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How To Smash the Client Brief

Our first ever Guest Blog for our Interior Design Masterclass series, where we delve into the professional world of Interior Design, has been written by Kate Hatherell, from The Home Design School.  

Kate runs The Home Design School, where she teaches and supports aspiring interior designers. The Home Design School has courses for non-professionals as well as UK accredited courses for those seeking a career in interior design. Kate also supports newcomers to the interior design industry to set up and grow their own profitable design businesses.  

For those of us who are passionate about interior design, it is all too easy to get carried away with paint colours and fabric samples, and to be excited by the transformation we are about to create.  However, when working with a client, we need to take a step back and make sure that we really understand their design preferences, to ensure that we produce a scheme that really captures the essence of who they are.

Enter the Client Brief.

So what is a Client Brief?  A client brief is a checklist of items to discuss with your client at your first meeting. The brief has several purposes. Firstly it enables you to capture all of the necessary details about the project, such as measurements and budgetary restrictions. It also helps you explore the client’s design preferences; their favourite colours, fabrics and styles. It helps you to tease out details about the client’s lifestyle, and how they want their home to feel.  A client who is married with three young children and two dogs is likely to give you a very different design brief to a young couple who are decorating their party flat in the city.

The client brief is a useful tool to guide your discussions and to ensure that all of the information about the project is captured right at the beginning. Taking a comprehensive client brief at the start of a project can ward off any problems further down the line.

What should the Client Brief Contain?

  • Client Details:- The client brief should contain the client’s name, address (and the address of the property you will be working on if this is different), telephone number and email address. Check who you should be communicating with (there may be other decision makers in the household) and agree their preferred method of communication.
  • Project Details:- Detail the scope of the project for which the client is employing you. For example: to design and source all furniture and accessories for the front living room. It is important to get crystal clear agreement with your client at this point, to avoid ‘scope creep’ later on, where more and more is added to the project without you being able to charge extra for it.
  • Lifestyle Questions:- These questions help you to elicit how the room needs to function. Find out who lives in the house and who is going to be using the space. Discuss with your client how the space will be used. Is it a multi-functional space? Is it a room for relaxing, studying? Will children be using the space? How much storage will be needed? A good question to ask is: “How well does the space work for you at the moment?”
  • Style Preferences:- Some clients have a very clear vision of how they want their home to look and feel, whereas other clients have employed you for the very reason that they have no idea where to start!  Even if your client gives you a preferred style (for example “mid-century modern”) you should still clarify what this means to them, as your understanding of a particular style may be different to theirs. Using magazine photographs and Pinterest images can help you to get clear on what style is expected. If your client really has no idea, asking them how they want the space to feel can be a helpful starting point.  Explore with the client their preferred colours, patterns, fabrics, window treatments, lighting and furniture styles. It can also be helpful to ask what they dislike as well as what they like.
  • Existing features & furniture:- discuss with your client which items will be staying in the room, as these will need to be included in your scheme. Discuss any architectural features that they wish to disguise or enhance.
  • Measurements:- At this point in the project it may be pertinent to take measurements, although this can also be done at a later stage, once your concept boards have been accepted. Take floor plan measurements for the room(s) you will be working with. Also note the dimensions of relevant features such as window sills and fireplaces.

  • Timeframe:- Find out when your client wishes for the project to start, and to end. If there are other works going on in the property you may need to coordinate with other contractors, so finding this out upfront will help you to plan your workflow.
  • Budget:- Discuss with your client what their budget is, and ensure that a contingency is built into the project. Be clear about your fees, and whether these are included within the client’s budget or whether they are additional.
  • AOB:- Asking your client, “Is there anything else you would like me to know that I haven’t asked you about?” is a great question to ask at the end of your consultation. It allows for you to give them pause for thought, and to scoop up any last thoughts you may have missed.

The clearer you are about a client’s needs and wishes, the greater the likelihood of a successful project and a happy client.

DOWNLOAD THIS FREE CLIENT BRIEF TEMPLATE TO HELP GET YOU STARTED

FREE TEMPLATE

Do you have any additional tips or advice when it comes to smashing the Client Brief?  Let us know in the comments!

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