Renovation Solutions
When and Why to Involve an Interior Designer

By Ann Robinson & Annie V. Schwemmer
Published: Feb. 12, 2016 9:00 p.m. (link to full article)

Encore Model Apartment by Belle Kurudzija

Encore Model Apartment by Belle Kurudzija

“It is a three-legged stool — great architect, talented interior designer and an experienced contractor."

Think about the last time you moved. Your former house has been emptied and cleaned, and all of your possessions are stacked randomly in your new space. It was time to start setting up the new house.

You took a deep breath, and started arranging your furniture. Outlet locations dictated where you placed your furniture so you can you plug in the lamps, and determined where you put your TV. Your dresser only fits on one wall and your California king only fits one way if you want to be able to walk through the room.

That's when the realization comes that the design of the house is controlling how you use it.

We recently had a discussion with Lamar Lisman, of Lisman Studio Interior Design, about the importance of hiring an architect and involving an interior designer.

“Homeowners think they are being clever by not hiring an architect,” said Lisman. “But they aren’t. It comes back to bite them. It usually costs them in either time or money or both.”

He says the most successful projects are when you have a team of professionals involved from the beginning.

“I say it is a three-legged stool — great architect, talented interior designer and an experienced contractor," Lisman said. "Add an open-minded client and you have nirvana.”

With a collaborative design approach, the time to build the team is at the beginning of the project.

“It is the idea of having multiple sets of professional eyes,” he said.

Many people have the misconception that hiring an interior designer means they are going to suggest you buy all new furniture and scrap everything you own. This is not true. In fact, Lisman says he would fire anyone who worked for him who suggested that.

An interior designer should take an inventory of all your furniture and consult with you as to what you want to keep for the new or remodeled house. They will also measure the pieces you are going to keep.

“It is important to know how big your nightstands are before you build your new master suite,” Lisman said. “On the plans you will just see boxes representing a queen size bed and the basic 25-by-25 nightstands, but you have 36-by-18 nightstands and a California king. That will change what you need for your room.”

When you understand the problem at this early stage, you can decide whether to adjust the size of the room or replace the furniture. Knowledge is power, indeed, when you plan the end from the beginning.

In the beginning stages of schematic design, it is our practice, as the architect, to add furniture symbols into the plans to help provide a sense of scale. For instance, we can easily see that a certain dining area comfortably fits a table for six. This can be valuable information if what you really want is a table that seats eight, and this is the time to discover this, as opposed to the day you move in to your finished project. Part of our job as architects is to make sure we all deal in reality rather than in wishes or hopes.

As we synthesize our various schematic plans and zero in on our master plan, and with the input of the interior designer, we can begin to replace the generic furniture symbols with the true measurements of any critical furniture pieces. These placements will help shape lighting layouts and outlet placement.

“You may have a beautiful piece of furniture or piece of art that may need specialty lighting,” he said. “This great piece of furniture may need a lamp but there is no existing plug in the area. This early point in the design process is the best time to have these conversations. After construction is not when you want to talk about wiring new lights and outlets.”

Since you are paying a significant amount of money for a new home or a substantial remodel, you don’t want to be frustrated about the little things. Hiring both an architect and an interior designer provides the best possibility of a seamless result for your project.

Interior design is more than arranging furniture and plumping throw pillows. A good designer will help with the hundreds of decisions and specifications involved in remodeling. Choosing paint colors, finishes, light fixtures, flooring, knobs and trim are all choices that need to be made in a home remodel.

In addition to all of these issues, an interior designer will help design the new space to accommodate everything you want to include in your new space.

Ultimately, the goal is to control the design and not have the design control how you live in your home.