Which interior design service is Best for your commercial development?

| Riccardo Del Bello | Interior Design Tips

Nowadays branding is crucial for pretty much every industry. Without the right branding, even the best product will struggle a lot more for recognition, let alone success. This is true for buildings too, especially for shared living schemes.

As I describe in this article about the future of blended living:

With this new kind of development, it won't be the intrinsic value of the building that creates a profit. Managers instead create it by developing and nurturing a community through the promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle

In this exploding sector the real value will be soon in the facilities design, amenities offered, and managers’ activities. Strong branding achieved through recognisable Interior Design is thus a necessary feature now, as shown by every successful brand in shared living.

But which is the right interior design service? When to hire an Interior Designer? And what should you expect?

Having developed over 20 serviced buildings for the last 3 years around Europe, I put together the 3 best interior design services for this type of building: pre-design, advanced interior concept, full design service.

When it comes to picking one, there is no right or wrong. It all depends on what stage the project is at and what you want to achieve in each stage. For ease, I will explain the pros and cons of using the RIBA Plan of work as a reference.

Stages 0 and 1 – Strategic Definition, Preparation, and Briefing

The first stage is probably numbered 0 because it just consists of an initial definition of the projects’ expectations, priorities, and plan direction. It is also the pre-appointment phase, during which a client contacts architects and evaluates the offerings. These estimates take into account budget, planning policies depending on the location, sustainability, and required features.

Within the scope of this phase, Interior Design is one particular element that can be taken into consideration from the beginning.

Phase 1 aims at defining a brief with Objectives, teams' roles, and responsibilities. It also includes risk assessments, procurement strategy, and feasibility analysis. After completing this research, the RIBA Plan of Work suggests contacting the local authority to help the design direction and increase the likelihood of a planning application's success.

Although I think the interior designer should be appointed as early as possible, it’s also true that these stages are mainly preliminary studies, and the RIBA suggests that the design team is appointed at the end of stage 1. But to do this successfully, stages 0 and 1 should be used to start communication with potential members of the design team and get a sense of what it means to work together.

Stage 2 – Concept Design

The majority of the design work that the team will deliver starts here and goes up to phase 4. RIBA urges patience again at Stage 2: it advises against committing to something resembling a completed design too early. This is the stage at which developers receive the first visualisations or drawings of the architectural design ideas developed from the project brief.

This is definitely the right time to start the interior design process. A Pre-Design Service is specifically designed with this objective in mind.

Pre design layout

Pre design moodboard small

It helps to develop the layout and realising a vision for the interior’s Look & Feel through a well-thought-out set of inspirational images and layout drafts. It’s the option that requires the minimum commitment but it’s crucial to clarify the project direction and long-term scope. Along with the Final Brief, Phase 2 includes, in fact, also proposals for building services and specifications. And this early info is crucial to get a more reliable cost estimate for the interior fit-out.

Stage 3 – Spatial Coordination

The beginning of Stage 3 entails an important decision. There will be a break between stages 3 and 4 and this time can be used to develop the design even further so that you can be ready for tender as soon as stage 4 starts if necessary.

You might want to obtain the planning permission before committing to a full design work though. If this is the case, then the Advanced Interior Concept Service is perfect for you. There’s always time to proceed with more work later on once the planning permission is granted.

Developed concept 01

Developed concept 02

As you can imagine, this stage gives you the opportunity to start seeing the interior design taking shape. This time should be used to gather feedback from operations and marketing to agree on the main interior design features, materials, and furniture style for all rooms.

With an advanced interior concept service, in fact, we provide a detailed 3D model to show you every single area of the space you are developing. The model will show all the creative ideas and features and it will be complemented by a presentation to include suggestions on materials, furniture style, and accessories. It’s time to get creative!

Stage 4 and 5 – Technical Design, Manufacturing, and Construction

Stage 4 is usually where the documentation gets refined and detailed to move to the tender phase. As with the planning process, the level of detail required, and the start of the tender process may vary according to the single project.

For this reason, Stage 4 might overlap with 5. Stage 5 marks the actual start of construction.

This is where we get involved with services that are included in the Full Design Package. This involves a deeper level of collaboration between our two teams. It entails a design review, installation drawings, answer contractors’ questions, and check as well that all the interior elements adhere to the design concept.

Full design Technical drawings 01

full design

We manage also details and submission to the client of any proposed design change post-design freeze.

Once the construction phase starts, we also take care of regular site visits according to the development progression to ensure a smooth process.

Full design Specs 02

Stage 6 and 7 – Handover and Use

As the Stages names suggest these are the concluding phase where the project is handed over. There might be defects rectifying required, and a sort of aftercare service too once the building is in use all of which are determined within a specific timeframe after the Stage conclusion.

As these final steps can be very time consuming, an appointed interior designer can ensure a smooth transition through snagging visits and handover meetings, correcting potential defects in advance, and further inspections to monitor the satisfactory completion of finer details.

The entire process is long and composed of numerous steps. Luckily, everything depends on the project complexity and the right expert can help to sort out each move and make it more flexible and approachable. In the meantime, if you have questions regarding this process or how our services can support your development contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via social media!

Cover image sources are: Mercado Thonet, Normann Copenhagen, Retromix by Vitra, Hunker, Uliana Smolska, John Lewis, Voyage Afield

Riccardo Del Bello

Written by: Riccardo Del Bello

Riccardo is the marketing manager and partner of A Designer at Heart. He is in charge of the development and brand definition of the company for its marketing activities.


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