The Affordable Way To Use An Interior Designer
The Affordable Way To Use An Interior Designer

The Affordable Way To Use An Interior Designer

Hiring an interior designer to help create your dream home isn’t a luxury everyone can afford, but did you know there’s a raft of industry experts who are keen to democratise good taste and offer their skills, contacts and even trade discounts at a much-reduced rate? We spoke to two female founders of online interior design businesses to find out how – and why – it works so well.
By Georgina Blaskey


Why might you use an online interior design service?

“Traditionally, hiring an interior designer has been something only certain people could afford. However, you can use an online interior design service for a fraction of the cost. Once the design is complete and sent over to the client, it’s really in their hands to bring it to life, so they can embrace as little or as much of the vision as they want. Essentially, you are in control of the end result. It’s a myth that all interior designers corner you into making certain decisions – online designers just give client that little bit of confidence to be in control.” – Athina Bluff, founder & senior designer, Topology 

“Online interior design makes the process simple and easy. After the initial call your designer gets to work, interpreting your ideas and turning them into reality. It’s their job to sift through the endless options of furniture, accessories and paint colours, and present back to you in an easy-to-understand way. From there, you’ll be able to understand how the room will look, where to buy everything and exactly how much everything will cost. You can also choose from various packages depending on the amount of help you need and the size of the room. Plus, it’s a flat fee – you know how much it will cost to use us upfront and there are no hidden surprises along the way.” – Catherine Seagrave, creative director & founder, The Living House

How could using an online service be more cost effective?

“Traditionally, professional interior design has been very expensive. It’s usually a complete service where the designer manages the project for you, sources tradespeople and creates one-off beautiful pieces at eye-watering prices. But if you just want to shop on the high street, and are happy to get your own decorator and do your own ordering, then online interior design services are the answer. All the unnecessary extras fall away, making it accessible for everyone. We can work to any budget big or small, and can use the money you do have to maximum effect.” – Catherine

“Offering our services online means we can keep our overheads low and charge a lower fee. And, if you hire us, we offer several ways to save money. Sometimes, our clients can make back our fee – and more – through the savings we can access through trade accounts. A 10% saving with Loaf on a £3,000 sofa is £300 back in your pocket; if you think about the number of purchases made across several rooms, it adds up quickly.” – Athina

Can you describe the process from start to finish?

“Typically, the initial stage is ‘client discovery’ – from analysing Pinterest boards to answering questionnaires. Once we have a clear idea of your vision, we draw up a layout for each space, although you’ll have the opportunity to tweak, revise and provide feedback until you’re ready to sign it off. The next stage is ‘concepts’ – essentially, we put together a moodboard indicating the style direction. We might highlight the colour scheme and a few key items to help the client understand the vision further. Again, you can make tweaks if needed, then sign off. From there, we’ll put together a detailed presentation, so you know how to bring the design to life, including styling tips, supplier information, flooring and window treatment advice and, of course, an interactive shopping list that totals up the costs. We also send you all the samples so you can check they’re right before you buy anything.” – Athina


Tell us more about this shopping list…

“At Topology we’ve invested in creating our own bespoke software so our shopping lists are interactive. They give clients the dimensions, external links to suppliers, prices, and a well-rounded picture that’s budget-able and filter-able by room. Depending on the package, we usually supply around three to five options in the final shopping list so there’s flexibility, too.” – Athina

Is using an online service quicker?

“It really depends – in terms of our assistance, it’s much quicker for us to turn around a design and send it to the client because we’re not involved in project management or installation. However, it’s really down to the client how quickly they bring it to life. If the client is prepared and has people lined up and provisional quotes at the ready, they can get started immediately.” – Athina

“We can deliver a full design in two weeks and we even have a fast-track service available for those on tighter deadlines. The traditional interior design process can be slow, with lots of in-person meetings at different showrooms. Moving online means your designer can be available anywhere, anytime. Once the design is complete, your personalised design drops straight into your inbox.” – Catherine


Does the designer visit you or is it done via Zoom?

“We mainly work with video call appointments so we can look at your room and chat to you to really understand what you want to achieve. It means you can talk and engage with a real person who will become your personal designer. We ask lots of questions to understand your lifestyle, style ideas and concerns. We do ask for some photos and measurements to develop the designs further and ensure all the right decisions are made. Site visits are usually an additional cost for many online designers.” – Catherine

How much can clients request changes?

“In the initial stages, we’ll send the client different elements to sign off, and that usually does involve some revisions and changes to get it to where they want it. It’s essential that everyone is happy. We don’t put a cap on how many tweaks can be made at this point, but we do advise clients to trust their designer and the process.” – Athina

“At The Living House we’re very proud of our ‘A home you’ll love’ guarantee. If you’re not happy in any way with your design, we’ll continue to work with you until you love it.” – Catherine

How easy is it for you to work within a tight budget?

“We enjoy working with smaller budgets – it’s more challenging and pushes us to think outside the box. That said, post-Brexit and the pandemic, costs are rising across the board due to skyrocketing demand and shortages of materials. For example, a sheet of MDF was £16 two years ago, and now it’s pushing £100.” – Athina

“Although it can be challenging, we know exactly where to look to find the best bargains. We understand it’s important for everyone to have a home they love and feel comfortable in, and because we’re completely independent, we can shop from anywhere to find the perfect pieces for your home.” – Catherine

Finally, have you ever designed an entire house without being on site?

“Yes. As long as we’re equipped with decent measurements, architectural plans and some videos/photos of the space, it’s no different to an interior designer working ‘off-plan’ on big developments that aren’t yet built.” – Athina

Topology pricing starts from £299 per room, up to £699 per room for online design. The Living House packages start from £295.

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