What do interior designers do every day? Well, you might imagine us creating flat lays, styling shelves, or dressed in our best and toasting clients in their newly finished homes. Sounds glamorous, right?
I’d love to tell you that all of the above is part of our daily routine, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, these activities do happen occasionally, but between you and me, they make up only a small portion of our time… about 5%!
The other 95% of our time requires taking a lot of hard work off our clients’ plates. In fact, for every beautiful space you see, there are several hundreds of hours of work done by our team behind the scenes. An interior designer is involved in every stage of a custom new build, a renovation, or a home furnishing project, not just the steps that require hands-on design work.
To take you inside our daily lives — and show you how we can support your next project — I’m breaking down each step of the design process, including the 5 most common design myths and what really happens behind the scenes. Get ready to see a whole different world than the one on social media…
1. The Exploration Phase
Myth: Designers duplicate your inspiration photos.
Why It’s False: I hear this myth often, and I can safely say we never (ever) take an inspirational photo and duplicate it. Why? Because replicating another family’s home isn’t going to create the personal, elevated living experience that comes from a home designed just for you. When you work with an interior designer, you have the opportunity to see your family’s tastes and values come to life in spaces that fit you like a glove. Who wants to trade that for a knock-off version? I wouldn’t!
What We Really Do: At the start of a project, we get to know you really well. We ask detailed questions around your lifestyle, likes, dislikes, wants, and needs. Inspirational photos help us understand your style and aesthetic, but they are part of this bigger conversation. Then, we create detailed drawings and select design elements that are tailored unique to you, from flooring to lighting, hardware to furniture.
2. The Design Phase
Myth: Designers are only involved in picking out materials, furnishings, and decor.
Why It’s False: Ohhhh, boy. I’ve heard this one several times, and while it’s true that we select items like tile, countertops, flooring, furniture, and decor, that barely scratches the surface of what we do during the design phase of a project. If you are only considering hiring a designer for these roles, you are missing a major opportunity to take advantage of their expertise.
What We Really Do: Our first consideration, always, is how you will use the home. For example, what does your ideal morning routine look like? Where will your children do their homework? If you’re entertaining, where will guests go first when they arrive? Where will they mingle? The necessary function of your home translates to the overall flow of the home, within each space and from one room to the next.
Then, we focus these functional goals into thoughtful design solutions, like the furniture layout, custom-designed built-ins and window treatments, fireplace and kitchen island features, and more. And of course, all of these choices are finely balanced to fit your desired investment level and last.
Last but not least, we even go so far as to create the construction documents for your home’s electrical (RCP), wall elevations, and more. Before a single item is ordered… before a foundation is poured… before any walls are removed or built… you have a solid plan for every detail of your entire space. That is how you achieve a home that doesn’t just look pretty. It works hard for your family.
3. The Procurement Phase
Myth: Ordering products for design projects is as easy (and dreamy) as an “Add to Cart” shopping spree.
Why It’s False: Here’s something no one tells you… Every item in a home requires ordering precision you wouldn’t believe. Take a countertop, for example. We have to make sure our supplier knows the exact type of material, the colour, the style of edge, the thickness, precise length and width, the finish type (polished, honed, leathered?), if it will be a single slab or joined, how it will meet the items next to it (cabinets below, backsplash behind), etc.
Then, we have to monitor the status of the order, inspect the final piece for quality control, and coordinate the installation at the exact right time…and that’s just one item! A kitchen has hundreds of moving pieces and details to coordinate. An entire home has thousands. Not the dreamy shopping spree you imagined, right?
What We Really Do: Once you’ve approved all the materials, we start the process of ordering, tracking, receiving, and inspecting everything that will be going into your home. Clients are often surprised that ordering and receiving products can take several months or more. Now you know why.
(This is also why we don’t “go shopping” with our clients. I know shopping together sounds fun, and there will be times when we’ll share samples or products with you so you can experience the options for yourself, but it is impossible to do all of the above together out at the shops. It just doesn’t work. Plus, a lot of our resources are so high-quality and custom-made that they are exclusive to the trade…so there is no shop down the road!)
It is essential that this step be completed efficiently and accurately, especially for a new build or renovation. Builders and contractors usually won’t start working on a project until they have the materials they need. Having an interior designer manage this aspect of the project saves money and means far fewer delays, errors, or stress for you.
4. The Construction Phase
Myth: Designers have no role in the construction process of a new build or renovation.
Why It’s False: Handing over the home’s design plans and materials to your contractors does not ensure that the home will turn out like we planned. Plus, without someone to manage the project, the responsibility for receiving deliveries, making site visits, and coordinating various tradesmen (electricians, plumbers, painters, etc.) falls to you. Take it from me, that’s a full-time job.
While it’s true that an interior designer is not physically building or renovating your home themselves, we play a big role in overseeing the project with a bird’s eye view and a magnifying glass. We put on our project management hats to oversee your new build or home renovation. Yes, the entire process.
What We Really Do: Most of our role as interior designers is dedicated to large-scale project management. We work with our contractors to ensure your dream home comes to life. If there is a hiccup or minor setback, you don’t have to Google your options. We have the experience to quickly solve the issue or present you with the best solutions to choose from, no time wasted.
If you ask me, this is one of the areas where there is the most long-term return on investment. Having a professional manage your project ensures long-term satisfaction with your home, zero expensive problems to fix later, solutions that respect your budget and your home value, and so much more.
5. The Installation & Reveal
Myth: Installation Day is the most glamorous day of all.
Why It’s False: I’m laughing, because if you really saw what happens on Installation Day (before our clients come home to their stunning space), you would be shocked. Think about it like a fashion runway. You have the models, wearing stunning dresses and sexy heels, hair and makeup just right, turning heads as each walks alone, poses, spins, and returns backstage. It’s calm, intentional perfection.
But backstage? There’s a flurry of noise and activity! Hair stylists, makeup artists, models, and fashion designers run around preparing each costume change and creating their art, while clothing, accessories, and hairspray can be found everywhere you look. No, it may not be the same poised, picture-perfect scene you would see on the runway, but it has its own beauty. And it definitely has a purpose.
What We Really Do: For us, Installation Day is just as lively as Fashion Week backstage. There are accessories everywhere, cardboard scraps of all shapes and sizes, bubble wrap and packing paper underfoot, and a ton of people working together in a well-practiced dance of installation and styling.
Because we have so much to do and we want you to have the “reveal day” experience, we invite you to treat yourself to a day out while we make everything perfect. When the dust has settled, the cardboard is recycled, and the scene is runway-ready, we’ll take our professional photos. Then it’s time for you to come home…
Get ready for your jaw to drop as you enter your new home! This is the moment when the happy tears start flowing and we celebrate this long-awaited achievement with you. We’ll walk through each room in the home, pointing out the details, creating a punch list of any final loose ends to tie up, and making sure you are thrilled with everything.
I suppose that’s another design myth…the pretty photos aren’t the goal. It’s about how you feel in the home. It’s about the memories you will make with your family. It’s about your kids wanting to invite over their friends. It’s that feeling of returning from a trip and feeling like you’re happy to come home. It’s about the life this space helps you create.
What’s the first step?
If you think you might be ready to work with an interior designer, the next step is to reach out to the designer(s) you’re interested in and get to know them. I truly believe that the best projects result when there’s a great connection between you and your designer. Plus, a design project can take months to years. You want to make sure it’s a good fit for you both.
If you would like to get to know us, book a discovery call with us here and we would love to chat about your project and dreams for your home.