Steps of the Interior Design Process
The popularity of home renovation shows can make the interior design process appear easier than ever. Would it surprise you to learn that what goes on behind the scenes is a completely different story? Don’t fret — equipped with a clear understanding of the process, you can navigate each phase with ease!
June 23, 2022
Have you ever walked into someone’s home and thought, wow this just feels so right — of course, they would design it this way! Well let me tell you, the amount of thought and consideration to make something look like it’s the only choice takes time for even the most seasoned designers.
Throughout my education and career, I have heard time and time again — the simplest details are often the most complicated. What this means is that for something to look simple, a lot of thought must go into how it all comes together.
This is 100% true for great (yes, great) interior design, which is why an interior design project can quickly go from “I got this,” to “Please help!”
And that’s where we come in!
It is such a joy to collaborate with clients to create spaces that are uniquely them.
Designing your space is a team effort that provides huge rewards that can last the lifetime of your home. (Unless you just love change, in which case, we’re here for that too!) The amount of support your project needs might be a lot or a little depending on preference, scope, and experience. We know no project is typical, but this is generally how we like to lead our clients through the interior design process at Board & Vellum.
First, we get to know you.
An inquiry call is a necessary first step in working with an interior designer. The first thing we do before an inquiry call is to help equip you with things you can do to make for a more robust conversation.
Knowing what your goals are can help guide our conversation. Inspiration imagery is a great place to start, but any ideas we can turn into something tangible are what we’re looking for.
What’s Working & What’s Not
Next, we’ll want to know what’s not working for you, what you’d like to change or add, and how you currently move through your space. This helps us think about the relationships between your spaces that you might not have considered. Of course, if your home has an online listing, we’ll want to see that too!
Second, we get to know your house.
As-built measuring is a necessary first step in the design process, as it ensures we design to the right size (even a tiny 1/4 inch can end up being costly!).
Visiting Your Home
Visiting you in person gives us the unique chance to better understand the psychology of your space while simultaneously letting our initial design ideas develop. It’s like the beginning of the marinating process!
Verification & Documentation
Sometimes we’ll do measurements ourselves, and other times it’s easier or faster for you to have them performed by a third party. Both options will get us what we need!
If you have measurements done by a third party, we still want to meet you on-site to do our own documentation of existing conditions — basically, understanding what’s there before we start our work. Having this initial touchpoint lets our ideas develop even when we’re not working on your project.
Most importantly, this phase provides us with what we need to produce a 3D model of your home, which will be the basis for all future design work.
Third, we begin to design.
Schematic Design (SD) is where we dive into the aesthetics! We’ll bring a lot of ideas to the table through sketches and inspirational imagery, which speak to style, color, function, and mood.
Space Planning & Aesthetic Visioning
Whether it’s new furniture layouts, moving walls to make your space flow, or determining the location of your new shower, we’ll bring an array of options for you to consider with the goal of landing on a preferred layout. This can take a few rounds where we actively listen and build on ideas while refining the design. We’ll gain insight into what you like and don't like, and curate something specific to your needs and tastes, while helping you discover your true aesthetic along the way.
Onboarding Your Contractor
At the end of the schematic design phase, we can assist in onboarding a contractor to provide early pricing for your project, so we can work with you to keep your project within budget. We also begin to establish our network of partners for your project.
Fourth, we bring the design to life.
Design Development (DD) is the phase in which your project starts to come to life! During DD we provide graphics, like elevations, perspectives, and renderings, so you can start to envision your space.
With a layout and aesthetic in hand, we develop graphics and imagery with the specific built elements and furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) we could use to bring your space to life. We’ll get into the details and provide you with physical samples so you can see exactly what we’d be using in your space. This phase coincides with permitting, if your project needs a permit.
Fifth, we go in for permit.
Permitting usually runs in tandem with the Design Development phase. We keep the technical drawings up to date as the design develops, and submit them to the city as soon as the design is finalized.
Navigating the Process
Unless your project qualifies for an over-the-counter-permit (known in Seattle as a Subject to Field permit, or STFI), we’ll submit your building permit, which will get assigned to a city reviewer. The process of getting a reviewer assigned, then having them review and provide feedback can take a while. (Right now, we’re seeing anywhere from 12-16 weeks depending on your jurisdiction.)
We always assume one round of corrections, which typically takes a week or two to formalize. Once complete, we resubmit and the review process begins again, although, this time, it’s much quicker!
Sixth, we develop our documentation.
Once you have a permit, you’re ready to build… almost! During the Construction Documents (CD) phase, we create a graphic instruction manual for your contractor to build out your space. We start this work during DD and we continue to build on these drawings after everything is finalized.
Details, Details, Details
Construction Documents might include things like ceiling light locations, the type of countertop edge you prefer, how your wood flooring transitions into the kitchen floor tile, and the height of the seat at your custom banquette — anything the contractor needs to make sure the final product matches the design. We even include specifications like low-VOC paint and other healthy materials if that’s your thing (it’s definitely ours!).
Seventh, we see your project come to life.
It’s happening! It’s finally happening! Your home is under construction and we’re in a phase called Construction Contract Administration (CCA). There’s a light at the end of this beautiful tunnel!
The Final Touches
The CCA phase ensures the interior scope of your project is constructed and installed per the design intent. We can tailor our involvement to your needs and budget, including supporting you the whole way by answering questions from the contractor, reviewing finish submittals for approval, responding to Requests for Information (RFIs), and approving shop drawings.
And that’s it! That’s the process! Was it more than you thought? Then you need an Interior Designer! Was it less than you thought? Well then, you deserve an Interior Designer!
If there is one takeaway, please know that this is very much a team effort in which we rely on you to keep the process moving forward with our thoughtful guidance every step of the way. Because everyone deserves a uniquely beautiful place to call home.