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Tabula Rasa's Guide to working with an Interior Designer

Oct 22,2017

At Tabula Rasa we often work with Malaysian interior designers and thought this short guide might be helpful to our clients considering whether or not to appoint one. It highlights the advantages of working with an interior designer and outlines how to appoint one.


Why appoint an interior designer?

An interior designer will help you get the best result from your project by analysing your needs and producing functional and creative solutions to meet them.  They can provide invaluable, detailed and expert knowledge of ergonomics, spatial planning and the creative arts needed to execute any good design. They can open your eyes to new ideas and possibilities, advise on the budget, coordinate the work and monitor progress against time, cost and quality benchmarks.


How does the relationship work?

Successful interior design projects are really a result of an effective collaboration between you and your it's important you establish a good working relationship.  

We suggest that before contacting one, you draw up a project brief or wish-list. Consider carefully what you want to achieve and note down all your requirements, any problems that need solving and your overall budget.  A good designer will go through this carefully with you and using their skill and experience turn your ideas and concepts into a realistic framework for the project, without imposing their own tastes, and taking into account your budget and time constraints. They should be able to tell you whether your plans are realistic and this will help you making expensive mistakes. They can recommend other consultants and contractors and inform you about any permissions you might need to obtain before work starts.


How do they charge?

There is no set way that interior designers charge for their services, but many charge in one or a combination of the following ways: 

- An hourly rate, where the designer charges at a pre-agreed rate for their services and this will vary according to their experience and specialist skills;

- A fixed sum for the whole project;

- A percentage of the cost for the completed project;

- A design fee plus a handling charge for procuring the. furniture and accessories;

- A combination of any of the above.


Its important to understand how you will be charged and make sure the process is transparent and open. If you agree an hourly rate, make sure you also agree an estimate or a ceiling for their design services.  Discuss and agree how goods will be procured and how building work will be tendered.Usually the building works will be under a separate contract between you and the contractor, but in some cases, designers can offer design and build services and take responsibility for the entire project.


Be clear on your budget with your interior designer or face the possibility of a nasty surprise at a later stage when the cost becomes too high and design works has to be reworked, possibly incurring additional design fees.


The Appointment


Once you have found a designer that you like, we suggest you ask for their terms & conditions. These should set out the following:

- Your name and project

- What they undertake to do based on the brief

- The scope of services that will be provided

- How they will charge

- How they will submit their invoices


Once the appointment has been agreed, concept drawings can be produced as well as plans showing positioning of furniture, electrical services, lighting etc. Once these have been approved by you, technical or working drawings can be produced to enable accurate costs to be obtained.  The designer can advise on how the project will be tendered.  Some designers may have their preferred team of workmen who they know and trust whilst others will list out suitable tenderers depending on the size and complexity of the work involved.



The above information gives a brief outline about what is involved working with an interior designer. Every project is different and the key to success is finding a designer that you feel has the experience, competency and is sympathetic to your aspirations.  If you are renovating your home and are looking for good quality indoor and outdoor designer furniture and lighting, get in touch with the team at Tabula Rasa at