The 25 professional secrets of interior designers so that everything goes well

IG house in São Paulo, by Arthur Casas

An essential roadmap so that, from paper to result, everything goes smoothly.

1. The main idea

The first thing we have to clarify is that functionality, usefulness or usability, whatever we want to call it, is one thing, and that the concept, the idea that organizes that functionality, is quite another. It is very common to confuse needs such as «natural light», «flexibility» or «spatial amplitude», which are objective and measurable characteristics, with project notions. A work can have a main concept or several secondary ones. There must be a hierarchy of ideas so that any decision reinforces the main concept; it is the only way to harmonize and balance all the decisions that are made throughout the process.

2. The right moment

When it comes to thinking about the different approaches to a design, it is very useful to carry out certain creative stimulation routines; the ideas will be many more and more powerful. To begin with, it is better to do these processes in the morning, between 10 and 12, which is when our brain is at full capacity, and after carrying out aerobic activity, since it will be better oxygenated.

3. Matter of specialists

We must take into account that a work in which we want to open holes in walls or facades, change facilities or modify the finish of the facade may require technical knowledge. If we are going to have specialists, the key is that they join the process as soon as possible. We refer to lighting technicians or architects to identify main walls or process building permits.

X armchair, by Hvidt & Mølgaard, and Colette lamp, both edited by &Tradition

4. How much do I spend?

One of the biggest frustrations that we have to combat is reaching the end of a work without the financial resources to finish it. We have to think that all the decisions that are made before and during the execution affect the final budget. It is essential to always keep in mind what our spending ceiling is and carry out periodic checks of it to find out if we are going above or below it and look for other options, since the most common thing is to choose the most expensive option from the outset.

5. Early decisions

Enter aesthetic parameters from the beginning. The moodboard must be drawn up as soon as possible to advance in parallel. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that aesthetic decisions are only the finishing touches of the work. Indeed, it is at the end when they are put into practice, but they can also be used as a strategy to guide us in making all future decisions.

6. Flexible organization

Until recently, most homes were divided into two large areas: the day or active area and the night or rest area. Everything changed in March 2020, when society had to adapt their homes to teleworking and a much closer and more intense coexistence. Now we have to propose hybrid distributions with wildcard zones, which alternate their use and benefits.

7. Changing spaces

In design in general and in architecture in particular, 3 is a magic number. Perhaps that is why it is so complex to distribute a square space when it is large; it is much more practical to do it in L. One trick is to designate a corner as a chameleon space, with no specific use, and organize specific areas around it.

8. Segregated bathrooms

It is common to find homes where several bedrooms have to share a bathroom because there is no space for another. When this happens, there is a very effective strategy that consists of segregating the uses of the bathroom into three parts: shower, toilet and sink; the latter can even be in a more accessible and shared space.

9. Distribution areas

To avoid an excess of corridors, a common trick is to place the living room and dining room strategically so that they act as a distributor and from there you can access various rooms. But be careful, it is not convenient to have more than three doors if we want to guarantee that there are enclosed spaces without interfering with internal circulation.

10. Involvement with the client

According to the Mexican architect and interior designer Jean Porsche, «understanding the customer comes first. Knowing what they want, how they want it and why they want it… We also have to be psychologists and find out what people don’t say. Then we have to maintain a dialogue with the house, with the building, but it is more difficult to decipher it because it tells you without words”.

11. Unsuspected values

One of the keys with the greatest impact in renovating a home is spending time «undressing» it. Chipping some walls, especially those more than 10 cm thick, or lifting some tiles in different areas could expose some high-value material such as solid hand-made bricks or hydraulic tile floors.

12. Decisions of weight

We have to be careful when changing the pavement. Sometimes, to save some money in the chipping and removal of rubble, it is proposed that we place a new flooring on top of the existing one. This decision can contribute up to 100 kg/m2 of weight to the structure of the house. Therefore, it is always better to remove the original pavement before.

13. Different lights

Artificial lighting is one of the most powerful tools to transform environments. We recommend applying it in such a way that the light always accompanies and reinforces the optimal emotional state for the intended activity. Warm, dim and indirect light in strategic corners or in the hours prior to night rest, and white, powerful and homogeneous light in study and work areas are just two examples.

14. Hidden benefits

Many times we get excited and we tend to make decisions based on its aesthetic impact ahead of other benefits. Investing in improving windows, adding thermal insulation to the facades, a water filtration system for the whole house or a safer and healthier electrical installation will not change the final appearance of our house, but we will notice it.

15. Creative recycling

The most exclusive designs are not always about price. A very powerful and growing practice is to detect objects or materials discarded from the work to, from them, create unique objects. From coffee tables made with sections of tree trunks felled from the site, lamps made from reclaimed copper or steel pipes, or the most classic of all: restored period furniture. They will play

16. Synthesis Ability

For the interior designer Isabel López-Quesada, who works in residential projects, «by far, the most important thing in a work is to understand the concept well from the start. Entering a space and knowing what it asks of you, going to the goal, understanding what is it can do and what it can’t, see what needs to be improved… Faced with the current bombardment of images and inputs, experience teaches you to refine.Three parties are involved in each work: user, house and designer.You have to synthesize and go to the point to get the best out of each one».

17. Protected by law

Current legislation determines that any intervention carried out in a home must be communicated to the City Council, for this reason we will always obtain a building permit. We recommend finding out what type the corresponding one is and if it will be necessary to hire a technician to obtain it. No cause for alarm; small works need very simple and practically free licences.

  Terrazzo Pebble, by Huguet.

18. Minimum three budgets

The time to request budgets is one of the most delicate. Do we order one or several? A team or different professionals? Our recommendation is that you always compare a minimum of three options. We can ask for references from acquaintances and friends, and although some may be unknown, the practical opinion of trusted people will always provide us with very valuable information.

19. Outburst of inspiration

Planning does not have to corner that gesture or that piece that appeals to emotion. As the interior designer Miriam Alía says, «I really like to use my imagination and create different spaces. Giving a touch of surrealism to my creations. One of the pieces that has inspired me the most has been the Lips sofa, by Dalí, which is a wonderful piece.»

20. On-site check

Control of the work is important. It is advisable to visit it with frequently, especially at the beginning, even more so if we do not know or do not have references to the contractor or the industrialists who work on it. We will visit it at different times to check that it is progressing at a good pace and, little by little, we will be able to space out these visits more.

21. Interweave complicities

During site visits, it is advisable to impose little and talk a lot. Each specialist knows much more than we do about his trade and it is convenient to take advantage of that knowledge, although sometimes we must make ourselves respected. If no technician intervenes, it is the industrialists who are going to help us the most to advance.

22. Respectful treatment

Balance is the key. If we manage to foster a good working environment on site, success is guaranteed. We do not want to know more than anyone about everything; it is unlikely and ineffective. If we help industrialists and treat them with the utmost respect, they will reciprocate with the same respect and a job well done.

23. Think about the planet

When choosing coatings we have to think in a sustainable way. There are more and more products coming from the recovery of other construction materials. Industrial parquet made from pieces of wood from other processes, or terrazzo, whose mass comes from up to 60% waste, are some good examples.

24. Conscious interior design

And it is that, according to the interior designer Jaime de Pablo-Romero, «we are in the era of awareness; either we take care of what we have or we will collapse. This is gradually transferred to the home, not only in its construction or in its efficiency of consumption, but also in the materials used to carry out the interior design and decoration».

25. The final payment

It is normal to doubt whether a work will finish on time or not. To try to guarantee it, there are those who prefer not to pay a significant amount of money when it comes to the end as a measure of pressure so that the contractor is forced, not only to finish the agreed works, but even to carry out some that did not even exist at the beginning. Saving some money at the end of the work is legitimate, but that sum must be proportional to the pending tasks, it must not be a disproportionate amount or we will put the contractor’s business health at risk, which is not fair. Between 3% and 10% is usual.