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The Interior Designer Dilemma

06 Mar 2014

Tips & Advice

With so many ID firms on the market, and new ones setting up shop on an almost daily basis, what’s a homeowner to do? To aid you with your selection process, here are some good general rules of thumb for choosing an interior designer.

The Interior Designer Dilemma

Settle on a Style

Even before you start sifting through the myriad of designers out there, clarify in your own mind what sort of style you’re aiming for. A clear brief will aid your interior designer immensely.

Though most Singaporean homeowners choose the safe option of ‘contemporary’, nostalgic vintage décor and the so-called ‘industrial chic’ look are attracting a steadily growing following. Other themes include ‘tropical resort’, ‘country cottage’, ‘shabby chic’, ‘French provincial’, English colonial’ and countless others.

On the other hand, don’t feel you need to be enslaved to a single style or theme. Feel free to mix and match styles – especially if your partner’s taste is diametrically opposed to yours. A good interior designer will show you how to harmoniously blend different themes into a uniquely eclectic style.

Once you decide on a style, you can then seek out an interior designer whose portfolio reflects it.

Scrutinise Credentials Closely

In Singapore, interior designers possess wildly varying sets of credentials, from ‘hardly any’ to ‘very impressive’. Needless to say, those with formal training in their field and the accompanying certificates, diplomas and degrees will inspire more confidence in you. Don’t be shy to enquire about the credentials of your interior designer, and scrutinise portfolios carefully. Make sure that a designer’s body of work is really his or her work – and not the collective portfolio of the company.

Look for accreditations such as the HDB Registered Contractor, BCA accreditation, CaseTrust certification and RADAC certification, all of which provide assurance that you have engaged a reputable firm.

Listen to Others

Never underestimate the value of what your friends, family and neighbours have to say. First-hand experience speaks far more loudly than a glossy corporate brochure.

When picking the brain of a ‘victor’ or a ‘victim’ (yes, renovation horror stories abound), it’s good to ask not only about the quality of workmanship in their homes, but what steps were taken in terms of project supervision and quality control. While some homeowners are looking for a turnkey solution in which, after the initial brief and approved design, they play no part other than signing the cheque, others prefer to be far more involved. Decide which kind of homeowner you are, and state your desired degree of involvement right from the start. This will save a lot of misunderstandings along the way, and can have quite an impact on the cost, as well.

Measure the Chemistry

A good rapport with your interior designer is essential for a good outcome. You should keep on looking until you find a designer who’s on ‘the same page’ as you. Otherwise, communication will be a struggle and compromise is inevitable.

A good interior designer will get the gist of what you want, remember seemingly small incidental requests and incorporate them, and not attempt to talk you into anything that you are uncomfortable with. The constant point of reference should be your brief, and the subsequently approved design. That’s not to say you can’t change your mind – but if you do, a good designer will remind you of your initial brief and the desired outcome, making sure that you’re entirely happy with the change of plans before implementing it.

The Interior Designer Dilemma 2

Allow Sufficient Time

Timeframes and deadlines are a common source of friction between design firms and their clients. It is important to bear in mind that interior design projects can take between one month (or less) and two years, according to the job scope and extent of the renovations required. Never apply pressure on a designer to rush your project.

Shortcuts taken to meet an unrealistic deadline can result in fundamental, recurring problems. Plastered walls painted over too soon can result in cracking, chalking and peeling. Skipping the application of a second top coat on timber decking can result in premature weathering and costly repainting. A hasty job will never have a happy client.

One you’ve chosen your interior designer, good luck. May you and your home live together happily ever after – or at least until the next renovation.


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