I thought I’d write something professional and useful for once. So bear with me.
I’ve handled a couple of modest interior design jobs recently. And I thought I’d share with my fellow architects a few tips that could get you through a similar challenge with the best possible results. Although, from a broader point of view, these tips are applicable for everyone who works in design.
There’s no substantial difference between architecture and interior design, except maybe that what we do is cruder and less insane. The majority of career architects I know are hesitant about getting mired in the great expanses of the amoebic field that is interior design. Personally speaking, what I find unsettling about interior design is handling loose items (like furniture, etc). The way I see it, architecture is structured and stationary. Yes, doors revolve and windows swing and skylight slides and sun screens revolve; and yet all these elements are still structured and static, in their own way. Interior design, on the other hand, deals with a menagerie of loose and disconnected items. And there’s nothing more infuriating to me like fussing over things endlessly. I know an interior designer of a hotel who had to change an artifact behind a reception desk FIVE TIMES before he settled down for something less aesthetically attractive that what he’d started with. As far as I see it, taking out women shopping might be more bearable. Sorry, I’m not your best gay friend (no offense to gays)…
Anyway, enough with the drivels, here goes:
1- Function: Is far less important in interior design than in mainstream architecture. Set your theme and don’t shy away from trying something bold.
2- Perspectives (or 'artistic illustrations', as Gulf News likes to call them) are your friends: But you should define all the materials you are using in advance. You are entitled for a little wild thought-experiments while doodling, but whatever you show the client has to be tangible and solid. (And backed up with materials). And it follows from here that you should know your materials in advance and be prepared. Think of your materials as your vocabulary, can you write well without vocabulary? (I’ve heard this metaphor from a very mediocre and under-achieving interior designer).
3- The devil is in the details: Except here you are going to have to deal with the devil. You should have a strategy for detailing that covers all ambiguous areas, without ending up exhausted and behind schedule. Walk through your design front to back, back to front, top to bottom, left to right, in the dark, in the sunshine, like a child, like an adult, with a critical eye, blind, on wheelchair…etc... A good finished product is one that is universal in its appeal.
4- You are going to have to be persuasive. No client will accept ink on glossy papers without a supportive, passionate spiel. And the initial No, (especially in our part of the world), doesn’t always mean No: it could mean a) I like this design, you’re a good designer, but I’m a bit of a spoiled brat and I need some coaxing to proffer my consent. b) I like this design, but I’m not going to sound cheap and easy. You’re going to have to work a little harder. c) I like this design, but I’m not sure. I really am not sure. I’m hesitant. I’m ambivalent. Oh, God. I’m anxious. I feel weak and hollow and defenseless and I need reassurances. I need support. d) I like your design, but I never buy from the first shop ‘round the corner. Try harder…and so on. It’s incumbent upon you, and you owe it to your design, to exhaust all these possibilities before you give up and surrender to another round of doodling.
5- Respect budget: I always wonder why the fuck most construction projects overshoot budget (especially in our part of the world). And in order to understand why the fuck most construction projects overshoot budget you should take all factors into account: strike down price escalations (and this has indeed been a serious problem in the last 5 years, with the mad vacillation of all raw materials), put aside changes and additions and expansions and upgrades, and you still end up with incompetent budgeting. Or maybe it’s a deliberate, wishful, superstitious act meant to entrap clients and then after they realized they’re going have to pay more it’ll be too late to backtrack….. For whatever reason: Interior Design jobs are the most susceptible to budget overshoots. And for a good reason: pretty and desirable materials aren’t cheap. The old trick of decking out a building in affordable materials and making sure it still looks pretty five years down the line isn’t only overrated: it’s also risky. More often than not, cheap materials mean there are no warrantees and no qualified staff for installation. Be honest about budget limits upfront.
6- Be humble: assertiveness doesn’t always mean downright condescension. If your client is a nomad who’d struck luck and made it big and his taste in cars and clothes makes your stomach turn; then tough shit. You signed up for the job. You should know how to sell your idea without talking down to your client.
7- Be part of the contractor selection process: Meet them face-to-face and make sure you’re on the same page. Communication is crucial here. No matter how well your design is thought-out and detailed on paper, if the contractor and his foremen can’t understand (or accept) your verbal instructions and comments at site, the finished product loses a significant part of its quality.
8- Ask for mock-ups: If you’re still unsure about certain areas in the design, ask the contractor to make mock-ups of them (2 x 2 square, or 2 linear) and show it to your client. Mock-ups are of a great assistance when you have repetitive elements in your design. And they help everybody envisage how things are going to look like eventually.
Finally, make sure you have a plan B always on the ready: basically to severe all your professional contacts and drop from public eye for a couple of weeks. This will come in handy when it turns out that your design actually sucks when the job is completed.