Why Great Building Teams Include An Interior Expert

Interior designers who are a part of the beginning stages can give a bigger picture perspective

By Tim Button

Nobody will argue with the fact that much of our everyday life happens inside our houses. A well-designed home doesn’t just satisfy our aesthetic needs and express our personalities, but also helps our lives run more smoothly. Yet one of the biggest misconceptions in our industry is that an interior designer doesn’t get involved until the plans are drawn and permits received.

Good design becomes great when architects, builders and interior designers work together on a house from the beginning.”

Too often when interior architects and designers are finally called to do our work, we find a house with plenty of curb appeal and generous square footage…and no place to live. There’s no wall in the living room suitable to put a standard seven-foot sofa. There’s an AC supply grill right above where the bed needs to go. There’s a TV plug next to a window that will be covered by curtains. Or, better still, there is a window that looks perfectly balanced on the outside but is off-center on the inside, requiring a window treatment that is purposely skewed to make it look right.

While some of these problems are easily rectified, others can be more complicated and costly: doorways have to be altered to allow movement around sofas, walls need to be moved to accommodate furniture and the layouts reconfigured to allow space for proper flow. The easiest way to make sure a project doesn’t become reactive is to engage a team of interior experts at the planning stage. Good design becomes great when architects, builders and interior designers work together on a house from the beginning. Simply put, the architect doing an electrical plan should know where the floor lamp will go.

Having an interior designer on the team from the start has tremendous benefits because we see the bigger picture and can help balance the clients’ needs, aspirations and budget. Here are a few of the many ways an interior designer might add value to the project:

Creating reasonable places to put typical pieces of furniture

As the booming home staging industry has shown, people need to envision themselves living in the space. While our high-end projects allow for custom furniture and design, most people will furnish their new homes with pieces that are readily available, whether already owned or newly purchased: standard-sized beds, sofas, dressers, dining, console, side and end tables, chairs and loveseats. Are there appropriate spaces to harmoniously arrange all these pieces? Will people who inhabit this home be able to host a dinner party or gather around comfortably for a conversation or a board game? Is the light appropriate? Does the plan adequately address the complexities of kitchen design: plumbing and electric, fixtures and lighting, work and storage areas?

This balanced living room is centered around the fireplace. Photo: Peter Krupenye

Interior designers are attuned to current wants and needs of residential clients

Despite all the Instagram posts depicting makeshift workspaces people have set up in their bedrooms at the outset of the pandemic, people generally do not like putting desks in bedrooms. At the time when the trend is moving toward less formal and more open multi-purpose spaces, what options can we provide to accommodate those who need a comfortable workspace at home?

For example, we increasingly see the trend of less used living and dining rooms being laid out like libraries, designed to be somewhat more private and separated. The need for well-designed, highly functional spaces like walk-in pantries, mudrooms with plenty of storage options, and laundry rooms has never been higher. When interior designers can contribute their insights early in the process, the whole project benefits.

Material selection and resolution

While some architectural firms offer integrated architecture, interior and landscape services, most architects and contractors generally don’t want to be involved with design details like selecting tiles and faucets, moldings and door styles. Interior designers have vast experience and resources to pick the best materials and finishes that will make the house sing. When these details are approached as an integral part of the project rather than an afterthought, they elevate the whole project.

In our practice, the resolution of materials is of utmost importance. The “start and stop” of materials, the art of transitioning from one texture to another, is something few people think about, but everybody notices a cohesive space. Having worked for decades with environmentally friendly materials, we share our knowledge with the building teams to design spaces that are healthy, lasting and beautiful.

Tim Button is partner and co-owner of Stedila Design, a NYC-based interior design firm with a wide-ranging portfolio of residential, retail and commercial projects across the U.S. and internationally. He is currently working on residential projects in New York City, Connecticut, Boston, California, Vermont, Florida, and Washington, DC. Learn more at www.stediladesign.com


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