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Edition 05

Engaging an Interior Designer



Investing in talent counts and so, the way one engages a building professional is the same way one should engage an Interior Designer to actualize your desired spaces. This calls for a champaign toast, writes NyamburaNugi-Kinuthia, while stressing the need to put emphasies on the finer details. 

In the 2nd issue of this East African focussed interiors industry magazine, I argued on whether engaging an Interior Designer on your project is money worth. Subsequently, on Issue 4 of the same magazine, Robert Yawe hit the nail right on the head when he asked “Who is murdering our Interiors?”  Clearly someone is. 

Do you as a developer or homeowner want to stop the process and save yourself the anguish of either losing money or burdened in a domain that just needs an interiors professional. If yes, this is for you. Go for the real doers.

I have said before that Interior design is creative art – not pure art.  Creative Art involves understanding and articulating style, visual balance, contrast and foam. It is about Colour and Colour Psychology, creating compliment or contrast, about understanding interior surface finishing materials suitability.

Well, interiors is further about lights and lighting that create an ideal ambience. Yes, it is about creating harmony in the environment. Interior Design is thus about understanding and interpreting the architectural drawings, surveying spaces and creatively working with existing structure to create required spaces.

Well then what do you expect from an Interior Designers? They develop 3D interior layouts, detail specifications and elevations to give the client virtual impressions of the space final look. They quantify the materials to avoid expensive mistakes and project works execution time-line. Interior design is about putting concepts together to create space balance and ultimately supervising work execution to ensure the envisioned is actualized.

Unmistakably this means that an interior designer must be trained to execute interior design works. Just like in other professionals; not everyone is a doctor, an accountant, a pilot or an engineer. Just because one is putting up a residential house, commercial apartments, holiday home(s) and hospitality outlet among others, that does not qualify one to be overnight interior designer. I have heard this comment over and over; “My wife will do the interior design of the house when the structure is finished.” Does this mean that all wives are interior designers? Yes under your own peril. Mmmh! This is what happens when you attempt to be an overnight interior designer.

On my usual networking discussions, I had a chat with a couple. They were putting up their residential home in one of the up-market residential suburbs. I proposed to undertake the interior design for their house that was on the initial stages of construction; a four bedroom house with the usual amenities.

The client was receptive and I presented my proposal together – taking up the full interior works from inception to completion on a professional fee of Ksh 250,000. They argued the professional fee was too high and that the fundis with the supervision of a foreman can execute the works. Really?

A few months later, I received a call from the same client totally distressed. I made an appointment and visited the site and YES they had all reasons to be totally distressed. True to their word, they had gone ahead and decided they will execute the interior works as earlier mentioned. They had gotten referrals from family and friends for different fundis, travelled to China and purchased all the interior fitting and finishing materials.

The reality started unfolding when:-

1. The purchased tiles design at the buying point was forgotten so the fundis had to try and create their imaginative “design” on the ground – smell disaster!

2. Wardrobe doors that had a very unique design were fitted up-side-down.

3. The Kitchen cabinet fittings will not technically fit per measurements and due to the nature of cheap boards used to make the carcass and the doors, trying to “correct” the errors damaged the boards.

4. Our Curtain fabrics quantity was not sufficient to cover all the windows with the 100 percent recommended gathers (each room had a different fabric texture and colour) among other frustrations.


By the time the client called me, some tiles had been “designed” and laid; there were a myriad mistakes on tiling. Some tiles were fixed in wrong rooms hence quantities problems, wrong colour and design combinations and spacing inconsistencies. The curtain fabrics were cut, kitchen cabinet fittings literally squeezed to fit and some corrections tried and proved unachievable. The wardrobe doors were already fitted but picture the look of a barely straight line.

I will save you the details of how best the situation was sorted but please note that even designers can only do so much to control the damage. The client lost quantities of tiles, fabrics and regrettably the kitchen cabinets.

Our topic of the day – to engage an interior designer and save yourself money, time and headaches and have a professionally executed work or take the road this client took?  By the time we sorted the house interiors to an acceptable level, reality on major expenses was per below.

Initial material cost less shipping & duty (DIY)

New costs – Locally sourced materials  to redo the work




(After best salvaging the imported to an acceptable level)




Kitchen Cabinets



 Entirely new fit-out



Curtain fabrics



(Salvaged some imported fabrics and re-designed)




Interior design fee





The amount of money the client lost in order to “save” Kes 250,000


This is just a tip of the iceberg of what could go wrong with perhaps an overnight-made interior designer. Other additional un-necessary expenses arise from wrong electrical works and fittings, sanitary fitting works, kitchen appliances fitting and elements fittings not considered or even facilitated on time in view of furniture orientation for each room necessitating walls hacking after plaster and painting is already done. These are far reaching costs in monitory value and results in project delay.

The magnitude of figures changes when you make the same mistake on your bigger developments such as commercial apartments, serviced apartments and hospitality outfits among others.

My emphasis; Just like you must engage your consortium of building professionals when you are starting the project – Architect, Engineers-Mechanical & Electrical,  Project Manager and QS, you must engage an Interior Designer to actualize your envisioned interior spaces.

The hotels and lodges that you wow about when you go for family holidays have been given that look by a professional interior designer. There is no reason why your home should look any different!!

Nyambura is the managing director of Zidaka Interiors, with an interiors design base in Nairobi, Kenya.