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Not a cushion scatterer!

Hidey Ho! Baxter here again with my latest thoughts and ideas regarding commercial interior design and fitout. It is, after all, what I do every day. So you could even consider that I know what I’m talking about. And watch out if you think I don’t people!

This time round, I want to tackle a subject that is close to the heart of what we do at Bellfort – and that’s design. Commercial interior design to be more accurate. It has really come to my attention that a lot of people don’t understand the full extent of what commercial interior design is. And what designers who specialise in this field can do.

I wouldn’t assume to say all designers actually do it but the good ones do. I’ve also been speaking to our own crazy designer. She’s been known to lament, “I’m not just a cushion scatterer!”, and feel quite clued up as to the info I need to share with you. So I thought I would list some of the talents that a good designer should portray.

Understand Your Client

First and foremost, a good designer should understand their client. This usually occurs during the brief taking process which gives the client time to express their “wants”. It also allows the designer to tease out these “wants” in order to make them work properly. At the end of the day, all successful projects should deliver on time, quality and budget. And this needs to be understood in order to meet that delivery. I believe it’s very important to make sure that the end result of any project is not just what the designer wants to see. It should be what the client envisaged and what the designer brought to life.

Interpret Client's Requirements

Similar to my first point, interpretation is based on a designer understanding what the client wants and needs. In most cases, a good designer should be able to fill in the gaps and acknowledge that when a client says “I want a boardroom to seat ten people”, and that the same boardroom may also need to accommodate AV, mechanical, storage, catering facilities and reticulated desktop services.

I’m not saying that it’s a designer’s job to spend more of the client’s money, in fact I would say entirely the opposite. My point is that having a room to suit ten people may mean that air-conditioning needs to be altered to suit the amount of people in the room so they don’t suffocate and that they may have specific meetings once a week where they need to use Skype. A good designer will be thinking about these things in order to make the space work effectively for the people using it. A not-so-good designer won’t.

Accurate Information

Failure of accuracy usually leads to failure of the project. As an example, if a room is measured and budgets are prepared according to these measurements, they need to be accurate. Losing or gaining metres means $$ and a rather red face when admitting your error to the client. Even when requesting quotes from various suppliers, if you can’t have a certain sense of accuracy about the information you are sharing, odds are someone else will put their spin on it and provide you with information that is not able to be implemented on site. It may take a little longer to be thorough but if you can’t trust the information you have, it’s worthless to the client but has actually cost you professionally as well as in your hip pocket.

Attention to Detail

Now, I’ve had contact with lots of designers over many years – don’t bother to ask how many because I’m not telling you my age! One thing that has often baffled me is that some designers have great confidence in their commercial interior design ability and think that what they have created is absolutely brilliant, when it isn’t. I have on numerous occasions seen floor plans that don’t work spatially or don’t comply with current BCA requirements.

Basic design elements have obviously missed the mark for these poor souls. I’ve also seen documentation that is illegible and a maze for the poor builder on site who has to find his way through it. I do think a designer should be able to relate their design to anyone via correct documentation, sketches and graphics. Sort of like telling a story which turns into a creative commercial interior design, supported by attention to detail in order to make sure the plot is strong.

Think Outside the Square

All designers can draw a room and plant furniture within it. But can all designers plan the furniture within this room to create interest and an interior that people want to work within? I think not! Take our crazy Bellfort designer as an example…this one sees a wall and wonders why it has to be smooth. And I kind of like that thinking because while there may be logistical requirements that deem that the wall must be smooth, the question has been asked and the door has been opened for a bit of design flair.

Small budget doesn’t mean plain and boring either. Selection of an interesting fabric, texture or paint colour may make the difference. You just want to have a designer who is willing to think about that difference.

Commercial Interior Design Practicalities

Does a square peg fit in a round hole? Not usually. So why do some designers draw this very same thing that just won’t work? I tend to think communication is a key contributor to this major design error, or should I say lack of communication. Our Bellfort designer often asks the guys questions about odd things but you know, it’s always based on some design concept that is yet to reach fruition. It’s wonderful to have great commercial interior design ideas but if they can’t be created in reality they aren’t really great design ideas, are they?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not bagging designers one bit. In fact, I think the majority of them do fantastic work. You may have also noticed that cushion scattering doesn’t really rate a mention. That’s because anyone can be a cushion scatterer. And that’s my point. A true commercial interior designer is a professional who has a design responsibility to their client and trade, not the final resting position of the cushions on your lounge.

And on that note I’ll say goodbye to you for now. If you want to read any of my other blogs, just click here.

Pip, pip, cheerio

Baxter at Bellfort

P.S… A big thank you to Karen from Kardamom Homewares in North Fremantle for providing the venue for my photo shoot and the very comfy, colourful cushions.

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