The Master plan
Everything we chose is carefully considered as part of a property-wide master plan that all pulls in the same direction to deliver the overall, cohesive wow-factor. Every choice is put into this plan to see if it fits perfectly. We then cross reference the item with your personal daily lifestyle. How durable does it need to be, does it need a left-handed opening, what is its purpose at different times of the day, where will the sunlight hit it?
We know what to look for and can decipher which items are the best quality and the best value. An interior designers’ job isn’t done when the project is complete – we design for longevity. We need to know if the item we chose will still look good in 20 years.
Our choices are never to do with the name or designer of an item, although over time we have learned which ones to go to first for exceptional quality and value. Our choices are all to do with the quality, material and guarantee. Cost is important – we all have budgets to stick to – but it isn’t the only factor. Ornaments can be cheaper, but things you use every day need to last well. Over time the more expensive items with higher quality will have a lower cost per use and are therefore more cost effective. This is why we advise against choosing big ticket items based on trends and fashion – we want them to last longer than any trend. You can switch smaller, cheaper items in and out as fashions change.
Longevity is one way that good interior designers actually save homeowners money. Yes, you are paying for our services, but we are ensuring that you are not making costly mistakes along the way. Everything we choose is considered and usable for years so you won’t need to replace items in a short space of time.
Dimensions are key
Another way you can tell a great interior designer from a good one is sizing. In our projects, we carefully draw the dimensions of every room and constantly cross reference items with our CAD drawings. We check the heights and widths of everything to make sure it fits into the space and works with other objects beautifully. For example, when we are considering a sofa, we will make sure it sits perfectly under your windowsill, leaves enough space between the door and coffee table and won’t dwarf other pieces.
Aesthetics always come second to proportion. It doesn’t matter how pretty something is, if it is the wrong size, it will skew the overall look and feel of the room. All items will be of the same scale and look as if they were made for your space; they may as well have been for all the care that has been put into their procurement.
How to choose upholstery
Why doesn’t everyone go to Dunelm to buy their sofas? They have loads of items that look just like far more expensive items, at a smidge of the price. The answer is; the Martindale rub count.
The results of a Martindale test show how much wear and tear a fabric will take before there is a noticeable change in appearance. The higher the score, the more durable the fabric is. The scores below show how suitable a fabric is for different upholstery uses. You can find the Martindale count on the back of all swatches and materials.
How to choose flooring
It can be difficult to tell the difference between cheap and expensive flooring just by touching it or – heaven forbid – simply looking at it online.
How to choose carpet: The first thing we look for when putting forward carpets and rugs is a Weavers Guarantee which promises that there has been no child slavery involved. This is a huge problem in the carpet industry, where children as young as seven are widely used to weave carpets. We always recommend carpets and rugs that are GoodWeave certified. It doesn’t mean the carpet is more expensive, we just like to make sure we are not causing any harm.
How to choose wooden flooring: You will find hundreds of identical looking wooden floorboards online with a big difference in price, so why would you ever pick the more expensive ones? We choose based on durability and wear layers. All floors are not the same, they all have different amounts of lacquer, wood and durability. Cheaper flooring has a lower wear layer, which is how much real wood is in the top layer. You will often find a multi-ply base in cheaper flooring. If you pick it up you will see a much thinner wear layer and the ply underneath.
So, what is a good wear layer? 3mm is reasonable, we would never go lower than that, if you do, you may as well buy a laminate. 5mm is excellent. The reason this is so important is that a thick, good quality wear layer can be sanded and re-oiled for a fraction of the price of a new floor and will last significantly longer. This is why parquet floors last for centuries – they are made of solid wood.
We look at colour, width, oil, wood, ply, the whole package. Whereas multi-ply is cheap, birch ply is significantly stronger product and is only slightly more expensive. All of these floors feel the same to walk on – that’s where the difficulty lies. We request this information from suppliers to make sure we are getting the best quality as the facts are not always offered up. We find it out and track it in our sample library.
How to choose tiles: It depends on what you are trying to achieve, but we always recommend full bodied tiles. We avoid tiles which have a layer of porcelain with a transfer on top, the pattern wears off over time. Real tiles in marble or terrazzo shows the pattern throughout and are far more robust. If you chip a full-bodied tile, it’s OK as it looks the same all the way through. If you chip a printed tile, you’re in trouble so you want full-bodied tiles in high traffic spaces.
Tiles may look same online but are fundamentally different. They have a different thickness and different strength gradings. Some things only suitable for walls, not floors. The R Rating tells you how non-slip it is, so for example you will need R 11 for a wet room. Some clever tiles only become non slip with water so they look and feel the same throughout the room.
We create a tile diagram and try different dimensions to find the best tile layout for your space. Tiles are also different heights, so we will always check this to make sure all surfaces will all be flat.
How to choose paint
This all comes down to the level of pigment. We regularly update our research to keep up with the quality of products, eco credentials and how they are made. If you use a lower quality paint, you will need to use more of it and spend longer on more layers, increasing time and costs. We recommend that you choose trade paint which needs fewer layers.
How do we feel about colour matching paint? We understand wholeheartedly how important finding the exact right colour is, we really do, which is why we are not against it. We would never go to a DIY wholesaler to colour match – we would use Layland or Johnson’s. While they are better than consumer paint, you still don’t get the finish you get with Benjamin Moore paint which is always our first choice. With Benjamin Moore paint, as the sun moves around, it reflects different colour. Cheaper paint is flatter and less durable. We use Benjamin Moore’s Scuff-X paint in high traffic areas.
A good interior designer will advise against using Farrow & Ball paint. It used to be great until 10 or 11 years ago there was a formula change which made it a consumer paint. Now, you can’t touch up walls with it and it is just not practical. Little Greene is much better and Benjamin Moore is the best. It’s rub proof, easy to use, and you can touch up small bits and it always looks flat and perfect. This is really important to us, above colour, the paint has to really work. Yes, you can get the right colours but not the same durability – we have long conversations with our clients about this, and how the right paint will save time and money in the future.
Our top tips
Don’t rely on just going online – it can be too easy to think you have a bargain. We always visit showrooms, see it, feel it, understand it, talk to the staff. It is so important to know what you are buying.
We trust small, independent shops, because they rely on recommendations. It would be bad for their business to sell things that aren’t great – this will cause them problems in five, 10 and 20 years. They only work with great products. Use things that they have stocked for 20 years and have learned to trust. Don’t use ‘new’ products at introductory prices.
If reading Trustpilot reviews, avoid new reviews and look for ones that are a year or two in with wear and tear. These are hard to find as people usually review when everything is still new and shiny.