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What I wish I knew before getting into luxury interior design


luxury interior design
Sculptural bespoke lighting by Cameron Design House
What I wish I knew before getting into luxury interior design
Clara Carlino de Paz
December 13, 2023

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This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

Luxury interior design is a world of elegance, sophistication, and meticulous attention to detail. It is a realm where personal touches, functionality, and excellence come together to create breathtaking spaces.

As an interior designer, stepping into the luxury design market can be exciting and challenging. With decades of experience in the industry, our co-founder Lori Bolon has had the privilege of creating luxury interior design projects that evoke simple elegance and luxury.

In this article, we will share our insights and experiences, highlighting what we wish we knew before entering the world of luxury interior design. Whether you're a seasoned designer or just starting your journey, these lessons will help you navigate the intricacies of luxury residential interiors, position yourself in the market, attract high-end clients... And above all, create magic with your designs. Let's get started.

luxury interior design
Interior design by Albion Nord

What defines luxury interior design?

Luxury interior design goes beyond pricing; it is an experience of comfort and elegance. For interior designers, this generally means projects with higher specifications and requirements. Because private clients expect total excellence, luxury interior design studios often play in the high stress leagues of the home design world.

Our experience in the industry

Lori is an Interior Architect who’s worked on projects of all shapes and sizes in Sydney and London, and has established a portfolio of work featured by the likes of Vogue Living. Although she transitioned into entrepreneurship by co-founding curated directory Portaire with Matteo Grand, her experience as a luxury interior designer guides this article.

Going deeper: Luxury in interior design settings

Luxury in interior design is the artful integration of high-quality materials, expert craftsmanship, and thoughtful design elements to create a space that exudes elegance and comfort. It goes beyond mere aesthetics, emphasising functionality and durability. Luxurious interiors often feature premium materials such as Italian marble, rare woods, and custom-made furnishings, increasing the value and liveability of the space in question.

Attention to detail is key, with elements like hand-stitched upholstery, bespoke lighting fixtures, and state-of-the-art technology being seamlessly integrated into the project. The colour palettes used in these projects are carefully curated, often leaning towards timeless tones and wallcoverings to create a sense of tranquility and class. For more information on this, check out our article on the "old money aesthetic".

luxury interior design
Furniture by Cameron Design House (available on Portaire)

The Transition to Luxury Interior Design

Positioning your studio in the luxury market is a process that often involves years of pivoting, love for art and attention to detail. But don't be fooled; all interior designers have started somewhere, and years of experience don't equal consistent styling, great project management and client-nurturing skills. So let's get onto it!

How to position your studio for the luxury market

01. Craft a distinctive brand identity

To embark on the journey to luxury, the first step is a brand overhaul. This means:

  1. Develop a sophisticated and memorable logo, choosing a refined colour palette that reflects simplicity and elegance.
  2. Select a style or mood for your project photography that showcases your vision and aesthetic.
  3. Cultivate a tone of voice that exudes sophistication and expertise. Luxury interior design brands often emphasise the studio's commitment to personalised service, quality craftsmanship, and an understanding of the client's unique lifestyle. To develop your tone of voice, check out this article from Gather Content, which covers important information on archetypes, limits to authenticity and examples.
  4. Incorporate these elements consistently across all branding materials, from business cards to the studio's website.

02. Refine marketing strategies

Luxury interior design will mean a shift in marketing strategies towards a more targeted and exclusive approach. This might involve investing in high-quality professional photography to showcase completed projects, creating a visually stunning portfolio, utilising social media platforms strategically, and emphasising curated content that highlights the studio's attention to detail, craftsmanship, and unique design concepts.

To branch out from your existing audience, you can exercise "spider marketing", which effectively means using another person's platform to grow your own. This can look like collaborating with influencers and luxury lifestyle publications to amplify your brand's reach within the high-end market.

03. Learn how to say "no"

Learning to say "no" is an essential skill when transitioning to luxury interior design. As you move your interior design service into the world of luxury turnkey residential and commercial projects, you'll find that you'll need to say "no" to projects that no longer align with your vision for your studio. This will be hard, and at first, it might even seem like a mistake, but it will be necessary to bear your pivot with honesty and steadfastness.

luxury interior design
Lighting by lights&lamps

What are some challenges I may face as a luxury interior designer?

The job sounds almost too good to be true... And that's because it is. Pivoting into this role takes time and patience, and like all other roles, you'll need to work to get to the required level.

01. Establishing credibility in the luxury market

One of the initial challenges faced by interior designers transitioning to luxury is establishing credibility within high-end clientele. Establishing a reputation for delivering top-tier design requires not only a stellar portfolio but also a network of industry connections, collaborations with renowned architects, and testimonials from satisfied clients. This is where your networking skills will have to triple their shine.

02. Selecting the right aesthetic balance

Navigating the delicate balance between opulence and tasteful design is a nuanced challenge. While luxury interior design often incorporates premium materials and finishes, the risk of veering into ostentation is ever-present. Designers must master the art of restraint, ensuring that each element contributes to an overall sense of refinement rather than overwhelming the space with excess.

03. Managing client expectations

Clients in the luxury market often come with heightened expectations, anticipating a level of exclusivity and personalised service that goes beyond the norm. Meeting and exceeding these expectations requires a deep understanding of the client's lifestyle, preferences, and a commitment to delivering bespoke solutions. Effective communication and managing client expectations become critical to success.

04. Sourcing and working with premium materials

The pivot to luxury interior design inevitably involves working with premium, often rare, materials. Sourcing these materials presents logistical challenges, as designers need to establish reliable and high-quality supply chains. Additionally, working with such materials requires specialised knowledge and craftsmanship, adding a layer of complexity to the design process. 

If you're looking for some inspiration or a place to start with luxury sourcing head to our directory and browse from some of the top luxury brands in the UK. Curated and vetted by Lori herself.

05. Adapting to longer project timelines

Luxury projects, by their nature, often demand intricate detailing and customization, which can extend project timelines significantly. Often, luxury homes also deal with more rooms and space to design, which unequivocally drives up time spent. Designers must carefully manage client expectations regarding project timelines while maintaining the meticulous attention to detail that defines luxury design. Balancing efficiency with the pursuit of perfection becomes a delicate dance (but it just takes practice!).

Bespoke lighting design by Northern Lights (available on Portaire)

The Business Perspective: Luxury interior design

Pricing strategy for luxury design services

Pricing strategies for luxury interior design studios require a nuanced approach that reflects the exclusive nature of the services provided. Adopting a value-based pricing model allows designers to tailor costs to the perceived value of the unique and personalised design solutions offered to affluent clientele. Clear communication of transparent fee structures, incorporating customization and complexity considerations, and implementing fair procurement markups contribute to a pricing strategy that aligns with the high standards and expectations of the luxury market.

Luxury interior design studios can further enhance their pricing strategies by introducing consultation fees for initial meetings, establishing retainers or upfront fees, and structuring payments based on project milestones. The integration of flat fees for comprehensive project packages, coupled with exclusive ongoing service offerings, ensures that designers not only capture the value of their expertise but also provide clients with a transparent and satisfactory experience throughout the design process and beyond.

Finding and Attracting High-End Clients

Luxury interior designers seeking clients who can afford their high-end services often rely on strategic networking and targeted marketing efforts. Building relationships within affluent communities, attending exclusive events, and becoming active members of luxury industry associations can provide access to potential clients with the financial means to invest in upscale design projects. Establishing a strong online presence through a sophisticated website and social media platforms also allows designers to showcase their portfolio and expertise, capturing the attention of discerning clients who are actively seeking premium design services.

Additionally, forming alliances with other luxury service providers, such as high-end real estate agents, architects, or private concierge services, can open doors to a network of affluent individuals. Collaborative efforts can lead to referrals within this niche market, where word-of-mouth recommendations play a significant role. By positioning themselves as experts in luxury interior design and leveraging strategic partnerships, designers can increase their visibility and connect with clients who appreciate and can afford the elevated design experiences they offer.

luxury interior design
Bespoke furniture by Hyde House

Insights into luxury interior design projects

High-end product discovery

Finding luxury, pre-vetted suppliers and artisans in the UK and Europe is no easy task; especially those who share a sustainability and excellence-driven ethos. At Portaire, we're dedicated to bringing the best of interior architecture and design to every interior design team in EMEA. Through our free curated directory, you can find everything from bespoke lighting to paint, tiles and wall coverings. If you're interested in learning how to upgrade your residential interiors, join our platform for free and check out our Instagram for the latest news.

Importance of Detailing in Luxury Design

Detailing plays a crucial role in luxury residential interiors, elevating interiors to new heights of sophistication. Client-focused personal touches, meticulous attention to design details, functionality, elegance, and design vision are all essential elements of luxury interior design projects.

By embracing personal, client-centric detailing, luxury interiors achieve a seamless, cohesive design that reflects clients' vision while exceeding design expectations. In our opinion, luxurious interior design is knowing how to make your client's wishes (even the ones they don't openly share!) true. Whether it's a Bauhaus-inspired dining table or a home spa, learn to listen and ideate like you never have before. It will pay off.

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luxury interior design
Interior design by Maddux Creative