Home Interior Design: Process, Budget and Possibilities

Process is the key to success in home interior design. With proper process you can identify the areas of your home life that you want to improve, the style that you prefer and the budget that is available to achieve this. A general consensus about interior design is that it is too expensive and unaffordable. We spoke to interior designer Garry Cohn of Cohn Design about the process of home interior design and how working with an interior designer can actually save you money. 

What is the first piece of advice you usually share with clients when beginning a project?

Know your budget. Now, that sounds much easier said than done because when you’re first starting out on architectural or interior design projects you may not have a realistic view of market prices. I still get surprised when I see the cost of a build along with all the additional items. I say to all my clients that your best friend is a QS (quantity surveyor). You will save the most money with a QS because they will help keep the budget under control and they have the knowledge about how much construction and furnishings cost.  

How does the process work for interior design? 

A full project that involves construction and furnishings is broken up into 4 stages. Some projects are smaller and won’t not require all 4 stages.  

  • Concept and design drawings
  • Working drawings, specifications, materials, furnishings and equipment 
  • Administration of the project on site
  • Snagging  

What type of questions do you ask a client to identify their needs and their style?

Generally, as they have hired me, I take their words and emotions and turn them into a well-designed living space. Clients usually have an idea of what they want but they may not know how to express it, or they can express it but only on certain aspects. When it comes to style, clients are sometimes confused because today most styles are mixed and matched with others. What they are really searching for is a look or a feeling of what they like.   

Where is the best place to start when beginning an interior design/refurbishment project?

Once you’ve established the budget, put it aside and forget about it for the next stage. It’s time to have fun! You’ve waited for a long time to get to this point and it’s time to have your dreams come true. This is the concept stage, and it’s the heart of the design. All you need to do is find images either on the internet or in magazines or books of anything you like. Once we have all the images of all the rooms, accessories and details that you like, we can start to see common threads that link them together.  

From here, we weed out the less thrilling images and keep the others. Before you know it, you have your own unique style guide right in front of you. Then we apply this to the budget.  


Tip: Planning a home improvement project? Check out these tips. 


When decorating a home room by room, how would you recommend keeping an overall “flow” to the interiors throughout the house?

Keep your style guide on hand and refer to it when you need to check if you’re on track with your design or straying from your style direction. All the answers are there and if not, you can always add more images for support. 

Tip: Check out the do’s and don’ts of DIY home improvements here.

Can you tell us about a recent project you worked on that incorporated the advice you’ve shared above?

I do a style guide for all my projects. I need to have a road map that gives directions on how to get from point A to point B. Now, this is not a straight line - you are taking the scenic route. There are lots of mountains and valleys and the journey can take some time. We are human and we are constantly evolving our taste and style so there will be some new things that you may want to add and some old ones that you may want to let go. The style guide will always keep you on track with any revision or change of direction.  

What is your favourite type of project to work on?

I like working on boutique hotels, they have everything that I love to design. The suites and rooms are like a residential project and I want to make the cosy and comfortable with style. The reception is a gathering place and I like the atmosphere of a party when walking into a hotel lobby. Bars and restaurants let you take design to a fantasy level where you can transport the client to anywhere you want. Conference rooms are like designing a cool or sophisticated office and spa and leisure areas allow you design a zen or relaxing space.  

A lot of my ideas for residential and hospitality cross over when designing a boutique hotel.   

Where do you take your inspiration from when creating a new plan for a room’s interior?

This will vary from project to project, but one thing that always inspires me the most is nature. Not just trees and landscapes, but the nature of the universe from the microscopic patterns of a dragon’s fly's wing, to the geometric texture of a pineapple skin and the glittery dark pallets of the evening sky.    

Once I have a direction, I form the architecture of the room to always contain some element of surprise. Whether it's colour or a focal point this guides the client through their home in a creative journey. 

Can interior design be affordable? 

Yes, I can save you money. Sometimes all you need is a direction and you don't need me to do all the stages in the process. 

An Interior designer can help as a consultant coming in and out of your projects only when needed. I have saved many of my clients from spending unnecessary money on their projects that have already started.   

Can interior design help to make a home more family orientated or accessible?

That is what I do best. I turn cold, hard structures into warm and inviting living spaces. This is achieved using materials, fabrics, furnishings and colours. You would be surprised by what an interior designer can do with your existing furnishings by adding a few accessories and some paint.  

What do you think the next big interior design trend will be in 2020?

There is a lot happening in the 2020’s and it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, it's bright and colourful. The next decade won’t be grey and monotone. You’ll see a nice balance of vibrant colours with complimentary neutrals. The colours are very sophisticated with off tones in every hue. For style, we will be reinventing the Art Deco of the 1920’s with a modern 2020’s twist.


Check out the other articles in our interior design feature: How to Create a Home Office SpaceThe 7 Elements of Interior Design and Interior Design in the Home - Where to Start.


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