12 Best Tips I Love to Give Interior Design Clients and Friends

1.  Have pictures/pegs of what you want.  In design, there can be a lot of misunderstandings if we only use words to describe what we want.  That's why I always ask for visual representations, may it be in the form of photos or actual examples.  "I want yellow"...What kind of yellow? There are several shades of yellow.  "Bright yellow"...Now some people's concept of bright is pastel, others neon, and others just plain old McDonalds yellow.  "I want Modern"  Now, lest we get into a lecture of period styles and history of design, wouldn't it be better to just have a photo? :) It's easy, just google it.  There are tons and tons of photos on the internet.

2.  Hire a designer or architect to draw and make plans of the design.  This will give you a visual idea of what the space will look like.  It is also important to have floor plans or scaled drawings to see if the elements will fit in the space and leave you room to move.  Having these will also help the contractor make a precise estimate.  These visual representations with measurements and details help eliminate misunderstandings and complications in the long run.  

3.  Avoid for now purchases.  Have the design but no budget yet and itching to buy something for the house?  If you're really set on implementing the design in the future, follow the design even when buying small items.  "I'll buy a monobloc stool for now.  I wanna buy ready-made curtains in the meantime"...Money spent is money spent.  Why not spend that money on items that are in the design?  This way, you're one (even tiny) step closer to completing the items on the list.  May it be one chair or some pillow cases, you'll be glad to have those items match instead of having the problem of disposing them in the future...or what's worse is, changing the design and keeping them just because it's sayang.

4.  Value for money.  Big sale and discounts in major stores are really tempting versus custom-made items, they are often 50% cheaper. To illustrate, let me share a story with you.  A friend of mine asked me to quote for cabinets and some furniture for their home.  They got everything from us except for the bed because they found one on sale.  My price was around P30k++ while the one on sale was only P17k.  I told them to go ahead and purchase it, I definitely cannot compete with that.  While we were onsite working on their cabinets, the bed was delivered.  They called and asked if we could assemble it for them.  I said ok.  After a week, they found the bed unstable and asked if we could reinforce it with plywood, etc. and so we did.  After a month, they said they should've just purchased the bed from us and plan on replacing this bed once they have the budget.  Bespoke items are often better mainly because of the service from start to finish.  Want a specific color, material, size and finish?  Quality?  Delivery?  Assembly?  Retouching?  Future repairs?  This is truly the way to go.

5.  Hire a professional/contractor.  Unless you're well-versed in construction and very organized, I suggest you hire a contractor than handling it yourself.  I am often faced with clients wanting to save through buying the materials and hiring carpenters themselves.  Given the contractor profits from providing the entire scope, this will save you a lot of headaches and costly mistakes in the long run.  I realized I have a lot to say about this topic and decided to make a separate article about it.  Watch out for 12 Things I love About Hiring a Contractor :)

6.  Finish a space.  Ideally, wouldn't it be nice if we all have the money to finish the entire house in one go?  Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.  Some of us have other bills to pay: mortgage, rent, car loan, travels, tuition fees, etc.  The top (pun untended) item I always urge my clients to fix is the roof.  A faulty roofing can mess up your health and anything you have inside: electricals, paint, furniture, carpet, wood, etc.  As tempting as it is to follow the correct process or order of finishing a home (masonry, carpentry, painting, furnishing, etc.), I often suggest clients to really finish atleast one space.  This way, clients can fully enjoy seeing and using a beautiful space at the end of the day.  Imagine spending hundreds of thousands on renovation only to come home and sit on temporary plastic furniture or sleep on the floor?!!!  Or have enough furniture but plain cement walls???  Having that "perfect room" will surely make anyone smile and feel accomplished.

7.  Go against the norm.  A house typically has a living, dining, kitchen, laundry area, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.  Yes, typically is the keyword.  I believe in your house, your rules (as long as it doesn't go against the Building Code).  Why keep a living room when you don't use it?  If you receive and entertain guests in the dining room, scrap the living room and use those resources in making your dream dining area.  You really don't have to if you don't need it.  I live in a small townhouse and got  a 10-12 seater dining table.  The nerve right?!! Haha!  Some people reacted when they heard about this, "Shouldn't you just get a 6-seater dining set?".  But hey, it fits perfectly AND my house, my rules, right? ;)  Early on, my husband and I already assigned this area to be the busiest part of the house where we eat, entertain guests, and do our crafts.  We also said that we will use and abuse this table, soooo this table has it's share of water, alcohol, oil spills, glue marks, scratches, and not a single frown on our faces! ;)  It's made of hard wood in duco varnish finish and sturdy enough that you can stand on it.  So, whatever it is you want, go for it!      

8.  Clear the space.  When going into renovation, it is advisable to clear the area of all belongings.  This will help workers move faster and do their work efficiently.  Schedule delivery of new items towards the end of construction to avoid damages as well.  You may ask the contractor when is the perfect time to deliver which items.  Aside from clearing the space of items, also stay away from these areas.  Board off or put plastic/tarp enclosure on unaffected spaces to avoid dust and fumes.  Do expect dirt and noise to come from construction, it is a given.  If you cannot live with these circumstances at any given time, it is best to go for items to be made off-site and installed after.  

9. Revise on paper.  Again, one advantage of having the design drawn is being able to revise it without touching the actual space.  It is better to spend a lot of time finalizing the design on paper rather than dive right away into implementation and change things as you go.  There is a reason why designers spend much time preparing drawings and plans.  We collate info from the client (wants, needs, budget, etc), check site measurements, do space planning, make sure the theme is consistent, and a whole shebang of design process elements that we put into the mix to form one cohesive design.  It all relates to one another.  Changes can still be made during the construction period, usually at an additional cost.  Better to avoid this through a thorough study of the design and good communication between parties to arrive at a final design before beginning implementation.  

10.  Be honest.  Honestly, how much stuff do you have?  Are you a hoarder?  Can you maintain the final look after a month or a week?  I encounter a lot of clients that  are sorry for having or promise to get rid of so much stuff.  If you are this person, don't be.  This is my problem.  Let me try and solve it first.  Let me check if it is possible for you to keep these.  I do my best to keep such items especially if you let me know they are important to you.  Pleeeease don't surprise your designer with a grand piano or 2-door refrigerator after everything is said and done, it is better to lay all cards on the table as early as possible.

11.  A space for everything.  I love getting to know my clients and the heart and soul of their closets, cabinets, and drawers.  I believe in the beauty of having a place for everything.  May it be storage, an altar, or a reading nook, I believe having these spaces can help clients organize their belongings,  thoughts, and everyday life.  Not having this data in the design process is a sure formula for future clutter, unused or repurposed space.  I personally have an aversion to having a "dirty kitchen"...so much that I did this on my thesis.  Instead of having a display kitchen and auxiliary kitchen, why not just have one functional kitchen?  Or aptly name and purpose it as a kitchen and kitchenette?  I have a recent client that I love because we came up with just one kitchen with all the amenities she needs.  Since she's into baking, the kitchen was invisibly divided into 2 areas, with appliances, utensils, cabinets and counters strategically placed so there will be enough space for her to bake, her mom to cook, and someone to wash dishes, all at the same time.  A breakfast nook/bar was even added to have onlookers watch and taste the products of their (hard) labor and somehow be part of this small family affair.              

12.  Tell me what you don't want, what you really, really don't want.  Aside from the visual pegs, budget, personal items, it is also best to be open about even those small irritations or dislikes.  "I don't like carpet.  I don't like the color red.  I don't like sharing bathrooms.  I don't like this brand.  I don't want to construct during ghost month.  I don't like yellow light"...basically giving me a list of things to avoid.  I often do this exercise with clients who can't seem to pinpoint what it is they want.  By doing this, I can atleast eliminate some items on the loooooong list of design choices ;)
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