Are we seeing an increase in a new type of residential interior design clients?
Often the phrase ‘residential interior designer’ conjures up visions of luxury Belgravia residences showcased in House and Garden magazine. An image regularly maintained by the interior design industry itself. A result of esteemed design schools providing a constant stream of new interior designers to prestigious studios.
Obviously, the luxury market isn’t the only one available to residential interior designers. For decades, the Kitchen, Bathroom and Bedroom sector has been servicing clients of more usual income. Even if these clients don’t make the connection between their new kitchen and traditional interior design services.
But lifestyles are changing. As a result, professional people are an ever-increasing source of interior design projects. Demand from this group is already on the rise. And it’s a trend that can keep on going.
What’s Driving the Trend?
There are a number of reasons why professional people are increasingly likely to be new interior design clients:
- Feelings of affluence
- Younger generations
Feelings of Affluence
There’s a blizzard of economic data provided by the UK Government Office of National Statistics. And there’s even more interpretations of that data. For example, based on median equivalised household disposable income data, the average person now earns 25% more than in 2000. On the other hand, household expenditure data tells a different story. We’ve less money available after essential spending (housing, travel, food) than our parents.
Let’s look beyond the many different economic signals. Instead note what’s happening in the world around us. The wide variety of ways we can, and do, indulge. Once seen as an extravagance, leisure travel to far-flung destinations is now normal. Expensive coffee houses are on almost every corner. And there’s been an explosion in pet pampering parlours in recent years.
Simply put, many of us are willing to spend our money on luxury. Despite the numerous economic debates that suggest otherwise.
Or more specifically, digital technology. The internet offers accessibility and affordability. Making once high-end luxury goods available to many more people.
Digital visualisation techniques, such as 3D rendering, have been available for some time. Now technology advances such as augmented reality can give clients access to online design tools. With the interior designer taking the role of guiding expert. An approach that’s already successful on the other side of the Atlantic. As shown by Modsy and Havenly.
Another effect of advances in technology is the ease of purchase and delivery of products. For this reason, some suppliers who once sold only to trade are now making their products available to the public. At first, the idea of losing revenue from product markups might seem scary for interior designers. In contrast, if interior design is more affordable, it’s also available to more people. And this means greater numbers of potential clients.
Undoubtedly, some won’t like the idea of digitally delivered interior design services. Due to the belief that interior design needs face-to-face human interaction. The fashion industry put forward the same reasons 20 years ago. Perhaps this is why it took Prada until 2007 to launch a website. But look at how that industry works now.
More importantly, it’s now Millennials and Gen Z that are now following professional careers. Even though they’ve heard of the pre-internet era, they’ve not experienced it. As a consequence, they demand the accessibility and affordability that the internet offers. And place less value on the human purchasing of goods and services. As seen in the luxury villa rental market. With an increase in wealthy clients renting villas without every calling the holiday company.
Put another way, digitally delivered interior design could appeal more to professional people than a traditional interior design approach.
What it Means for Residential Interior Design
In short, more possibilities. Both for those starting their interior design journey after university, and for established firms.
It’s tough for those entering the interior design industry. 15 months after university less than half of interior design graduates have a job that draws on their education. However, to set up as a self-employed providing digital services to professional people can have many advantages. A flexible source of income fitted in around retail or hospitality jobs. Minuscule start-up costs and overheads. A broadened portfolio strengthened with marketing and client management skills. With greater appeal to potential employers.
It’s been a rough 18 months for the commercial interior design sector. Even though there are positive signs, we’re unlikely to teleport straight back to the pre-pandemic world. Physical retail and hospitality industries are yet to fully rebound. Assuming they ever do. Also, the office vs. remote working debate is unlikely to be over in the next year or so. In the meantime, providing online services to private clients could be a helpful alternative revenue stream. Especially because setting up this service needs minimal upfront investment costs.
Will it Hurt High-End Residential Designers?
Probably not. No doubt there are those that will see accessible, affordable digital services as the equivalent of interior design ‘mass production’. And a resultant cheapening on the interior design image. But consider the increase of inexpensive two-seater sports cars. This trend hasn’t damaged Maserati’s reputation. Nor dented Lamborghini’s sales.
By using the right business strategies high-end residential studios can retain their exclusive image. To illustrate, studios can protect their bands with correct pricing. French winemakers produce crémant, available in French supermarkets from as little as €6, and champagne in exactly the same way. Only the locations of the vineyards vary. In other words, the only observable difference is price. Yet champagne is the more desirable product.
In the same way, high-end residential firms can profit from the new breed of interior design clients. By copying the marketing strategies of luxury fashion labels. A ‘Giorgio Armani’ brand that provides luxury interior design exclusively to high-net-worth individuals. And an ‘Emporio Armani’ brand for professionals. In effect, a studio that has two labels. One for champagne and another for crémant.
Professional People Provide New Possibilities
Professional people increasingly desire interior design services. A trend supported by feelings of affluence, technological advances and the tech-savvy younger generations coming of age. The rise of these new interior design clients can create further sources of income. Not least because low upfront setup costs make this type of client easy to reach. As such this market provides new possibilities for all interior design sectors.
What’s more, finding professional people and engaging with them can be relatively easy. And free! Interested? It’s the subject of next month’s business success blog.
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