How to approach an interior design project

Published: 6 July, 2018

Categories: General

How to approach an interior design project

The planning of a project will affect the success of the project, and is a crucial element to in approaching a new interior design project. Planning allows the designer to work within a structured framework and provide the correct documentation that is required at each phase of the project. It is vital for a project to be well planned for it to run smoothly and be successfully designed, managed and executed.

Ultimately poor planning of a project can result in an unsatisfactory and rushed project installation, so here are some steps to ensuring a successful project:

  • A. Finding a client:

There isn’t a project without a client, and there are many ways to find or get a client. A client could approach you, after seeing your previous work, looking through your portfolio or seeing your display at design expos. You could also approach the client after seeing their job advertised, or potentially work on the concept phase of the project as part of a tender process in the hope that your design solution is selected for you to continue with the remainder of the project works.

  • B. Client Briefing:

This first part of the process is vital to ensuring the success of the project and delivering a design that meets the needs of the client, after all the person who needs to be the most satisfied with the design needs to be the person who is going to be using the space every day. In the client briefing it is important to get all the details for the project and further expand and enquire on each piece of information to ensure you have not left out anything that would be vital to the success of the project.

For example: Family home? How many family members? What are the ages of the family members? Are there any specific needs? What space will you be designing? Likes and dislikes? Style preferences? Budget?

By having an informed understanding of the client and the scope of the work they are requesting, it allows you, as the designer, to make informed design decisions from the beginning.


Example of a client board: Showing who the client is, their design style and their likes and dislikes.

  • Concept Phase:

This is your preliminary design phase, where you have received the briefing from your client and you now understand what is required. You can begin this process by brainstorming ideas, collecting mood or inspirational imagery and starting to process these ideas to create a working interior space.

You may need to have additional client meetings in this phase of the project, to ensure that you are lining up with the clients brief, as the brief may have evolved and developed further since your initial briefing, and vice versa.

Some of the boards or work you would show your client in this phase of the work would be as outlined below:


Example: Mood Board, collection of inspirational    Example: Concept sketches, the designers

Images to help the client understand the              process to convert inspiration into working parts

Intended look and feel for the space.                    for the intended interior space.



Example: Floor Plan, a floor plan displays the       Example: Sample Board, showing the finishes

layout of all furniture and fittings to go into the    and materials to be used in the space.


At the end of the concept phase the client has signed off on the overall design solution; look and feel, planning and the application of materials and finishes. Signing off on the concept phase of the project, means that the client is happy to move onto the next phase of the project which details up the project on a technical level.


  • Design Development

This portion of the design process is geared towards the designer providing technical documentation that is required for all contractors and suppliers who will be involved in the project. Contractor specific plans are drawn up to show the installation of their specific specialisation, be it electrical, plumbing, drywalling, shop fitting, etc. Detailing up these specialisation specific plans makes for easier understanding of the intended installation.

Final selections are made for all materials, finishes and fittings and documented in a finishing schedule. This schedule notes the material, its location on site and its cost.

A cost estimate is developed at this stage to make sure that all finishes and work to be undergone still aligns with the client’s budget and revisions are made to the budget or material selections if necessary.

A specification document is also put together at this phase to ensure that it is clearly communicated what materials are to be used where and more importantly to ensure the quality of the application of the materials by the contractor who will be installing in the next phase.

Project schedule is another important to compile in this phase as it provides a timeline of who is doing what, and when. This helps to ensure that conflicting installations do not overlap and that the installations can be carried out timeously and hopefully before the intended hand over date.


  • Design Implementation + Project Management

The project is a go! Contractors are on site and everything that was only outlined on paper is now coming to life. The role of the Designer is to now facilitate and manage the works on site, to ensure that all contractors are implementing their work as per the provided drawings, documentation and project schedule.

Once most of the work has been completed on site it is important to draw up a snag list, this is a list of all problem areas on site, where the contractor has either completed the installation but there is a small flaw or they have not completed the work to a satisfactory level.


  • Hand Over

Project is complete, contractors are done, and any flaws that were flagged have been fixed and it’s time for the client to move back into the space and use it for its intended purpose.

By following this process, and successfully compiling all the required documentation that is required at each phase, it allows the project to be executed systematically and professionally. By outlining the correct documentation at each phase, it allows for a successful installation for the client, the designer and all the contractors involved.

Written by

Jenni Mckenzie

Lecturer at Inscape