How Tech is Making it Easier to Hire an Interior Designer
Online consultations, virtual viewings and business software are streamlining processes to make it easier for homeowners
We spoke to three interior designers to find out how new design and organisational software is changing the way they deliver projects to their clients and what people can expect if they’re hiring a designer today.
A few years ago, if you were looking for an interior designer, you’d probably ask that friend or neighbour who’d recently redecorated for a recommendation. Today, you’re just as likely to go online.
“Thanks to social media, interior design is accessible to almost everyone, allowing interior designers to showcase their work broadly and craft a targeted campaign to reach their ideal market,” says Donna Guyler, creative director at Donna Guyler Design.
“It also means homeowners can easily find a designer to suit their needs, requirements and budget without having to rely purely on a recommendation.”
“I receive many enquiries online, either through Houzz messages or via my website,” says Sophie Kost, interior designer and principal at My Beautiful Abode. “I find that clients use technology to qualify a potential designer before they engage one.
“Sometimes I wonder how we managed to design before we adapted to the technologies we now use,” she continues. “When I started working in this industry over two decades ago, having a mobile phone was still a novelty. When I go to my client meetings these days, I consider my phone and laptop essential tools.”
“Working relationships will often commence electronically, with initial contact being facilitated by email and a sharing of information across electronic platforms and software, until the point where an initial on-site consultation is arranged. This is likely to be the first face-to-face meeting,” Donna says.
“Interior design is a very personalised service and I still believe the initial consultation should be held in-person where possible,” says Julianne Bull, principal designer at The Den Interiors. “This is an opportunity to get to know each other, understand the brief, and get a sense of the space and the home we’re working in. It’s also critical to complete the site measure onsite.
“Following up with a Zoom call is a great way to discuss the proposal or develop ideas following a presentation,” she adds.
Tech is streamlining many of those time-consuming, back-of-house tasks, too, Sophie says. “Our process leans into the technologies available to us. This is evident from booking appointments through calendar apps and logging time, to using a laptop during our design meetings to look at designs, styles and products to communicate concepts.
“I’m happy I no longer need to lug hefty catalogues with me to get my message across, or schlep mountains of samples to meetings,” she says.
Sophie also uses Houzz ideabooks and online pinboards to help cement a client’s style, likes and dislikes.
Ready to revamp your home? Find reviewed interior designers in your area on Houzz.
Remember when meetings with a designer involved sitting around a moodboard being propped on the mantel? Well, not anymore, says Julianne. “Physical moodboards are a thing of the past. Our clients enjoy the experience of digital moodboards combined with the tactile presentation of material samples.
“It’s a more interactive way for us to show a design if we can ‘play’ with samples at the design presentation. The designs are easier to update after client feedback, and it’s a more sustainable way of producing moodboards,” she says.
“Interior design-specific software facilitates approval to be provided by clients electronically, increasing turnaround times and a more seamless progression through a project.
Tech is making the design process easier in other ways, too, Julianne says. “A number of our suppliers have apps or technology that we can use to show clients how furniture, materials and colours can work in their homes.”
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“Our team and clients alike love using the Houzz Pro software,” Donna says. “We’ve adapted its basic function to our internal process as a full service interior design studio.
“We love the Room Board function, and the ability to construct and connect accounting documents with client approvals through the Houzz Workflow – it enables us to move our projects through the approval and procurements process with ease. The relevant departments within our studio can competently manage each phase of the project, without any risk of error or lost information,” she says.
“Clients can expect a more interactive process and structured workflow from their design team,” Donna says. “Software tools available to designers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, providing them with efficiencies to get on with the business of designing.
“They’re shifting the operation of the business – such as general communication, proposals, procurement, order management, billing and invoicing – to customised software,” she continues. “These tasks would otherwise bog down your designer’s daily to-do list.”
“While nothing can compare to touching materials and trying furniture for size, we find that an online presentation allows us to narrow down the selection criteria for our clients. When it comes to making final selections, we can showcase a shortlisted range of materials, fabrics, furniture and pieces. This takes away a lot of the overwhelm for clients and gives the designers clarity on what to recommend for the project,” she says.
“A year ago, I hadn’t really used video conferencing for my clients unless they lived overseas, but now it’s a tool I readily use,” Sophie says. “It’s convenient for everyone and easy for couples to manage a meeting with me from different locations.
“I’ve found meeting via video conferencing has been adopted by all generations,” she continues. “I’ve had occasions when I’ve not been able to attend a showroom appointment, but my clients were still able to go, and video called me for a remote consultation while they have the hands-on experience.”
“The clients are happy to do virtual tours and our trades are also able to use the same technology to clarify things and ask questions when they’re on- site,” Julianne adds.
“While I overwhelmingly find technology a positive, there have been some negatives,” Sophie says. “With these tools at our fingertips, our clients find it easy to get in touch 24/7. Weekends are a great time to have a chat with your partner or research your new design project and it’s fun and exciting to speak with a designer.
Establishing boundaries and clear expectations about where and when to respond to messages has needed to be learnt. I work better when I have a chance to turn my mind away from work during time with family and friends, and the design results are better.”
Technology has also opened up new income stream opportunities for designers – and in the process, made it even easier for clients to refresh their interiors. “There are lucrative opportunities for designers to offer e-design services, where the entire project of furnishing and styling a home can be achieved virtually,” Donna says.
How have you or your designer used technology to facilitate your home’s architecture or interiors? Share your experiences in the Comments.