Behind the scenes

What it’s Like to Work with an Interior Designer

28 July 2021

Appointing an interior designer can seem a little daunting. A lot of conversations I have with clients in the early days are about alleviating their fears and helping to explain what the experience might look like. So, I thought it might be helpful to explain what the role of an interior designer is, what to expect and also how you can help contribute to a successful result.

If you are interested in working with an interior designer start the process early to allow you to get to know them before committing!


Trust is fundamental in a successful project – not just in terms of the end result but the experience itself. You’ll spend a lot of time with a designer and if you don’t get the chemistry right it just won’t work as well.

So how do you get a feel for whether they’ll be good trust in the relationship? First of all, do you like them and are they easy to talk to? That’s the most important thing! Then take a mental note about whether the designer takes the time to listen to you when you first meet. I always say to potential clients that there is no sense of obligation simply because we have met for an initial chat! If you feel that they can reflect your objectives back to you in their proposal that’s a really good start. Otherwise, you end up with a designer whose signature style is forced on you without them really understanding you. I don’t use rigid moodboards or just present one idea and tell you that’s what you should have. A designer’s role should be to facilitate and shape ideas, taking your own thoughts and developing them.

design choosing
design choosing interior design

Of course, these elements are a key part of the design process (and I love this part of the process!) but there is so much more to a successful project.

“Oh, I don’t need layouts” is one of the most common phrases I hear from potential clients in the early days. This is one of the biggest mistakes to make. Understanding a room, how it flows and the best use of space is so important. You need to be fully informed about the layout of the room otherwise it’s impossible to source. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time on the floor with masking tape trying to work out if it fits!

It’s not just how a room looks like in plan (e.g., the birds-eye view from above) that’s important. You also need to understand how it looks at different levels. So, for instance, does the height of the sofa seat work with the ottoman you are about to buy and does the rug look right with the furniture layout. These are such easy mistakes to make but can be really frustrating when you’ve just invested a lot of money. It’s much better to invest upfront and have confidence everything works together, rather than that stomach lurch moment when the delivery arrives!

living room interior design
choices interior design

The other part is the implementation and project management. A fully trained interior designer leads you through the whole process. A successful project is the result of so many different decisions and pitfalls to avoid. That simply comes with experience and your designer can steer you away from those pitfalls!

Good interior designers have access to skilled and trustworthy tradespeople. I for one work with either suppliers I’ve used on other projects or those I’ve used in my own home. I see myself like the interior design version of a GP! So you go to one person for all your interior designer’s needs but I pull in the right consultants for specialised products and skills. And I’m responsible for managing and communicating everything. This makes the process much easier as the client only has one person to talk to during the project. Be aware that your designers have spent years building up these networks so try and avoid going straight to their suppliers. Discuss how this might work right at the beginning so it doesn’t get awkward further down the line!

hall way interior design
kitchen interior design

Always share as much information as possible. I give my clients a set of things to think about in advance of the briefing meeting, so they’ve had a chance to consider them before the first meeting.

living room interior design
interior design living room in use

The clearer the brief the better! That doesn’t mean knowing the exact look you’d like. But it does mean sharing your inspirations and the feel you’d like to achieve, along with the practical issues you’d like to address.

Questions I ask clients to consider include the following but this is really just a starting point. Also gather pictures from magazines or Pinterest, photos from holidays you’ve loved, favourite fabrics etc. I could go on and on! But my main point is oversharing – too much information is good!

  • The most important thing you need to consider – the feel
  • Do you have a vision of your mind about how you’d like it to look?
  • What are your favourite places, hotels and restaurants?
  • What patterns and colours do you like? And what don’t you like?
  • What are your favourite designers and brands?
  • How do you envisage using this room?
  • Is this a room you typically use in the day or the evening? Or both?
  • What are your furniture and storage requirements?
  • Is this room a priority for budget spend?

Projects where a client gives no brief or “do whatever you like” simply don’t work. There are thousands and thousands of different ideas out there. If your designer doesn’t have a sense of what you’d like to achieve there are likely to miss the mark.


There is still a perception that a mood board is a rigid board with a set of images and samples. And a mood board only gets you so far!

At the Concepts stage, I help my clients create an end vision in their minds of what a room will look like. I like to think of it as an anchor to which you can keep referencing. Do I use mood boards? Yes, I do but in a non-rigid way! I instead combine mood boards that encapsulate the look and feel (inspirational images); samples trays that bring the decorative schemes to life (with fabrics, paints etc) and then visuals (outline layouts, sketches and drawings). Non of these are set in stone. So at the first meeting, I show different ideas and then play around with them with the clients, getting lots of feedback. I allow for two sets of revisions but other designers work in different ways. So always ask about that when you get a quote.

ideas interior design
idea creation interior design

Until these concepts are signed off we don’t move on to the more detailed design development stages such as sourcing. It’s so important to get this stage right as it provides an anchor to keep referencing back to.


Many people are worried their designer will take over or be precious about their designs. You should feel confident to speak up if you are uncomfortable. Always feel you can share ideas and let them know if you feel they are going away from the vision you have in your mind. The early days are all about getting the concepts right. The best way to do this is by working with your designer to shape them, with both of you sharing ideas. If you wait until a few meetings in, you will have already gone down one route and then it’s more difficult to reverse and try a different design route!

samples interior design
lisa bradburn interior design


When you work with an interior designer, they will have a vision in their mind about how the room will look. If you have invested in visuals (and I always recommend that) you will have a very clear vision of what they look like. But if you decide to not invest in the visuals, you’ll need instead to have faith in your designer. The most common time to have a wobble is when paint goes on the wall.

Paint can look wrong until it’s mixed with other colours and textures. When you just see one colour it can look really overwhelming- but when you add other colours into the mix it can look very different. And when it’s all done you wonder what you worried about! Try not to question your designer’s decisions until it’s finished!

kitchen blue interior design

I hope you’ve found this article useful. If you’d like to get in touch to discuss your modern country project I’d love to hear from you.