Function in Interior Design – The Bigger Picture Role of the Interior Designer

Function in Interior Design – The Bigger Picture Role of the Interior Designer

The simplistic view of interior design is that it is all about aesthetics – colours, fixtures, fittings and furniture. These are certainly important parts of the interior designer’s role, but designing for function is, perhaps, more important.

I recently welcomed interior designer, Michelle Astudillo, on the Spaces podcast. Michelle works predominantly with property developers to create homes that are not only attractive to potential buyers, but also functional for those who will live in them. Our conversation really highlighted the much bigger role that a good interior designer plays in how a home functions.

You could argue that interior design is not about aesthetics at all. It is about functionality at its core. It’s a key component of how a space gets used. As Michelle puts it, “they work hand in hand. You really need to have both, the functionality and the aesthetics. It’s no good if it’s functional but it looks really unattractive. You have to get them both right,” she says

Here are some of the top ways a good interior designer can help improve the functionality of a home.

Designing for people and flow

Although some interior designers may be more focused on the aesthetics, Michelle works a little differently. “I work with the architects right from the beginning of the planning process, and work really closely with them to get the space planning right,” she says.

In effect, this is about ensuring that not only does the furniture required in that space is going to fit, but that the space works for the people that will live within it. Michelle explains that it comes back to how the interior designer works with an architect. “I think of things they don’t think about. They’re thinking about he exterior of the building, they’re thinking about the aspect, they’re thinking about windows and things like that, but they’re not necessarily thinking about the flow of the space – someone actually in their using the space. So I kind of go a little more micro than they do. Working together you can get a fantastic outcome,” she says.

The space-making role

For many people, our living spaces are becoming smaller. For that reason, it’s important to be savvy about how we use it. A good interior designer can help make the most of the available space.

With real estate prices the way they are, “you’re paying for every square centimetre,” Michelle says. “You can’t waste any space. There’s no luxury to have wasted space.”

It comes down to spatial design and how it’s changed. Michelle explains it like this; “overall spaces are much tighter now. Bedrooms have tended to become smaller, particularly second and third bedrooms. The master bedroom, well, people still like that to be as generous as possible,” she says. “It’s really important to have the bathrooms feeling not too tight, and certainly having all the features that people would want, because that’s where a lot of the luxury is perceived, in the bathrooms and kitchens.”

Kitchens and dining rooms are good examples of how spatial thinking is changing. “Kitchens and dining are rooms that are typically becoming smaller,” Michelle says. “It very much needs to be multifunctional. So having a table that has a spare leaf hidden within the table, with the ability to fold out, or you can get circular tables that change to be an oval shape by adding a leaf in and opening it out. There are all kinds of tables that have the ability to become larger,” she says.

The space-shaping role

A good interior designer can help you think about using space in a different way, and creating more versatile and flexible spaces, particularly with more high-density living becoming the norm.

Coming up with clever ways to ensure spaces can pull double-duty and fulfill two different purposes is another way a good interior designer can help. Take the increasing need for home offices in small apartments. How do we fit these spaces into already shrinking homes? Where is the office or desk going to be situated (if there is a desk at all), how it’s orientated, how much natural light will it receive, where are the electrical points situated, and how about the all-important Internet accessibility and phone reception? It can all impact on our productivity, motivation, and, indeed, happiness. This is where the clever thinking comes in.

The exterior role of the interior designer

Bringing a good interior designer in early in the building design process can provide a useful perspective on how exterior design decisions will affect the interior, and even avoid potential design flaws.

Michelle explains: “I work a lot with exteriors as well. I always get involved in the exterior finishes, the windows, the layout of the sliding doors, which direction it slides from, how it opens. I do exterior colours – roofing, guttering, balustrading, so I’m highly over a whole spectrum of exterior things as well. I also do swimming pools and landscaping, so it’s a whole picture that needs to come together. It all needs to work well, it needs to relate, and it needs to have a really lovely flowing aesthetic,” she says.  

Perhaps the key takeaway from this conversation was the importance of bringing the interior designer in early in the design process, just as I would suggest to clients when they engage a functional designer like myself. A little forward thinking early on can make a big difference to the success of the finished space; and potentially save you time, money and hassle in the process.

You can hear the entire conversation with Michelle Astudillo here.