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So what does working with an interior designer really involve? 

(Plus handy tips on how to prepare for an initial design consult)

People commonly (mis)believe that when they engage a designer to help transform their home that the end result is a reflection of the designer’s vision for their home.  And yes this can and does happen in some instances.  However at Rickward Design Studio we firmly believe that the purpose of working with a designer is to help you have the confidence and know how to bring your own vision to life.  We want you to love the end result and feel like it is just ‘oh so right’ for you and your loved ones.  Our goal is to deliver a house that is designed for your lifestyle, in a style that you love.  We are here to help you know how to achieve it. 

Rest assured we completely understand that it can be daunting to know where to start in the pursuit of your dream home – the choices are overwhelming, the costs (both financial and emotional) are high and it’s not like you do this all the time right?  Fortunately we do this all the time we are here to assist: our aim is to guide you through the process so that the decision making is fun and rewarding and not stressful and overwhelming.  With our passion for decorating and design we have a wealth of knowledge and resources to draw upon to assist you in your own project.

If you have never worked with an interior designer before it is not unusual to have a few questions (and possibly even a few nerves!) in advance of your first meeting… What will the process entail? Will the designer listen to me and address my concerns?  Will the consult represent good value for money?  What if our styles are different? How do I make sure I end up with something that I love?...  (and the list goes on). 

So keep reading for some tips to help you prepare for that initial meeting….

Have a clear understanding of the purpose of the initial meeting

We know all our clients appreciate great design: but they arrive at the starting point with different levels of skills, interest and expertise in bringing a project to life.  Regardless of the starting point the purpose of the initial consultation is two-fold.  It’s a chance for both parties to meet (usually on site though not always) and learn a little about what the other is looking for.  

As the designer we are looking to gain an understanding of your needs and requirements for your own home. Some clients are time poor and would like to completely hand over the reigns of their project in order for us to work our decorating magic: whilst others are keen to come along for the ride and wish to be involved in all stages of the project.   Think about the level of involvement that is right for you.

Further we understand that you are looking to gain insight into what it might be like to work with us. The designer / client relationship one is critical to the success of a project and hence there needs to trust & connection from the outset.  We totally appreciate you will be looking to see if we are the right person to support you in your design journey and that you will likely have questions of your own to be answered.

Think through your key goals & requirements for your design project

Upon first meeting many of our clients are keen to rush straight into seeking advice – what is the best white paint for my project?  What style of lighting would work best in the space?  Would new tiles on the splashback update my kitchen? How do I make the family room feel a little more inviting?  You get the idea… 

However to ensure that we offer the best advice for your personal situation first need to understand what exactly you are seeking to achieve in your own home – we don’t want to assume anything.  We want to know:

  • Why we are meeting?

  • How do you want to change the current experience of your room (or home)?  

  • What do you envisage for the space? 

  • What is not working currently? 

  • What pieces do you want to keep and incorporate in the finished design? 

  • Think about all the stake holders - who uses the room and when do they use it?  Is this a home with cute little people with sticky fingers or bigger, hairy-legged varieties?  Is there the pitter-patter of paws? Or possibly everyone has flown the nest and you are starting afresh?  All of this will have a big impact on our selections.

  • Think also about the mood you are hoping to feel when you are at home. Do you want to feel calm and relaxed when you walk through the door after a chaotic day in the office? Or do you want to feel energised and uplifted? 

  • What styles do you like? Do you crave a casual home or would you prefer an elegant and luxurious space?  

  • Do you love colour or are you attracted to a more neutral home?

  • Remember it is your input that helps guide our design recommendations and we want to deliver a home that feels ‘just right’ for you.

Involve all the key decision makers from the outset

It is ideal that anyone that will be involved in the decision making process in your project is at the initial consultation.  This ensures that the brief is comprehensive and detailed and covers the wants and wishes of all relevant parties.  It is not uncommon in our line of work that we are asked to mediate opposing styles and ideas so lets understand everyone’s objectives from the get-go!

Think through the scope of your project

We completely appreciate that you might not have the budget to complete your full refurbishment or design project in one go. So think about those areas that you would love to address straight up – perhaps because they are the least attractive, the most dysfunctional or simply the ones that are on display when you have friends over.

Other decisions may include:

  • Is there a construction element or are you solely decorating? 

  • Are you planning to design one new room or tackle the whole house?  

  • Will you be purchasing new furniture items or looking to spend money on soft furnishings and accessories?  

  • If new items are needed are you leaning towards high-street solutions or the more luxury end of the market? Or custom made?

The B word (budget)

With an understanding of the scope & priorities of your project it’s time to think about your budget.   We understand for some that this can be an uncomfortable topic - however it is a crucial first step as when we have a budget this will help us know what is actually achievable for your project and where to prioritise the spend. 

Please remember from where we sit different clients have different expectations – some are very happy with items sourced from the high-street whilst others are looking for the luxury afforded by custom solutions.  Knowing your budget up-front ensures that we don’t waste your time (and money) seeking solutions that may not be right for you project. 

We know this is stating the (blooming!) obvious but renovating and decorating is expensive: so having a budget can help us to talk to you about what might be realistically achieved with your project.  If you don’t have a lot of experience with decorating and remodelling there is a fair chance that it is going to cost more than you estimate.  We always strive to deliver to your brief but will reality-check you when required.

Rest assured we do understand that most of our clients don’t have an unlimited budget and wish to maximise the impact whilst minimising the cost. Together we can explore the areas where it is important to spend and those in which savings may be possible.


Be prepared to show us around your house

Having a look around your home is an important part of the initial design consult. Of course seeing the areas that you wish to focus on is a given but it is also very helpful to see the ‘behind-the-scenes’.  It helps us know a bit more about you and how you live: and helps us with the interconnectedness of the whole project.

Please don’t feel it is necessary to tidy up for your visit (unless of course you want to) – we can see beyond the day-to-day clutter and messy benchtops.  We have no judgement about how you live – in fact we get more excited about the opportunity to help transform your space.

We understand that there might be parts of your house that you don’t love showing off – but please remember viewing these spaces could in fact be very useful – and might generate important conversations for us – a chat around your dislikes is just as telling as a chat about what you love.  Understanding what doesn’t work for you in your current home can be a very illuminating and powerful tool in understanding your needs and wants.

Come prepared with images that you love

A picture tells a thousand words… never was that adage truer than in the case of interior design. Experience has demonstrated time and time again that client’s can have difficulty in articulating what they love – they may not have the right words to describe their style (one person’s coastal may be another’s Hampton’s) or perhaps they don’t have a particular style they love and just like a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  

So I make it a golden rule that they bring approximately 10 images to the first session of rooms that they love – they don’t need to even know what it is that they love but just that there is a lot in each image that resonates with them.  The images can be magazine tears or digital images – or a combination of the two – together we can explore the images and see if there is any commonality across them?  We can analyse them and see how we may be inspired in your own home.

Never fear though – we do not look to replicate the image – only to take inspiration and have a shared language from which to start


No images? Not sure where to start looking?  We love the following sites and think they are a useful resource:

This Australian website pools articles and images from leading Australian interior magazines – House & Garden, Inside Out, Real Living, Belle & Country Style.  There is a drop down menu with articles dedicated to Renovating and Decorating but my favourite part is the classification of articles into categories such as Living & Dining / Bedrooms / Kitchens & Bathrooms etc so you can search for content and beautiful images quickly and efficiently.

Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board – that allows you to ‘pin’ images and create a catalogue of inspiring things – it is a bit like an electronic scrapbook.  Not only is the platform itself full of inspiring images from around the globe it allows you to ‘pin’ images when viewing any of your favourite websites (ie. outside of the platform) so that you have an electronic reference point to come back to.

Pinterest has an incredible search function that enables you to search on very specific criteria eg. Blue Bathroom, Hamptons Living Room, Scandinavian Style etc.  Once you find an image you love you “Pin it” to your own catalogue.


Pinterest has incredible predictive skills. When you are active on the site it quickly identifies patterns to things you like and makes further recommendations of images for you to view.  The more you “pin” the better predictive ability the platform has.

To help you get started in understanding different design styles we have set up a few boards at

Houzz is a truly global website that includes inspiration from interior and exterior design projects from all around the globe. You can search by room type, keywords, styles and even colours.  The images are uploaded directly by interior designers, architects and garden designers as a catalogue of some of their own work.

Furthermore you can create an account and add images that appeal to you to complete an idea gallery where you can save images that might be useful for your own home.

Write down any questions you may have

There is a lot of ground to cover in the initial appointment so feel free to make a list of questions to have ready.  Some clients find this useful so they don’t forget to discuss something important.

Please also remember if you have made any selections already for your own project (either aspirational or actual) to let us know straight up.  Forgetting to mention items that you are keen to move forward with may result in additional design work that isn’t actually necessary.

In conclusion it is worth noting that our design services are most impactful when we can work on a room (s) from concept to completion.  There is a temptation to save money by doing a little bit of design work here and a little bit there across several rooms or areas of the house.  Whilst this approach may mean that you superficially address a couple of areas we believe the value of your overall investment is diminished as you are not ending up with a completed look that you ‘love’ and this is where the magic happens.

Hopefully this has answered a few questions for you?  

If not feel free to drop us a line or better yet make an appointment to discuss your personal project -  give us a call on 0403 082 345 or drop us an email at

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