A Day in the Life of An Interior Designer…


Walking into our shop at 8:30 am and I’ve already answered one client phone call, a few emails from vendors and tweeted about my morning.  Every day is a different adventure filled with store customers, clients, freight companies, vendors, manufacturers, our workroom and various craftsmen that are working on projects for us.  I can usually sneak in the store, get my computer up and going, which can take about 15 minutes these days thanks to Microsoft and other various programs, all before the UPS and FedEx delivery people are waiting for my signature.  If I’m lucky, my business partner has a fresh cup of Joe brewed to start the day!

Even though my commute to work is less than exciting, it has always given me time to reflect on current projects and work out designs in my head.  No distractions, except for traffic, allow my mind to wander and visualize different scenarios, often working out details which I can draw later in AutoCAD.  So, if you see me driving down the road and I look a little consumed, it’s because I’m working behind the wheel.

Once I’m at the shop in the morning, I take advantage of the quite time, pre-phone calls and customers walking in the door, to handle accounting or calculating tasks.  It can be very difficult when there are so many distractions to handle the technical and mathematical side of design.  It’s also when I tend to research technical information, work on challenging construction issues or draw in AutoCAD to space plan or create custom designs.

When the clock hits about 10:00am the phone is ringing with customers, manufacturers, marketing sales calls, suppliers, sales reps and craftsmen.  I typically try to follow-up with vendors regarding backorders or manufacturing specifications and deadlines early in the day to move projects along.  We have had to find more replacement materials in the last 3 years than ever before due to the recession.  Companies going out of business or distributors no longer carrying any stock in their warehouses has created a huge stress in our industry.  We spend more time tracking down products and making sure they are still available and if they are not, finding replacements, than we often do actually designing these days.

Scheduling installations and furniture deliveries is usually next on the task list.  Setting up the appropriate help for the install is important for a successful delivery.  When our customers’ items arrive from the manufacturer, we thoroughly inspect them by unboxing and unwrapping them to make sure there is no damage.  Not until this is completed do we call the customer to set up an appointment time for their delivery.  An item can be damaged in many ways.  A stain on the fabric, wood might have dents and dings, a seam not sewn correctly or even a sofa frame damaged from being dropped by the freight line.  Or our favorite, fork lift damages, which are always noticeable before opening the box because of the two holes on the outside of a box.

So when does the fun begin in the design business?  After the claims have been started and all the grunt work of the day behind us, we can then start to tackle our clients’ projects.  We set up a materials board and start the search for the perfect furniture piece or fabric.  If the project is in the construction phase, we may be space planning and selecting finishes or researching green building methods. In this business, there is no “typical day.”  What we do depends greatly on what phase our projects are in and where we are needed.

Sometimes our day can start with an early design appointment at a client’s house.  I’ve met with people as early as 7:30am and as late as 7:30pm.  We have to be flexible in this business because our meetings usually involve working around more than one person’s work schedule.  I try to limit design meetings to 3-4 hours when the project is a large size.  We have found that after 3 hours, no one feels comfortable making a decision because you can get overloaded with not only color choices, but all technical information on the products as well.  We typically will meet the next day to continue the process and keep things moving along.  If it is a smaller project, let’s say a single room that needs paint, furniture and fabrics, most decisions can be made within 1 hour.

After selections are made, phone calls to vendors and manufacturers proceed to obtain availability and confirm pricing.  We also double check the size and scale of the items as well as durability and functionality to make sure they are appropriate for the project.  Sometimes alternates or value engineering may need to take place to work within a budget or timeline.  There is usually one more final meeting with the client to finalize selections and review pricing.  Then the ordering process begins on our end.  This is the “behind the scenes” work that takes more time than the actual designing process.  We have to manage our vendors’ employees to ensure the correct product arrives on time.  It is a tedious task because most companies right now are understaffed and we become their manager following the product along its course until it arrives at our shop.

If it is a custom item that is to be fabricated in our own workroom or on a construction site, we inspect the ordered material for manufacturing flaws and then we create fabrication drawings and specifications that explain the details of the design with exact measurements and notes.  We meet with our seamstresses or craftsmen to review the drawings and specifications to make sure everyone is clear on the design intent and our client’s expectations.  We mange and follow the fabrication process until the item is ready for delivery.

And this my friends, is just a small glimpse into the glamorous world of interior design!

Layla S. Altman, ASID is the co-owner of Posh Living in Surfside Beach.  She can be reached at 238-0078 or by email: layla@poshsurfside.com

Copyright 2011 by Layla S. Altman.  May not be reproduced without permission.

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