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An organised sample library, said no designer ever

With endless samples coming and in and out of the office, here are our tips to stay on top of your materials room and create an organised work environment.

sample library organisation
July 14, 2022

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Whilst the world is moving online, physical sample libraries are here to stay. That said, as society evolves, so too have designers’ preferences and processes. There was once a time where more was more culture - now, less is more. Designers no longer like to have every possible sample in their office, and are now opting to keep only their favourites. 

Whilst this is great for the office and environment, our research tells us that most designers still don’t use or know half of the samples in their library. With rent increasing, space decreasing, and sustainability on everyone’s mind, we thought to share some tips on how to optimise your sample library.

1. Nothing enters the library without a label

All samples that enter the office must first be labelled with Supplier and price before they hit the shelves. This saves time in the long run by allowing you to quickly find products that are within budget. 


Pro tip: add trade and retail pricing on the samples so you can easily work through your schemes and schedules without having to constantly send emails to every supplier. 

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Pure Salt Interiors

2. Arrange by hierarchy 

Just like when you walk into a retail store you see clothes organised by hierarchy, this principle applies to your materials. For example, if you know you use wooden flooring most frequently, place these samples in prime position. 

There are some other shortcuts that can help you get the most out of your samples, and these tend to vary based on product type. He’s our run down:



Whilst it might seem natural to sort fabrics by colour, we suggest you first sort by usage. Then, once each fabric has been allocated an appropriate category, sort each category by colour. 

Some ideas of categories are:

  • Commercial use
  • Residential use
  • Window Treatments 
  • Multi-purpose
  • Specialty fabrics (Leather, Vinyl, Cork, etc)
  • Outdoor & Performance 



Similar to fabrics we recommend sorting by usage first, then colour. Usage categories include:

  • General Paint 
  • Speciality Paint (Polished Plaster, Tadelakt, Marmarino) 


Pro tip: It’s quite helpful to store the colour cards in binders so you can easily flip through the paint colours and find what you need in seconds. 


Wood should be stored by type then in shades:

  • Flooring: 
  • Solid Wood 
  • Engineered Hardwood
  • Laminate 
  • Wood Veneer 
  • Solid Wood (as used in joinery)


Metals can be sorted into small bins of the following:

  • Ironmongery & hardware 
  • Fixtures & fittings (tapware)
  • Metal Laminates 


Tiles & Stone:

This is perhaps the hardest to sort through given there are so many different styles and shapes available, and samples tend to be chunkier. We suggest breaking the tiles down into categories and then colour. Categories can include:

  • Real stone
  • Engineered Stone (Caesarstone, Silestone etc)
  • Porcelain
  • Mosaics and Subways 
  • Specialty Tiles (this is for very expensive unique tiles)


3. Project Trays 

As you are working through projects, it’s best to create project trays to help you organise all the materials you need for the job. This ensures you never misplace any of the items and also allows you to clearly see the vision coming together.


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Material Board by Albion Nord

4. Return what you no longer need

If you no longer require a sample, we suggest you return it to the Supplier. This isn’t just to help Marie Kendo your office, it is also important for the environment and helps the supplier keep their costs down. 

Pro tip: have a sample return box and at the end of every month send back all of the samples in there. 

Portaire Interior Design Marketplace Directory Architectural Products
Phoebe Nicol Interiors Office

To help you declutter and maintain the perfect array of samples, we’re launching Boards exclusively to our members next month. Our boards will showcase curated materials from our favourite suppliers across the UK. 

This will give members the ability to order pre-curated boards or individual materials all in one convenient place. We are also giving you the opportunity to return any unwanted samples directly to us.

Learn more by subscribing to our newsletter below or email us at

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