a positive environment and help keep up everyone’s energy level and excitement about the project. The process is a fluid one - understanding, planning and organization will all pay off at the end of the project with a happy client.

10. Installation

Once all of the tradesmen have completed works; installation of all furniture and lighting will take place. I oversee every installation using an Installation Schedule, which I prepare for the white glove installation contractor. Each piece of furniture is carefully placed according to the pre-determined plans.

At the end of a project it is important to understand all the work that has been carried out needs time to settle. For example cracks may appear in freshly painted walls (especially if it's a new build!), and furniture will need to adjust to the rooms temperature and humidity - this can expose flaws that previously would not have been seen. For this reason I allow for a 3 month snagging visit to make sure my client is completely satisfied with the results.

If you are seeking an interior designer, planning on undertaking some home-improvements yourself, or perhaps interested in learning more about the profession; I hope these 10-points for a successful project will help you to understand the most important aspects of delivering a design scheme. If you have any questions I am here to help - feel free to contact me.