Judith Harrop on Interior Design
Last November I showcased my business at the Harrogate International Centre. The Homebuilding and Renovating Show is directed at those involved in building, extending and redeveloping their homes. Products and services exhibited there are to do with all aspects of the building process. Architects, surveyors, timber frame specialists, heating, ventilating, roofing, and a whole host of building materials, cladding, insulation, render. It’s not particularly pretty. Why then, when immersed in plans, footings and construction techniques, would you want to be distracted by an interior designer – all curtains and cushions – amidst the rugged face of house building? And there-in lies the problem… Interior Design is a misunderstood discipline.
Stateside, the specialist involved in your décor is known as an interior decorator, in the UK the latter is widely interpreted as someone with a paint brush and colourful overalls. Google it. You’ll get a confusion of sponsored ads for interior design, some dot coms for interior decorators (American) and some links to decorating contractors.
OK so why make the distinction?
Well many UK ‘interior designers’ are, in essence, interior ‘decorators’, which in itself isn’t a problem. They are an imaginative and creative bunch who deal with the furniture, furnishings and decoration of a room or rooms and have hod loads of beautiful fabrics, wallcoverings, floorings and other delightful interior product samples within their showpiece showrooms. They help you do the “colouring in”, dressing the space, making it beautiful. I do that too and I’m very good at it. But it’s not all I do.
A good interior designer should be able to offer expert advice based on experience, education and creativity. In addition, managing an interior project from the design concept through to implementation requires organisation and responsibility, knowledge of the construction industry, its procedures and working stages, and an understanding of the legal consequences of getting things wrong.
The key is for us to be involved at an early stage, work with your builder and architect and bring our own skills to your project before expensive mistakes are made.
Much of what we design and suggest have implications on the early stages of the build or “first fix”. It might be little things such as which way your windows open, or where you are going to put your lamps, but all these little things add up. Once your “first fix” is finished and your walls are plastered ready for painting, it’s too late to look for inspired advice for your home’s new look. Either there will be work to undo or lots of ‘could have beens’
I recently met a potential new client. The first meeting is always free of charge as a bit of a getting to know you session. She showed me plans for a vertical extension to her bungalow. I explained to her that she would have a third less usable floor space in each of her bedrooms than she thought. This was due to the style of the roof. She hadn’t understood this since she wasn’t experienced at reading plans. She saved the cost of submission to the planning department and had the architect redesign based on her new understanding of what was achievable.
So this is what we were doing at Harrogate, explaining the benefits of a link between the architect and builder and the client. We look at the interior space in a different way from you and your architect and then we consult with the rest of the team to get the best results the first time. This way we really do save people money.
Spread the word, “Interior Design: there’s much more to it than cushions!”
Judith Harrop is an Interior Designer based in West Yorkshire
Follow her on twitter: @judithharrop