Interior Design
comments 10

Equations and Balance

I’m asked a lot of similar questions during a consultation including things like:

What colour would you put on the walls?

What kind of light fitting?

Where will I hang this piece of art?

Which is what you’d expect I guess. During the initial consultation I can give some rough ideas as to what, where and why but I can’t say 100% until i’ve pieced together the whole room. Putting a room together is an equation. Or a recipe. Take out a pinch of that and you need to add a touch of this in order to balance everything out. Make sense?

Coral Door Casing

Coral Door Casing

For a new project, I always begin by Pinning ideas to a board; overall room concepts, products, surface coverings and some of the more pedestrian stuff like fixtures and fittings. More often than not, I’ll Pin several choices for each item to give the client some wiggle room with the design. That’s the beauty of client-led design, they’re as much as responsible for the room as you are really, we’re just there guiding and stretching the parameters. To make the process slightly more comfortable for the client, I normally pin something I’d go for, something I think the client would choose and a “wild card” just to mix things up a bit.

Not all of the things I collate will work perfectly with one another. One of the  dining tables for example will work so much better with the second set of chairs. The third armchair I pinned is made to go with the first sofa but will sit rather nicely with the others as long as you choose the second rug. It’s a complicated mix of pieces to get it right. It’s all about balance, juxtaposing design styles, focal points, visual weight, complimenting and contrasting………. In short it’s not easy creating a design concept that:

  • balances aesthetically WHILST nailing the brief and function of that particular room.
  • keeps the client happy
  • keeps the designer engaged

Talking of keeping the client and designer happy brings me onto this question.

“Should a client choose a designer that aligns with their style or should the designer be flexible in order to meet the client’s brief and expectations?”

A-ha. Now this is a good one that I find myself going in circles with. Of course, each designer will have a particular design aesthetic. Being recognised by a particular style is a sure fire sign of success i’d say. For example, I say Abigail Ahern, you think:

Kelly Wearstler? That’s right, it’s something like this:

And let’s throw another Kelly into the mix (i’d never actually throw you, Kelly, just to be clear).

And my latest major crush, Daria Zinovatnaya, oh my word, her designs are frickin momentous!

Each designer has a completely different overall look and way of solving a design problem; all with their own distinctive style meaning people will be more drawn to one than another. And that’s brilliant, because if we all liked the same thing, things would be pretty dull out there.

“A client will be attracted to a designer whose style they admire and would like them to emulate in their own homes. That is natural, but as a designer I always go in with the expectation that whatever my personal style shift that week, I will be led by the client. What emerges is hopefully a happy amalgamation of the two of us.”  Yarah David – YMMD Design 

If you take a look at everyone’s Instagram accounts above you will see their design ethos continue and develop. Which is why I just don’t foresee someone contacting Abigail Ahern for a contemporary, gloss white and minimalist home. I’m not saying she couldn’t do it, but there are other designers that would probably get more out of working towards that brief. What do you think?

Who needs to be flexible here? Designer or client? I’m kind of in the middle at this point in time. And just to be clear here, I’m not comparing myself to any of these uber successful designers. I’m on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder, I know that. But I do think there’s a fine balance between an interior designer being flexible enough to meet different client briefs along with the client doing their homework on a designer before booking a consultation. You’d be surprised how many times a client hasn’t even looked at my website or portfolio before asking me to work in their home. They’ve purely contacted me because “I was closest on google maps” or “you were the cheapest.” *

*I wrote a whole paragraph in response to the above. But I deleted it in an attempt cling onto some kind of professionalism.

Ok, talk to me peeps. I love hearing your thoughts of all of my musings. It’s a bit of a ramble-y one this week admittedly, but I think you get the gist. Has this prompted any thoughts?







  1. From a potential client’s point of view, I would choose a designer based on their style and previous work but I think budget levels come into it – I wouldn’t necessarily go for someone whose existing portfolio seems to be for clients with massive budgets and never uses anything from the high street for example. I’d hope that the designer would adapt to fit my brief but be able to come up with something I hadn’t necessarily thought of and be able to pull the whole room together. I like the idea of 3 choices – your choice, client’s probable choice and a wildcard, fun to try to guess which was which! It’s really interesting to hear about the process you use as well as seeing before and after pics

    • Karen Knox says

      Thanks Jill. I’m glad to hear you would check out the designer’s work and “style” beforehand. And yes, it’s always fun when a client goes for the wild card. That happens quite a lot actually! 🙂

  2. Andrea says

    For me it’s horses for courses. It’s a form of art: you don’t ask Picasso to paint a Caravaggio.

    • Karen Knox says

      Yes! I wanted to write something similar but didn’t want to sound like too much of a diva. But yes, you nailed it!

  3. Great process! Choosing any work based on previous recommendations is great if you’re looking for a similar style to those previous clients. Choosing a brilliant designer who doesn’t share your vision can be a risk.

  4. We would always seek recommendations and check out previous work of anyone we might want to use. We don’t think it’s a lot to ask for the client to have done a little homework as well… We think it’s respectful to the designer(s) you contact and also saves time both ways. 😊

  5. A very good rambly post and here’s my rambly 2 cents worth 😉
    Several years ago (before instagram and pinterest – can you remember a time like that?!), I worked as an interior designer in a very traditional sense of the role (designer fabrics and wallpapers, trade items etc) and used to roll my eyes at celebrity designers who could only design in their “signature style”, as I considered it a narrow way of working with very little understanding of how to interpret a unique client’s style. I designed for ultra modern spaces as well as twee cottages and even centuries-old traditional spaces, and it was this versatility and empathy for a client’s preferences that got me repeat business and recommendations. BUT, after a few years of working this way, I really wanted to start narrowing the types of design styles I was taking on. It was utterly exhausting to switch my mindset into a particular style to nail that project, especially if I had a few different styles of projects on the go simultaneously. Consequently, I had no idea what my own style was and am only just discovering it (I’m calling it ‘relaxed urban’, haha)! I plan to resume working to some capacity when I have child-free time again, and I would definitely NOT want to design for such a wide spectrum of styles as I used to, but still retain the versatility to cater for unique styles that fall into an urban type of look. No gloss white minimalism, no shabby chic, nothing that looks like it belongs in an 18th century mansion – but anything else should be fine! 😄

    • I should also add that I came across many customers who thought that an interior designer was an interior designer was an interior designer. I blame bad daytime TV programmes for this. But this was several years ago so things may be different now, although maybe not if people are calling designers without checking out their portfolios 🤦‍♀️

  6. Just kidding, you’re still number 1 says

    You’re dumped. I’m going to be someone else’s worst client in the world. Now send me Daria’s contact details.

    • Karen Knox says

      Haha. You’ll always be the worst client in the world, not just because you actually are, but because you keep calling me to come back!

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