What interior designers are not taught in design schools

As an interior architect, with an expertise in high end residential interiors, I have closely seen the process of the client move in after the interior designers have handed over the site. Every site starts with a similar journey. It is extremely fascinating initially, as the client, from the comforts of his existing shell and the designer, from the realms of possibilities pulls up images after images of how he wishes the site to be. Then the testing process of construction starts where the client invests substantial money and time while the designers efforts are paramount in ensuring every ‘t’ of the specification is crossed and every ‘i’ is dotted.

The day of the handover dawns, where the client is looking forward to finally seeing his future life and the flowering of the investments that he has made on the project. The designers are running at the last minute polishing up every surface and striking off all the to do lists. The contractors are tired, but will put up yet another night just to smile at the compliments heaped out by the client and their friends.

Then comes the difficult process of client moving in. The cardboard boxes heaped, people walking all over the house, total loss of privacy, chaos with the house helps and missed food deliveries. The countless trips between the old and the new houses. Bunch of keys to different rooms and wardrobes and drawers are still being fumbled on. The learning curve on the new switches, to the speed of the water in the taps….it is really a nerve wrecking state for any family. The numerous people from the contracting team to de-snag the premises and the drilling, screwing noises, coordinating with the society, new neighbors…. the inconvenience is really unbearable.

And this is really where the designer has to step beyond his brief. No design school teaches designers empathy! The client is already rattled and has extended beyond his zone of comfort, he needs the designers team to help him and unfortunately this is where most of the designers disappear. Due to the slow pace of the design business a Handover is inevitably a time where you start dis-assigning resources from one project and reassign them to another assuming most of the construction is now complete. True as that may be, but the clients mental state of mind actually needs an incremental resource allocation just till he can find his comfort factor again.

Then slowly over days it subsides. There are no more people in the house. You have a moment to yourself.  To finally look at the view. To feel the curtains sway in the breeze. To walk barefoot and feel that marble, to look at the cornice on the ceiling. You wonder what family picture to hang on that wall. And its time to call the interior architect and ask him what he thinks would look nice. What about that vase that we saw, can I keep it in that library? Where can I bind my books so that it looks good on that shelf?

Finally there is the clients control on the house. Finally he is the master. He has had the first few nights of good sleep. The house helps have adjusted to the premises, the kids have made connections. Bit by bit, finally the house feels like a home. He can now call his Friends over which he had been looking forward to for such a long time.

An interior architect can design spaces and plan the usage but eventually it is the client who has to learn how to enjoy these spaces…all in his own pace and time. The time taken in this process depends on the time available to the client and his family to take these decisions.

However it is very imperative that the designer and his team have enough empathy and can hold a clients hand though this difficult process of actually settling in his new house.

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