Category Archives: Interior Design

Ethical Interior Design

Interior design is not necessarily an industry you would associate with being particularly ‘green’ or ethical – and with good reason, because it’s not.

This industry, much like fashion, moves inexorably with what’s in vogue in any given season. Interior designers and their clients alike perpetuate a consumerist attitude, moving rapidly from one set of furniture or materials to the next, paying little attention to what happens to the discarded parts.

Fortunately, the tides are slowly changing. Designers are realising that they, too, are responsible for the environmental problems that threaten to overwhelm us. Our clients are realising that they should be as discriminating in their design choices as they are with their food and fashion.

As is often the case, fashion has led the charge in making us all wake up to the fact that where materials are made is important, as are the conditions in which they are made. If your hand-carved wooden table felled a tree in a dwindling forest and then barely made the carpenter enough to eat for a day, maybe it’s time to reassess your choices.

I encourage you – whether you’re a designer or looking to have the interior of your space redesigned – to be highly selective about the materials and pieces you use.

There are many ecologically responsible materials and products that are just as attractive and durable as their non-eco counterparts, and they do good to the world, instead of harm:

  • Coconut and bamboo wood, harvested from sustainable forests
  • Biodegradable upholstery
  • Organic bedding
  • Chemical-free foam
  • Eco-friendly, biodegradable plastics
  • Non-toxic paints

Stop buying cheap and nasty pieces from Ikea. When they break and you throw them away, oftentimes they become non-degrading landfill. You are contributing waste instead of wealth. Make good choices – for yourself, for your children. Do your small part for our future.


How To Keep Interior Design Clients Happy

After working in this industry for so many years, I am well acquainted with all the things that can go oh-so-wrong when working with clients. Yes, there are many occasions when everything goes smoothly and there’s no conflict whatsoever – but you probably know that these are the exception, not the rule.

As in any relationship, the key to success is clear communication, right from the very beginning.

It’s completely unrealistic to expect that each client is going to fit into a cookie standard operating procedure, and if you approach them that way, you’re going to lose their business and referrals. You even run the risk of getting sued if you don’t manage your client relationships carefully.

So here are the key things you should be doing to ensure that your clients come to see you as a trusted advisor and friend to the family.

1. Set your boundaries from the beginning.

Be crystal clear about what you will and won’t work on.

If you don’t do water features, tell them that, so that 3 months down the line, project nearly finished, they don’t get huffy that you won’t add a fountain to the corner of the living room.

2. Get comfortable talking about budgets.

You need to know what the client’s budget is. You can’t do your job if you don’t know how much money is in the pot.

Talk to them about these even before you agree to work together. it’s the responsible thing to do and no one ends up with any surprises.

I would also recommend charging a flat fee, quoted according to the scope of the job. Hourly rates are a quicksand for goodwill.

3. Explain your process and responsibilities.

Most clients think they know how an interior design job is going to play out. But the fact is, usually they don’t.

So be up front about how you work, and what they can expect from you day to day. It’s also important to discuss whether you are being responsible for all, some or none of the purchasing decisions.

Encourage them to give honest feedback and to be involved in the process, but make sure you’ve covered all your basis before you set foot in that house.

These are simple business practices.

But they are often overlooked when they can give you and your business a much-needed layer of protection. They also make you seem more professional and organised. Clients appreciate knowing exactly what the deal is, and it breeds goodwill (and referrals) to be completely honest and upfront with them.

A Brief History of Interior Design

Interior design has been an industry from the very earliest pages of history.

The renowned architects of ancient India also functioned as interior designers, styling the interiors of the spaces they designed, as well as creating the original vision.

In more recent times, however, interior design has become a real profession only in the last 100 years or so. As the Industrial Revolution swept Europe and the Americas, there was suddenly a new middle class, flush with resources and ambition.

These people wanted stylish homes, they wanted to entertain, and they wanted to be vaunted as arbiters of style by their peers.

What better to way than to show your taste and panache than by throwing fabulous soirees in your fabulous house?

Truly, it was the upholsterers who caught the changing winds to begin with.

They quickly saw the opportunity to expand their services, and were soon offering the contracted services of builders, joiners, artists and furniture and textile designers.

The advent of department stores only served to feed the frenzy even more, and by the end of the 19th Century, interior designers were comfortably ensconced in the respectable merchant class.

As the practice of designing one’s home gained ever more popularity, and as more women began slowly to join the profession, there was a shift from the traditionally formal themes installed in houses to more personalised and vibrant settings.

After the Second World War, the Western world went into a frenzy, with people often decorating and redecorating every five to ten years.

The industry standardized, the theories expanded and people loved it all the more.

These days, most interior designers specialise in either residential work, commercial spaces, or entertainment spaces. Globalisation has meant that there are ever more influences to draw from, cross-cultural blendings to explore, and inspiration to be found in ever more corners.