interior designer melbourne

What are interior design specifications?

In every industry there is jargon.  The interior design world is the same.  Interior designers and related professionals such as architects use words that may not be easily understood by the public.  Having said that, many people have a good understanding of certain interior design terms such as flow of movement. 

I think that’s due to the many TV programs dedicated to interior design, renovations and homewares.  But there is one term which remains a mystery – that is ‘specifications’.  What are interior design specifications?

When I’m talking to new clients, this is the one term I need to explain the most.  I like to spend a lot of time talking through the design process with new clients.  Mostly, because I think it’s important new clients understand how I work and how the interior design process unfolds over time. 

Some new clients think that they can go away for the weekend and their space is complete.  It’s not that easy and next time I will explain how long an interior design projects takes.  But for now I want to focus on what interior design specifications are?

Brief Stage

In the first stage of a project, the brief stage, I ask my clients many questions relating to colour, materials, textures, and patterns.  For example, when it comes to materials, they may prefer timber over steel.  Another example might be that my clients prefer geometric patterns instead of abstract patterns.

All this information tells me what to specify in the design and concept stage of the project.  Simply put, interior design specifications are a combination of items or pieces required to realise the design. 

Another way to explain it is that interior design specifications are a list of fittings, fixtures, furniture and furnishings.

Fittings, Fixtures, Furniture and Furnishings

AAMI insurance explain the difference between fittings and fixtures but let’s take a look at a living room for example.  My specifications list could include a fitting such as pendant lights or window treatments such as curtains.  A fixture might be carpet, something that is permanently fixed to the space.

Then we list in our specifications document, furniture such as a sofa and coffee table.  Followed by, furnishings such as cushions, rugs and throw.  The list is very detailed.  It includes all the information about each item.  Such as the retailer, the name of the product, the dimensions, costs, stock availability and so on.

Basically, a specifications document is a detailed list to help inform clients of all the pieces to realise their vision.  All these details helps them make an informed decision whether to go ahead and purchase these items.  Also, the interior design specifications document provides an important opportunity for clients to provide feedback.

Feedback from clients is critical to realising their interior design vision because it enables an interior designer to find a suitable alternative.  But simple feedback on its own such as ‘no I don’t like that’ isn’t enough.

Usually, I need to probe a client for more information about why they don’t like a particular piece.  Such as a bedside table, is it the shape, height, colour or materials they don’t like?  Do they need something with storage such as a draw or something without storage? 

I see a piece very differently to my clients and like to break down the attributes of a piece of furniture so that I find the perfect alternative. All this information also saves the client time and money and ensures that they get the space of their dreams.

To more clearly illustrate what specifications are; I have included a standard list for the most common spaces below;

Living Room Interior Design Specifications

1) Sofa
2) Coffee tableOther misc pieces; eg: arm chair/s, ottomans, side table/s, console table
3) Rug
4) Cushions
5) Throw
6) TV unit
7) Other storage eg shelving, sideboard
8) Lighting (floor, table, ceiling)
9) Wall treatment
10) Floor treatment
11) Art Window treatments
12) Dining setting (tables/chairs)
13) Accessories and décor

Master Bedroom Interior Design Specifications

1) Bedhead or bed frame
2) Bedside tables
3) Bedside table lamps
4) Bench
5) Rug
6) Other storage piece eg drawers
7) Lighting (floor, table, ceiling)
8) Wall treatment
9) Floor treatment
10) Art
11) Window treatments
12) Accessories and décor

Kitchen Interior Design Specifications

1) Sink
2) Tap/mixer
3) Cabinetry colour/s
4) Door, cupboard and drawer profile
5) Handles
6) Splashback
7) Benchtop
8) Pendant lighting for kitchen counter
9) All surfaces ie flooring, walls, ceilings

Bathroom Interior Design Specifications

1) Bath
2) Shower, screen, base, tapware, shower head, niche
3) Toilet
4) Vanity, Countertop, Basin, tapware, mirror, other storage
5) Tiles for all surfaces, wall, floor, splashback
6) Lighting
7) Misc hardware & accessories; hooks & holders
8) All surface finishes ie flooring, walls, ceilings.

Interior Design Communications Tools

With the mood board, and floor plan, the specifications list is a key design document presented to clients.  This document also helps with budgeting and project management.  It’s like a road map to delivering the overall design.

There are other key interior design documents and tools used by interior designers to communicate with their clients.  Tools, such as 3D rendered images and flat lays.  Flat lays are how samples of fabric, tiles, cabinetry and so on are presented to demonstrate the overall look, feel and colours of a mood board.  It’s a tactile experience for the clients.

All these tools and design documents are key to the process and it’s important that clients understand that the interior design specifications list and the time it takes to research, verify and document every inch of your space is also what they’re paying for.  Clients are not just paying for the big ideas but for the skills to implement them in a space.

Creativity is Not Enough

So, while interior design relies on creativity to deliver the wow factor clients a paying for, there are practical tools such as the interior design specifications list that help deliver amazing results. 

My aim with this article was to explain what interior design specifications are.  Trying to demystify some of the jargon used in the interior design industry.  Some studios like to keep their clients in the dark about the ‘mysterious’ world of interior design but I prefer to be completely transparent and over communicate to my clients, so that they are part of the journey and enjoy their experience in creating their dream space.