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When to call in the professionals

When to call in the professionals

Switch on the television these days and channel hopping will likely land you at a home renovation programme awash with design input.

But have the likes of Kevin McCloud, whose every word we hang on, actually made the public more inclined to involve a design professional in a project, or are we still thinking the money ought to be allocated to the fancy kitchen and the statement light we saw in a magazine?

“I think when people are renovating their homes, sometimes they see the cost of hiring an interior designer as almost an unnecessary luxury item,” says David O’Brien, interior designer at RJ O’Brien Building Contractors and finalist in RTÉ’s Home of the Year 2021.

“I sense people are also nervous that interior designers will force their ideas and taste on them,” he says. “Remember, an interior designer’s role is to listen carefully to you, the client, and to help you translate your ideas into a coherent design.”

Lucy Jones’ coastal house design in Kinsale, Co. Cork, maximises access to the view and links the house to the outside, while floor to ceiling windows allow the light to flood in.

But he also maintains hiring a designer saves money in the long run.

“It can be so easy to get carried away during a renovation or build and spend a fortune on items that really won’t have any impact,” he says, citing fancy sockets, and feature lights that don’t serve a purpose.

But the number one issue he sees is the lack of flow and continuity, which can be, he says “lots of different types of flooring that end abruptly in each room, compromising the overall sense of flow throughout the house.”

 David O’Brien, interior designer at RJ O’Brien Building Contractors.

David O’Brien, interior designer at RJ O’Brien Building Contractors.

And sometimes there are missed opportunities which the design eye will spot instantly like, “…not taking full advantage of the room’s aspect or links and views into their garden,” David adds. “It can be challenging to visualise a renovation when you are in the middle of it. Sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of experienced eyes to see the hidden potential.”

Something he’s mindful of, too, is the impact on the client of relentless decision-making.

“Decision fatigue is real,” he says, “especially in the middle of the project when contractors are asking you to choose radiators, sockets, light switches, skirting. Having an interior designer on board means those decisions are made well in advance, removing stress and meaning no quick-decision regrets after.”

 Architects Antipas Jones use models to test different options and discuss the cost, construction and legislation for each with their client.

Architects Antipas Jones use models to test different options and discuss the cost, construction and legislation for each with their client.

When it comes to the finish, and adding the top layer of styling, David says, “The devil is in the detail and many people struggle in pulling the final look together. An interior designer will help you to bring texture, warmth and a sense of style to your new space.”

Lucy Jones, architect with Dublin firm Antipas Jones, says, “Hiring an architect can feel extravagant for a smaller job. Architect’s fees can be around 10% which seems like a lot, but as design and construction are complex, professional advice and good design are valuable. It can be hard to see this when you’re allocating costs from the outset. “

But there are things that can go wrong without an architect, including bad design where the end result is not what you hoped for, according to Lucy. “This could be because the strategy was wrong, you did not detail or specify correctly, or the builders were poor,” she says, “This is hard to fix and can be really disappointing.”Compliance is another issue, including building regulations, planning legislation, and health and safety laws which an architect can help you navigate.

 Lucy Jones, architect at Antipas Jones.

Lucy Jones, architect at Antipas Jones.

“These regulations can be difficult to understand if you don’t have professional help,” she explains. “And if you get something wrong, the implications can run from difficulty getting compliance documents which will hinder the sale or rental of a property, to serious legal implications.

“If you are planning a project,” Lucy says, “you need to get everything down on paper early with a price tag and check it against your brief and your budget. If either over-runs on-site it can be very stressful and difficult to resolve.”

To start, she suggests buying an hour of two of an architect’s time to explain what’s involved. “This can help you make more informed decisions and plan your next steps,” she says. “Architecture can be wonderful and there are some great events which illustrate this. Check out the Architecture Diary platform What’s On: Ireland Architecture Diary.

“Knowing a bit more about the subject may help you to understand the value an architect can bring.”

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