The biggest myths about interior designers dispelled

Giada Schioppa is an architect and interior designer at Fresssh Image. Here she provides her views on common misconceptions associated with interior designers with some top tips if you’re considering employing one.

For those managing hotels, restaurants and bars and thinking about changing the design or look and feel of a venue, employing an interior designer might well be a wise choice that can save you a lot of time and hassle. However, to get the best out of working well with a designer, there are some things to consider before approaching one:

  • Decide on a design brief – putting as much of your vision down on paper as you can
  • Do we have brand guidelines in place for the designer to work to?
  • What do we want the role of our interior designer be?
  • What added value will an interior designer add to the project?

Importance of interior design

Interior design is essential for hospitality venues to ensure their customers keep coming back. The very nature of the industry is to make your guests as comfortable as possible – they are the ones who are spending time in the surroundings that you’ve worked hard to put together.

Ultimately, alongside customer service, the look and feel of the hotel, restaurant or bar style defines how your guests will rate and review it, which is why hospitality owners cannot take interior design for granted.

Interior design is an accessible service but can be steeped in misconceptions which discourage people from maximising the potential of their venue and its brand.                               

Myth 1: interior designers are expensive and unaffordable

Most people think that hiring an interior designer is costly and excessive, but this is a huge misconception. A good interior designer will work within your budget, whatever the size!

Anybody can be an interior designer if they have an unlimited budget, particularly with all of today’s modern tools such as magazines, websites, Pinterest and Instagram. But there’s a difference between having a good eye for design and being an interior designer who has had years of training, project experience and access to supplier showrooms.

Many interior designers will have deals with suppliers meaning discounts may be easier to obtain if you have any particular furnishings in mind and interior designers can give smart, expert advice to achieve your vision in an often more cost-effective way.

For those with a smaller venue, don’t assume you can’t afford an interior designer. Interior designers can help you to avoid expensive mistakes and common stumbling blocks that occur in the hospitality industry, such as poorly designed restaurant floor plans.

Myth 2: “it’s my way or the highway”

An interior designer’s job is to provide a service to their client. A big mistake is to think that interior designers won’t listen to you and will impose their own style on you and your venue. Often at the end of projects, we have clients telling us how happy they are with the work, but admitted that before we started working together, they were worried we wouldn’t listen to them. This is never the case.

Even if some interior designers are perceived to be rigid or hard to deal with, the attitude of ‘it’s my way or the highway’ is actually rarely seen. A good designer will never let their own taste cloud the needs of the client. It’s back to trust and a good relationship between the designer and the client.

A good interior designer will listen to your ideas, optimise them, explain what is possible and what is not and then turn them into a reality. Good communications are integral throughout this process so you can see your visions developing. One of the first steps is to prepare mood boards and provide inspirational images to help you decide what you like – and more importantly what you don’t like – and evaluating how it fits into the vision and brand guide lines you have already in place.

Most restaurant and hotel owners hold on to their interior designer and use them again and again as the brand develops and grows. Building a good and positive working relationship is paramount and hugely beneficial.

Myth 3: interior design is only about fabric and furnishings

The effect of TV shows such as DIY SOS and The Great Interior Design Challenge is that interior design is often reduced to ‘superficial’ details such as cushions, wallpaper and paint charts. While these are all essential finishing touches to a room, designers are more than just decorators.

A huge amount of education and talent goes into becoming a professional interior designer. We are also trained in up-to-date specialist software to create floor plans and architectural designs. Hand drafting is required for vision boards and when a more creative, free-flowing approach is needed. Accredited designers have an array of professional and practical skills that go beyond fabric swatches and colour wheels. They know how to get the very best out of a space and can plan and design a space to maximum potential.

Myth 4: the design won’t reflect our brand

We know how essential it is for the interior design of your venue to reflect your brand image. Part of the expertise of an interior designer is to submerge themselves into a brand and find out what drives it. This requires listening, empathy and understanding as it’s crucial for that philosophy to be translated into a design. To do this, designers often start backwards and work from the vision of what the client wants the space to achieve.

It’s no use if your venue looks like it belongs on the cover of a glossy magazine if it’s not a true reflection of the brand and has no heart or depth. It needs to capture your brand’s personality and story – because you’ve worked hard to get it there and it’s why you started the venture in the first place. It’s your vision that’s all important.

Myth 5: a contractor can do the interior design too

Some people think that if you have a good contractor, you don’t need an interior designer.

Even though the roles of an interior designer, architect, contractor and engineer might seem similar on the face of it, they are fundamentally different and are important at different stages of the refurbishment/design project.

A client starts the process by appointing an interior designer who plans and manages the project. That designer then appoints a contractor who takes the plans and executes them by hiring the sub-contractors to make them happen. The interior designer co-ordinates the project so everything comes together seemingly seamlessly adding any finishing touches at the end.

Myth 6:  interior designers will only use what’s on trend

Sure, interior design is aware of what’s on trend. The most fashionable shades of colour and types of material are often at the forefront of our minds. If ‘on-trend’ is on the brief, then this is what will be delivered. But quality interior design needs to stand the test of time, as no venue will be refurbishing on a seasonal changing basis.

At Fresssh Image, we create design solutions for hospitality businesses to best meet their needs. As part of the first stage of the design process, we offer a free site evaluation and sit down with owners to discuss their needs and aspirations for the venue.

By listening to customers, this allows us to understand any current challenges and then deliver a tailored solution – whether it be a full refurbishment or refreshment of the venue design.

If you’re thinking of employing an interior designer, here are a few handy tips to consider:                                   

  • Make sure your brief is clear and that you know exactly what you want to achieve;
  • Consult your brand guidelines and make sure they’re up to date. Present them to your interior designer so that they know exactly what your business stands for
  • Be clear and upfront on your budget! This avoids potential problems in the future;
  • Expect your interior designer to visit your venue. This may seem obvious, but they need to live and breathe it;
  • Look at their portfolio – not all designers are the same and their style might not suit your brand and many will specialise in certain industries or even styles.

Giada Schioppa is architect and interior designer at Fresssh Image

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