Interior design projects can be complex and challenging, but with the right planning and organisation, they can be a rewarding and successful experience for both the designer and the client. In this article, we'll explore some key steps and strategies for organising interior design projects, from defining the scope of the project to managing the project closeout.
To start… Why organising a project well, matters
Lori Bolon, Portaire’s CEO and co-founder, has worked in the interior design industry for 17 years. According to her, “A designer’s job is often more about the administrative work than the designing itself”. This was the eureka moment behind our software, which allows interior designers to source, specify and schedule projects easily.
However, even if you use product management software like ours, chances are your organisational skills will decide what projects come to fruition and satisfy the most demanding clients’ desires. Designing is good and golden, but actually having the wherewithal to make it come to life will distinguish the average designer from a successful one.
Now that we’ve established the “why” behind prioritising organisational skills, let’s delve deep in the “how” of it all. First of all, you can start by…
Defining the scope of the project
Before starting any interior design project, it's essential to clearly define the scope of the work that will be done. This includes determining the specific goals for the project, as well as identifying any constraints or limitations that may impact the design. For example, the client may have a specific budget or timeline in mind, or there may be certain structural or zoning restrictions to consider.
To define the scope of the project, it's important to conduct a thorough consultation with the client to understand their needs and preferences. This may include discussing their design style, colour preferences, and any functional requirements for the space. It's also important to consider any existing elements in the space that will be maintained, such as architectural features or existing furniture. Beyond the strictly logistical, also consider the emotional importance of certain elements for the family, and how the home can be renovated or created to give off certain emotions, such as playfulness, serenity etc. Once the scope of the project has been defined, it's time to create a detailed project plan.
Creating a project plan
Your project plan should include a timeline for the project, as well as a list of all the tasks that need to be completed and the resources that will be required to complete them. The project plan should also include a detailed budget (more on that later).
It's important to be realistic when creating the project plan and to allow for mistakes, delays and unforeseen expenses. For example, if you're working on a renovation project, it's important to allow for the possibility of unexpected structural issues or any other surprises.
There are so many tools available to plan your projects, it would be difficult to list one only. To start off, check out popular juggernauts Asana, Trello, Monday, Plaky and Notion. All of them have free trials, so they’re really worth exploring!
Identifying the key players
Every interior design project involves a number of different people, including the client, the designer, and various tradespeople and contractors. It's important to identify the key players early on, and to establish clear lines of communication between them. The designer should be the primary point of contact for the client, but it's also important to establish communication with any contractors or tradespeople who will be working on the project.
It's also important to create a detailed time plan that outlines the tasks and milestones for the project, and to assign specific responsibilities to each of the key players. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the project stays on schedule.
Budgeting and cost management
Here it is, the budget section! One of the most important aspects of organising an interior design project is budgeting and cost management. This includes setting a budget for the project, and then working to stay within that budget by carefully managing costs and identifying any potential cost savings.
The designer should work closely with the client to establish a budget for the project and to ensure that the client is aware of any costs associated with the project. It's also important to be transparent about costs and to provide the client with detailed invoices and receipts for all expenses. Remember to be aware of any potential cost savings that may be possible, such as sourcing materials at a lower cost or working with a more cost-effective contractor if necessary. For more information on budgeting, visit this site.
Site inspections and measurements
A crucial step in organising an interior design project is conducting site inspections and taking accurate measurements of the space. This allows the designer to understand the layout and dimensions of the space, and to identify any potential issues that may impact the design and project.
Take accurate measurements of the space, including the dimensions of the walls, windows, and doors, as well as the height of the ceilings. Also, take note of any existing architectural features, such as fireplaces or built-ins, that may be incorporated into the design. This can save up time and ultimately honour the history of a space, making it feel more embodied.
Creating detailed floor plans and elevations
Once the site inspections and measurements have been completed, the designer should create detailed floor plans and elevations. These plans and elevations provide a visual representation of the space, and help the designer to understand how the space will function and flow.
Floor plans should include all the relevant measurements, as well as the locations of doors, windows, and other architectural features. Elevations should show the heights and dimensions of walls, ceilings, and other features. These plans and elevations are also important for communicating the design to the client and the project team.
Research and sourcing materials
After having a good understanding of the space you’re designing, it’s time to use all of that and mix it with your own and your client’s imagination! This normally involves moodboarding, sketching, and creating some 3D renders.
Once the client has approved the vision you have for a project, it is time to research and source the materials that will bring you closer to the client’s dream design. This includes researching different design styles, colour palettes, and materials, as well as sourcing furniture, fabrics, and accessories that align with the project's goals and budget.
The designer should create a list of all the materials needed for the project and should research different suppliers and manufacturers to find the best quality materials at the most reasonable price. This process can be time-consuming, but it is important to ensure that the final outcome of the project meets the client's expectations and budget.
If Google searching for every necessary element seems like a gargantuan task, we have an alternative for you. Portaire has an integrated trade portal that allows you to browse through 1000s of products and dozens of suppliers in one software alone. Using the filters, you can find exactly what you need from a pool of trusted and vetted suppliers in the UK and Europe.
Creating your project schedules
Once you’ve sourced all the products and materials you want for your design, you’ll need to organise them into schedules. These are normally done in spreadsheets, and list all the products that are on track to be installed in the project. Every line has the product image, name, description, and other important information such as price, specifications etc. This helps clients understand what they’re paying for, and contractors figure out what will be installed and how.
Because spreadsheets aren’t designed with interior designers in mind, this process can be quite manual. A project can have thousands of products on the line, and writing every single one’s information into a spreadsheet can take hours. To alleviate this process, Portaire has scheduling software designed for interior designers. Feel free to check out our site here.
Coordinating with contractors and tradespeople
Interior design projects often involve the work of multiple contractors and tradespeople, so it's important to coordinate their work and ensure that everything is done in a timely and efficient way. The designer should work closely with these team members to ensure that they understand the project goals and that they have all the necessary information and materials to complete their work.
Version control is also super important in interior design projects for collaboration purposes. Products, timelines and progress changes so often that having one single source of information is key for the easy development of a project. More information on our schedules sharing options can be found on this page.
Communicating with the client
Throughout the project, it's important to communicate regularly with the client to keep them informed of progress and to address any concerns they may have. The designer should schedule regular check-ins with the client to provide updates on the project, and to ensure that the client is satisfied with the work that is being done.
It's also important to be responsive to the client's needs and to address any issues or concerns that they may have in a timely and professional manner. The designer should be open and transparent with the client, and should be willing to make adjustments or changes to the design as needed. However, make sure that you have boundaries, so that your mental health doesn’t take a toll throughout the project. You’ll thank yourself later for that one!
Managing the project team
Managing the project team is an essential part of organising an interior design project. This includes coordinating the work of the designer, contractors, and tradespeople, as well as ensuring that everyone is working together to achieve the project's goals.
The designer should be the leader of the project team and should be responsible for communicating the project's goals and progress to the other members of the team. This includes holding regular meetings and providing updates on the project's status. It is also important to establish clear roles and responsibilities for each team member, to ensure that everyone understands their role in the project and that there is no overlap or confusion.
Staging and styling the space
After installation, the project is almost complete! Now, it’s time to stage and style the space to showcase its full potential. This includes arranging furniture, accessories, and artwork in a way that highlights the design and makes the space feel inviting and welcoming.
The designer should work with the client to select the right pieces of furniture and accessories that align with the client's taste and budget. The designer should also consider the flow of the space and ensure that the furniture is arranged in a way that maximises the space's functionality.
Leading the project closeout
The space is dreamy, your client is over the moon. What’s next? Once the project is complete, it's important to manage the project closeout, which includes conducting a final inspection, addressing any remaining issues, and collecting all necessary documentation. The designer should conduct a final walk-through of the space with the client to ensure that the project has been completed to the client's satisfaction.
Any remaining issues or unfinished tasks should be addressed immediately, and all necessary documentation should be collected, including contracts, invoices, and receipts. The designer should also provide the client with any necessary instructions for the care and maintenance of the space. If the client is OK with it, get a professional photographer in to document the space. This will be a gold mine for your profile and portfolio!
Continuing to provide client support
The work of an interior designer doesn't end when the project is complete. It's important to continue to provide support to the client, even after the project is finished. This includes providing ongoing maintenance and support, addressing any issues or concerns that may arise, and being available to make changes or adjustments as needed.
The designer should establish a clear plan for ongoing support and maintenance, and should schedule regular check-ins with the client to ensure that they are satisfied with the final outcome of the project. It is also important to continue to communicate with the client and to be responsive to their needs, even after the project is over.
In conclusion, organising an interior design project requires a combination of creativity, technical skill, and project management expertise. By following these steps and incorporating these principles, designers can ensure that the project stays on schedule, on budget, and ultimately achieves a successful outcome. From defining the scope of the project to managing the project closeout, the designer should be proactive, organised and professional to ensure that the client's expectations are met.
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