Interior Design By Mail Order – Does It Really Work

Anyone who is used to the traditional approach to interior design may immediately question such a proposition but the idea has real attractions and merits. Just how can a traditional interior designer become a product sold at a distance by mail order or over the internet?

Traditional Interior Design

Interior design is one of the visual and tactile arts. Its practitioners work with fabric, wood, glass, metal and colour and the finished product always needs to be seen and experienced to be fully appreciated. Photographs rarely do justice to real room settings, which is why many photographs of rooms are in fact staged settings in a photo studio.

Despite this, interior designers usually work in a logical and progressive way, starting with two key points:

  • The room as it currently is. In particular those aspects which cannot change, such as the direction of sunlight or position of a chimney.
  • The aspirations and goals of the client, including personal taste, budget and the desire to retain certain items or themes from the existing environment.
  • Traditionally, it may seem that an interior designer somehow effortlessly absorbs the key points. However in reality they are merely building up a clear mental picture, supported by notes, photos, sketches and measurements.

    Interior Design at a Distance

    Just how can a designer build up a picture of a room without actually visiting it? Well, it is entirely practical for much of the first stage of the interior design process to be treated as a structured process. This applies to capturing all the factual information about the existing room which can be recorded on a survey form or questionnaire.

    In fact a survey form or questionnaire is a great tool for capturing the client’s personal tastes, preferences and lifestyle aspirations. Often partners living together have differing requirements, goals and tastes, but one may be more assertive. If both use identical survey questionnaires and then compare their thoughts it will help enormously in reaching a suitable compromise less a lot of argument or suppressed anger.

    Even if two partners use this approach to interior design and do agree a compromise, both sets of information would be analysed by the interior designer so that the resultant design proposal will be attractive to both parties, rather than a neutral watered-down design.

    How does it work

    The more information the client provides about their room and tastes the better the final design will be. It helps considerably if the client can provide swatches or samples of fabric (e.g. from a three piece suite or carpet) that are already in use or planned.

    Similarly the interior designer will appreciate it if the client collects magazine clippings that illustrate styles that they particularly like and dislike. These can be submitted with the survey or questionnaire.

    Once the questionnaire is complete the client usually packs this up with material samples, magazine clippings, room photographs and sketch floor plans. The whole pack is sent to the interior designer.

    Based on the information received the designer starts work putting together a personal plan for the client. Often the designer will phone the client to make sure they understand the requirements or clarify some detail. Also once the designer starts to formulate a design they will run it past the client to test whether the solution is a good match to the requirement.

    Finally the designer will formulate a detailed plan which will be sent to the client by post. This may include some or all of the following:

  • Mood board with samples of proposed fabric, carpet, paint, wood-work etc.
  • Computer aided design of the room
  • Inventory of materials required; description, quantity, source and price.
  • Once the client receives their room design by post hopefully it will meet all their requirements, but there is always room for refinement with the designer. The client then has several options:

  • They can implement the design themselves. Perhaps they are confident at decorating and “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) but lack confidence in the design process? The client would then source the materials and any help from contractors locally.
  • Alternatively they may be able to order some or all of the recommended materials from the interior designer. Everything from a tin of paint, through finished curtains, right up to items of furniture could be delivered to the client’s door!
  • A third possibility would be to revert back to a more traditional interior design model. If the client really liked the design that arrived by post they could still call in the designer to manage the implementation on site, assuming the travelling distance was still practical!
  • Why do interior design at a distance?

    Mail-order design is ideal for clients who are leading busy lives. Perhaps the client wants to re-style their home but they spend most of their time away on international business. In the normal course of business it can be very difficult for the client and the designer to synchronise appointments on site. Working by post, e-mail and phone can actually speed up the process considerably.

    Other clients are somewhat shy or embarrassed at having an interior designer in their home. Perhaps they feel the designer will criticise their existing home or their taste. Interior design at a distance can be a good solution and it certainly can break down barriers.

    It may come as a surprise, but mail order interior design can be a very cost effective way of getting a unique personal interior design for your home.