May 06

How to navigate The Interior Design Process

Knowing where to start with your interior design project can be overwhelming. What may seem like a huge challenge and stressful experience can be a stress-free journey for you. Quattro Interiors has you covered, with our tried and tested method and years of experience. We’ve broken down all the steps in the interior design process so you can feel easier about your upcoming project.

Do I need an interior designer?

Interesting question! I would like to think that what we do is to add value to a project. We all see many successful renovations or new home projects that don’t use an interior designer. But for reasonably sized new home builds or home renovations the process can be long and complex. So at least I hope we can simplify that for the client.

Should I wait until I have a property before I come and see you?

Not necessarily. In the past, we have assisted many clients to find the perfect property. In both residential and commercial situations.

Quite often a client is looking for something in particular. They would like to check plans and explore options to see if what they are wanting to do is possible. For example;

  • If you are looking for new business premises, we can assist with space planning. This ensures you have the space for the staff and support you need to efficiently run the business; 
  • For say restaurant premises. The owner may want to confirm the numbers of patrons they can fit in a certain space to make the business viable; 
  • For a potential home or investment property to buy. The client may want to check what is possible within the space. Also to start thinking about the costs of renovations.

We can assist with all this, so I would say it is never too early to get in touch.

architect ruler and pencil interior design process

What if we are working with an architect, when should we start talking about interior design?

The earlier the better! 

When possible, it’s best to have your Interior Designer involved from the beginning. If we can work with your Architect to understand the way they are translating your brief that is perfect. We would always want to have a part in the space planning of a building. Checking that your use is possible from the very beginning. It is ideal to be able to check furniture layouts from day 1. This makes the whole interior design process much more streamlined.

In saying this, if you are partway through a design project and feel you may need some direction it’s never too late. Many clients have approached us when the construction is at the lockup stage. Thinking they could go it alone and do the interiors themselves. They have found it overwhelming and all-consuming (which it can be). In this situation, we work with what is there. We assist the client to the end of the build and then onto furnish the project.

What are the steps of the interior design process?

Generally, the stages can be defined as below. But, depending on the project size and scope, some of the stages of the design process can merge into one.

  • Pre-design process

Meet with the client to discuss the project brief and scope of work.

Develop the fee proposal for approval.

Visit the project site if it is existing.

Basic site measure and/or review of existing floor plans.

  • Concept Design

Develop the brief in conjunction with the client, project team and any stakeholders.

Development of visual concepts for communication of the design. Great tools to use here are things such as Pinterest, mood boards and concept sketches.

Development of space planning for the project.

  • Design Development

This stage builds on the approved concept design. Here we develop the design and finalise space planning and finishes selections.

At the completion of this stage, the client will have finalised plans. These are developed in detail for complicated areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. Also for finishes and a project budget.

  • Documentation

Once the design development is complete and approved. The documents from that stage can have the final layer of detail developed to allow for the construction of the project.

Depending on the scope of the project this will include drawings such as:

Floor plans

Ceiling plans

Electrical Layouts

Bathroom and kitchen plans and elevations 

Built-in cabinetry drawings

Finishes schedules

And possibly much, much more!

  • Services during construction

Our role here depends a little bit on the project and the team. But we will be in regular contact with the tradesmen and will often visit the construction site. This ensures everything is on track and the work is being completed to a high standard.

  • Project completion

Once the project is complete we stay in touch to ensure any issues can be seen to and corrected as soon as possible. 

zahli interior design bar and restaurant

Is the process different for residential or commercial properties?

The steps of the design process are the same. But each project or project type tends to have a different emphasis. So this will differ a little. On a commercial project, the procurement process can have quite an impact on the design process. 

I have some ideas about what I would like, is there anything else that will help you understand what I am looking for?

It is always great to meet a client that has a good idea of what result they want from the project. We need to remember that the space is not ours, but our client’s, so it must suit their style, wants and needs.

Interior Design is extremely visual. If you have an idea of what you are looking for, images are always a great way to communicate that to us. They are also really helpful to communicate the way a room can work.

We use Pinterest a lot as a design tool to keep in touch with our client. Shared boards can be a powerful tool for both sides to add ideas and images, and also comment on. Most times these are the first step to us creating our concept boards (or mood boards).

Houzz is also a good resource that is more focused on residential design. It won’t let you pin from it, but you can set up your own lookbook within it if you are registered with them.

If you have access to a site that has elements you like, visiting it together is also a great way to show us what you want. 

Basically the more information you can give us about what you like the better!

If you need some inspiration for your project take a look at our favourite resources

How long does the interior design process take?

How long is a piece of string…. This is affected by the type and size of the project and the client’s urgency for completion.

We have worked on residential projects that take years. And commercial projects that take a few months. For speedy projects the design process taking only a couple of weeks for approval to keep up with a crazy programme.

Image courtesy of Vitra

Once I build my home I would like to stay in it for many years. Times will change and I may even have a family. Does that influence your design?

I would like to think that this is the way all projects should be planned. We do our best to design spaces that are classic and comfortable to last the test of time. With home interiors, the design needs to have the ability to grow with the client over time. 

I’m not a huge fan of fast fashion, it is bad for many reasons – to me this applies to interior design also!

How involved would I be?

Particularly in a home design, the client should be as involved as possible. It adds to the success of a project.

I always make the client aware at the beginning of a project – they will get the results they are after if they are constantly involved. We need to ensure clear lines of communication are open during the project. 

Generally, this will involve regular meetings with your design team. Giving feedback, particularly in the early stages is important to ensure the design concept is very clear. On a reasonably sized residential project, you could expect design meetings weekly, to begin with, then fortnightly for the duration of the project. There will be additional lines of communication throughout the process such as emails and phone calls also.

Always ensure you ask for clarification if you don’t understand something.

On the flip side of this. We will always be doing our best to ensure our communication with you as the client is regular, clear and easy to understand.

interior design interior architecture verbier private chalet kylie grimwood quattrois quattro design zermatt

Do you implement any sustainability practices during the process?

We are doing what we can every day to be more sustainable. In the office, on the project construction site and in our product selections. 

The obvious answer here is reusing and recycling in the office and on-site. 

We do what we can to take it further than that. For example, when we are designing a home for a client we encourage keeping and reusing old pieces. Or refinishing old pieces to reuse in the new spaces. I love it when a client has many pieces whether they be art or furniture that come with us on the journey to a new project. This is something that also makes a place feel like a home from day one. The perfect example of this is this private chalet project in Verbier. It feels like a home, not just a shiny new renovation. Because it has so many pieces included in it that were already there!

When we start speaking about new pieces for a project we go back to my previous comment about fast fashion. It is important to us to ensure we specify products that stand the test of time. This is always also guided by the client and their perception of value. 

To me, value represents being able to purchase a product that stands the test of time. The price will be long forgotten whilst you are still able to enjoy it! My favourite example of this is my ‘forever furniture’. I am still collecting some pieces, but most of what I live with every day will be with me forever. I think this is the best way to think about sustainability. 

dining area and stairs - interior design process

How do you make sure the project sticks to my budget?

We develop a realistic budget in conjunction with you at the beginning of the project and do our best to stick to it. We will check the ideal budget figure you give us to see if it is realistic, and if it is not this needs to be discussed.

As part of the design process, we will develop and break down the budget per line items. If the budget is too high in the scenario of say a furniture package this can then act almost like a shopping list. In the case of built work, it can be a reality check to review what are the most important items to be included. And what level of finish is appropriate.

It can be said that many times a client’s budget and design expectations are at either end of the spectrum. We do what we can to bring them together and work well!

How do you feel at the end of a project?

Happy, excited, Relieved…. I am always nervous until the final day of a project. Even though I know in myself what it will look like and work like in real life – until it is all done it is nerve-racking. I think relieved is the best word here!

Author – Teri-Anne of An Aimless Walk

About the Author:
Teri-Anne is a content creator and travel writer based in the Swiss Alps. Owner of

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