Interior design is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. Most interior design projects go through seven main stages from start to finish. Understanding these stages can help you manage your project more effectively.
Stage 1: Consultation
The first stage is the initial consultation between the client and designer. During this stage:
- The client communicates their needs, goals, budget and timeline for the project.
- The designer learns about the client’s lifestyle, aesthetic preferences and how they plan to use the space.
- The client and designer discuss the scope of work and come to an agreement on the design services to be provided.
Key outcomes of the consultation include:
- Defining the client’s needs and goals for the project
- Determining the scope of work
- Discussing the design fee and signing a contract
Stage 2: Research
After the consultation, the designer begins researching and planning for the project. This involves:
- Conducting a site evaluation to take measurements and assess architectural elements
- Researching design trends of Cape Cod, products, materials, furniture pieces and more
- Creating an inspiration board with images, fabric swatches, paint chips and other samples
- Sourcing and pricing furnishings, fixtures and construction materials
Thorough research ensures the design will meet the client’s needs within the agreed upon budget.
Stage 3: Concept Development
With a solid understanding of the client and project requirements, the designer starts creating initial concepts. This involves:
- Developing a concept statement reflecting the style, mood and goals for the design
- Creating concept boards with rough sketches showing layout options, color scheme, lighting plans and styling ideas
- Refining the concepts based on client feedback to create 2-3 final concept options
- Presenting these options to the client for consideration and selection
The goal is to present cohesive concepts that bring the client’s vision to life.
Stage 4: Design Development
After the client approves a concept, the designer moves into further development and specification. This stage involves:
- Creating detailed floor plans showing precise room dimensions, furniture layouts and product specifications
- Developing elevation drawings showing finishes, millwork, lighting and other details
- Finalizing all interior elements like finishes, furniture, fixtures, equipment and accessories
- Working with contractors to get pricing for any construction work needed
The design development phase sorts out all the specifics to prepare for execution.
Stage 5: Design and Working Drawings
Now the designer is ready to produce final working drawings and documents. These include:
- Dimensioned floor plans showing power, lighting, accessories and furniture
- Elevations and detailed drawings of millwork and key elements
- Finish plans indicating all interior finishes and materials
- Furniture and lighting plans specifying all items to be purchased
- Mechanical, electrical and plumbing plans if applicable
- Product spec sheets/cut sheets for furnishings, fixtures and equipment
These drawings provide contractors with the details they need to price and complete the work accurately.
Stage 6: Bidding and Contracting
With the drawings complete, it’s time to get bids and award contracts. The designer will:
- Send drawings to contractors to receive competitive bids for the construction work
- Review bids and make recommendations to the client
- Help client award contracts to preferred contractors
- Coordinate and schedule contractors and provide on-site supervision
Proper bidding and contracting ensures qualified contractors complete the work on time and on budget.
Stage 7: Execution and Installation
In the final stage, the design goes from concept to reality.
- The designer and contractors work together to execute the project plan
- The space is constructed, painted, finished, furnished and accessorized
- The designer oversees the installation, manages timing, approves payments and handles any issues
Meticulous project management ensures everything comes together seamlessly.
The Design Process FAQ
How long does the interior design process take?
The timeline can range from a few weeks for a small project to many months for large or complex renovations. The design stages may overlap or occur concurrently.
What does an interior designer do in each stage?
The designer’s role evolves through the process – from consultant to researcher, concept creator, technical developer, manager and stylist. Their involvement deepens as the project progresses.
What is the client’s involvement in the design stages?
The client is critical in defining goals and constraints, approving concepts, giving feedback, making selections and managing the budget. Good communication is essential.
What steps happen before the official design stages?
Before starting the active design, the designer may meet with the client to pitch their services and provide rough estimates. The client then decides to hire the designer.
What happens after the interior installation is complete?
The designer walks through the finished space with the client, checking that everything is properly executed. Then they complete any final paperwork and deliver all furnishings, drawings, plans and specifications to the client.