WHAT TO TAKE TO AN INTERIOR DESIGN CONSULTATION
There is a lot of confusion in the industry in regards to the all-important, interior design consultation. I hear a lot of confused and misguided information amongst interior designers when it comes to consultations. They ask should they be free, should they be paid, how long should I stay at the client’s house for, what should I take and the list goes on.
I have seen everything on the market, from free “first meeting” consultations to paid services. In my office, an interior design consultation is a paid 1-3 hour timeslot where we resolve my client’s most pressing problem. Sometimes my client is testing me out for a larger job, but most of the time, they pay me for my time to help resolve an issue and help them make decisions on things quickly.
I never do a free interior design consultation. I provide so much information and help that I am happy to risk losing the “potential client” if they don’t want to pay for my visit. Also, in order to prepare for the meeting, I undertake at least 2 more hours of preparation, not to mention the travel time, which always equals to a full day’s worth of work, especially as I often allow a few hours of follow up questions/calls. So as you can see my clients receive excellent value for their time with me and this explains why I make sure I am super prepared to go to my meeting.
That means I don’t just show up with a pen and notebook. I show up with the tools to solve their most pressing problems. Often a client will say that they just want my help with making decisions on the type of furniture and the colours, but it’s not until I’m in the consultation where I realize my client needs much more guidance and I show them that possibly the choice of furniture may be too large or too small for the room that their potential layout could be improved. That means, if I had of come unprepared, I would have been able to show my client the reasoning behind my guidance.
So what do you take to an interior design consultation? I usually take two bags to an interior design consultation. My survey bag and my swatch/sample bag.
I like to separate the survey stuff from the swatches, mainly because sometimes the survey equipment can get dirty and the sharp edges can puncture my colour cards and make them look grubby really quickly. Keeping them separate helps me find things faster too as having a big bag full of stuff can get really heavy and annoying.
So is the list of things I pack to take to my interior design consultations and some tips to help you decide whether you’ll need these for yourself too.
What To Pack In A Survey Bag
Even though you most probably won’t be undertaking a survey during a consultation, you will often need quick dimensions here and there to work out if a piece of furniture might fit in the room or to work out a run of joinery units.
My survey bag remains the same whether I use it for architecture or interior design, so I try not to mess with it as that’s how things get lost, misplaced or not put back in the right bag. I try to avoid any chance of looking unprofessional during my visit, so I make sure that I am always organized.
So this is my essential list:
- 5m Measuring Tape | A small measuring tape is best. I often clip it to myself or hold it in my hand when talking, so it needs to be stylish and not very heavy or clunky.
- Laser Measure (with a spirit level) | You wouldn’t be expected to do a survey during an interior design consultation but if you need to quickly know the ceiling height or room width, it’s much less embarrassing to whip out your laser than fumbling around with your tape measure.
- Angle Measure | Sometimes your laser measure has the feature for measuring angles. Mine does, but I have to admit I don’t use it! I much prefer using my angle measure tool.
- Skirting Measuring Tool (aka a deep contour gauge) | This helps me measure simple obtuse angles as well as skirting and some cornice profiles.
- Camera | I used to take any old camera in the past as I’d only use the photos for the duration of the project. These days, I have a high-quality camera with at least 2 lenses (one wide-angle lens and one around 50mm) and try to take the best photos because I might need them for social media in the future.
- Spare Batteries | My camera battery life is actually really good and so is my laser’s. I always check how much battery life I have before I go, but I never want to be caught out, so I always take a spare, just in case.
- Pencil Case | I take a few different coloured pens and make sure I have some variation in terms of highlighters, pencils, coloured pencils and non-ballpoint pens. I will usually have a clutch pencil or two with different coloured leads too.
- Scale Ruler | I find that client’s who hire me for an interior design consultation are hoping to solve a quick problem that they have due to potential or current building work. For that reason, I often find that my client has a few sets of plans on-site waiting to talk them through with me, so in order to understand the size of things when sketching on plan, I just always make sure I have a scale with me.
- Printed Plans | I will often try to have a look online to see if I can find the general layout of the property I’m visiting. Sometimes client’s don’t explain things very well, so you can whip out the existing plans and ask them to sketch out what they mean.
- Clipboard | Call me old fashioned but I prefer to have a hard, flat surface to draw, sketch or communicate my ideas on. When I worked in an office, all we had were our diaries and I always felt this just wasn’t good enough because for one, my pens seemed to always go missing and my not so great hand sketching skills looked far worse when trying to sketch on a page that was soft and squishy.
- Diary | I use my diary for writing down the minutes of the meeting and any action steps required. These days I have a separate diary for each project. When I worked for someone else we only ever had the one and I found that referring back to a project and finding something I was looking for was unnecessarily time-consuming.
What To Pack In A Swatch / Sample Bag
These are my staples, so they never leave my bag (I actually have two of each of these as I use them in my studio too so that I don’t have to keep taking them out of my consultation bag).
One thing I always do however is thinking about what my client might want to discuss during our time together and add a few extra things into the mix just for discussion or comparison. That could be just as simple as throwing in some tile samples in the style my client is looking for if my meeting is about renovating a bathroom (even if they have already chosen their tiles!)
- Large Fan Deck | The one I have is from Benjamin Moore, although a large one from Dulux, Crown or any other major supplier will do. I wouldn’t go to niche with this. I use it to try to help and match a colour rather than to choose colours.
- Paint Colour Charts | I often take a few different paint colour charts to my interior design consultation. I’ll take a low to mid-range supplier like Dulux or Crown and then I’ll take some high-end niche ones like Farrow and Ball or Fired Earth. Cost is usually the reason a client won’t choose a high-end supplier, but it’s a chance to show the client the difference in the colour choices.
- Grout Swatch | Often I’m helping clients choose tiles for kitchens and bathrooms, so I always bring a grout swatch to make sure I specify the grout too (you don’t want the builder making the design choice for you).
- RAL Colour Chart | Metal colours for folding sliding doors and windows are specified by using RAL colours. So I always make sure I have an accurate RAL colour chart with me at all times.
- Metal Fan Deck | This has a swatch each of gunmetal, copper, brass, stainless steel and bronze. I got a great one at a trade show one year and it has polished as well as brushed versions of each. These have slight variations from certain suppliers, so it’s not always accurate, but the undertone of each swatch will usually be the same, so at least you’ll be making a decision based on a real sample rather than your memory.
- Timber Veneer Chart | This is helpful to describe the different types of wood grains, colours and types when choosing timber veneers for joinery.
- Surfaces Fan Deck | I use Formica and One World Swiss Crono. The Formica ones are heavy but pretty good as a collection to take to show a spread of potential surface options if you are thinking about getting creative with bedheads, bespoke finishes or furniture.
- Generic Fabric Fan Deck | Having some fabric swatches in all the primary and secondary colour groups can help your client visualize how something might feel or look, so will help them make confident decisions much more quickly. If I know what supplier the client is planning on using, I will make sure I take their swatch kit too.
Sometimes I wish I could take my whole library to an interior design consultation and often, even that wouldn’t be enough! Some clients genuinely want to see every option under the sun and that’s because they haven’t taken the time to get a clear idea of what it is they want and they send themselves round in circles. If they let me, I help them come to a clear decision to help them save time and feel happy with what they have chosen. Some clients just love playing around with samples and love the process of choosing! They are the ones I tell about my mentorship program!
I hope that helped you pack your interior designer’s consultation bag.
About the author
Jo Chrobak is the founder and CEO of The Interior Designer’s Business School. She has over 20 years of experience working in architecture and interior design, across the world on commercial and domestic projects from international hotels to developments and new builds. Her vast experience transcends industries to give her unique knowledge of processes and strategies which she passes on to her students to help them succeed as interior designers as quickly as possible.
Growing up in Sydney, Australia, Jo decided to travel the world in her twenties to gain experience and education from as many sources as possible. She graduated with first class Honours, top of her graduating class and a Bachelor of Architecture in 2007 and since then has worked on projects in Norway, Oman, The UAE, Egypt, Australia, Canada and across the UK and Europe.
She currently runs her architectural and interior design studio (www.jochrobak.com) and specialises in complex projects that require both architectural and interior design knowledge.
Jo is also trained as an Ashtanga yoga instructor, a life and business coach and is a passionate artist creating bespoke artwork for clients.
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