Fall back in love with your home with help from the experts

If you’re stumped by your space, it could be time to call an interior designer

What do interior designers do and why do you need one? We put the question to established names and newbies to the business.

We spend most of our life inside spaces. Having a well-designed room, from its structural flow to the quality of furniture you sit on, its ergonomics, how light passes through it and what sort of storage solutions you have in place all help to improves one’s quality of life.

"An experienced designer will have the spatial knowledge to work with your home as it is, and also be colour and materials literate to advice on any extension work as well as capable of drafting lighting and electrical plans that your builder will be able to understand," says Angela Connolly, president of The Interiors Association, which has some 200 members. She also runs her own practice, Conbu Interior Design.

She suggests an initial meeting with a client to go through expectations and brief and suggests the client brings along a mood board of visual ideas he or she likes as well as a list of likes and dislikes.

“This helps get a better idea of a client’s style,” she explains, counselling clients to factor in textures, surfaces, colours and acoustics to the list.

"We reinvent space," says Philippa Buckley of Studio 44. In a recent project in Sandymount she upgraded a 102sq m (1,100sq foot) three-bedroom home by taking out the chimneybreast and every interior wall of its "pokey" layout to add valuable space.

'It's about bringing a fresh perspective, seeing your space through fresh eyes'

By doing so she accommodated a guest WC and cloakroom downstairs, hidden behind a curved wall, created an open plan living area and installed an RSJ (rolled steel joist) along the back wall that enabled opening up the whole back of the house to bring in the light and transform an unloved garden into a bone fide outside room, complete with awning.

The loss of the chimneybreast meant that upstairs she could accommodate a second en suite and a laundry room, complete with bespoke, vented doors, removing ambient noise from the open plan ground floor. The three-bedroom, one bathroom property became a two-bed, but both doubles now have an en suite. Its removal added an additional 1.5 cubic metres of storage to the kitchen downstairs.

“This kind of spatial addition and subtraction helps us reinvent how we live,” Buckley says.

“It’s about bringing a fresh perspective, seeing your space through fresh eyes, highlighting potential and adding functionality to your home,” says Róisín Lafferty of Kingston Lafferty Design. “You should call in an interior designer when you fall out of love with your home. They should offer new ideas and open your eyes to its possibility, to make a space specific to your needs. The most value is in the ideas they offer.”

A recent KLD example involved a mother in Malahide whose kids had flown the nest.

“The house was no longer a family home. Empty nesters don’t need as many rooms so we joined rooms together. A dining-cum-reading nook replaced the children’s den, a place where she could now stretch out and read the newspaper. A box room, for example, can become a luxurious walk-in wardrobe.”

Hélène Broderick excels at channelling the classic contemporary look, which works especially well in period properties. She recently reimagined an apartment in a Georgian house in Dublin 4, reopening the interconnecting rooms so that the living and main accommodation linked together like a de luxe hotel suite with dual aspect light from the rooms’ tall sash windows.

Taking inspiration from New York townhouse designs, she concealed the kitchen, closing it off from the living room by shuttering its breakfront custom cabinetry. This allowed its owners to enjoy the period beauty of the living room without being distracted by visible cooking clutter.

“You need to fully understand a client’s lifestyle to tailor a scheme to their needs,” she says explaining that this includes asking a lot of questions, some of a rather personal nature, like asking the parents of one child if they plan to have more, for example, for this will impact on the number of bedrooms the family needs.

“It’s also important to meet both halves of a couple to ensure both parties preferences are factored in. If they are outdoors people they may have a lot of sporting kit that needs to be accommodated.”

A great introduction to how interior designers work is to have one come and do your paint colours for you

Fully understanding the budget available is also crucial. “A client may have a wish list that doesn’t match his or her budget, for example.” Broderick works on a fixed fee basis on bigger projects and on an hourly rate on smaller projects.

A great introduction to how interior designers work is to have one come and do your paint colours for you. It’s a smart move for a new colour palette can transform a home.

"People have a fear of paint but it's not permanent," says Elaine Verdon, who, having done up her own home, moved from a career in marketing to training at the Dublin Institute of Design to better understand planning and flow.

Having set up her decor business, Leo + Cici, two years ago, she offers a two-hour in-home consultation to go though colour palettes for €290, ex travel. This lets her see the space for herself, determine how much natural light there is, and what colour the floors and internal doors already are.

Hiring an interior designer should save you time and/or money

“The colours in art and soft furnishings already in situ are a good indication of the colours the potential client already likes,” she explains.

For Verdon it means she gets to spend time with the client without them having to invest significantly and usually leads to further work. It’s also a very affordable way of fashioning up a space if you’re planning on putting it up for sale. General design consultations cost from €500.

“Hiring an interior designer should save you time and/or money,” Angela Connolly says. “He or she will be able to supply products and materials that work with your space and be able to have the works executed by trusted tradespeople whose work they can stand over.”

Some designers have a signature style, so if you’re hiring them then that’s the style you can expect to get, she explains.

But first it’s important to establish a budget, she says. “You can employ one on a per hour basis, on a percentage or on a project basis. Expect to pay upwards of €100 per hour, ex VAT.”

A contract is also vital. “It should signal involvement, what’s been agreed.”

Why do we need them?

“They will reduce the stress levels, save you time, make sure the project comes in on budget and to deadline,” Connolly says.

conbudesign.com; studio44.ie; kingstonlaffertydesign.com; leoandcici.ie; helenebroderickinteriors.com