As a new e-design consultancy we have been asked not just about YouthfulNest, but general inquiries about the unfamiliar world of e-design. People are surprised to learn that there are dozens of stellar professional E-design sites out there and that a large number of traditional designers also promote a version of online interior design. You will find the majority of E-designers like Decorist, Havenly, Inbox Interiors, Windsor Smith Room In A Box, Zoom Interiors and even another Omaha based company, Birdhouse Interior Design, will work with you on any room in your home. What makes YouthfulNest unique is our focus on children and young adult spaces.
The other big shift for our online design service is our unique process which is integrated with Pinterest and Houzz. We work directly with a client's personal inspiration that they gather on either popular site and then share with us.
So, the big questions that pop up most often and that I am going to attempt to address are:
What is E-design?
How does it work?
Who does it work for?
What is E-Design?
Even before opening our virtual doors, I gobbled up any article I could find on e-design, virtual design or online design, from the perspective of other designers, clients and lifestyle bloggers. I found great information from articles like this one via Apartment Therapy, Would You Do it?: Hiring a Long Distance Designer. In order for YouthfulNest to be a successful online consultancy, I needed to understand the pitfalls and strengths of e-design.
There truly is a need for an alternative option for the design savvy home owner who wouldn’t dream of hiring an interior designer, but would love to work with one. This stems from the plethora of home make-over TV shows and the wealth of online resources available from all over the world. Not to mention the home improvement movement additionally spurred by social media and blogs tempting viewers into action. I’m talking about beloved sites such as Pinterest, Houzz, Project Nursery, Apartment Therapy, Remodelista, Decor8, Brit+Co and FreshHome just to name a few.
For YouthfulNest e-design services and process are tailored for the design savvy, D.I.Y.’er wanting to save money by doing their fair share of the work themselves. This doesn't mean that they are wanting to get their hands dirty distressing furniture or decoupaging a lamp shade. It means they are up for providing the designer with inspiration boards, home images, measurements and make online purchases. In addition, due to the online nature of our creative relationship, e-design clients will spend more hours doing the actual hands-on tasks like furniture installation and styling. In return YouthfulNest supplies them a focused visuals, workable floor plans and written design instruction of how to bring it all together like a pro.
In my research I’ve read some rather unflattering and untrue statements in articles by traditional designers expressing concern that there is too much risk involved shopping online. Implying that only they "the traditional designer" have access to the proper tools to do a good job for their clients. E-designers do have access to those same tools such as: hard swatches and samples; relationships with vendors; the knowledge of quality online products; and physical access to see and touch actual products in stores that are also sold online. E-designers have their own libraries or access to products swatches to help select the right pieces for a design. In fact, part of what makes e-design possible is that tons of online retailers offer the option for anyone to order those same samples including finishes for furniture. So even you, the client, can know if the “white” dresser you are ordering is really bright or more like "off-white". What is different with the e-design process is that yes, while the e-designer is making their professional recommendation on products based on their product knowledge, it is the client’s capability to see first hand these same swatches by ordering them for themselves prior to purchasing the actual piece. We, the e-designer, and the online retailers are empowering our clients to be smarter, more savvy consumers. We discussed this and shared several vendors we source that offer swatches in a past blog article, Shop Online Like A Pro: Swatches & Samples.
“It (e-design) almost seems like a cross between hiring a traditional designer and just enlisting the help your college roommate or your sister-in-law who really has a knack for design and knows all the good sources.”
E-design designers ARE professionals, design is NOT just a hobby. They should be expected to take into consideration the same issues and variables including the home’s geographical location, style, dimensions, proportions, finishes, product quality, functionality, etc.
How it works?
There are variations of e-design offerings out there. I should know, as I researched them all while developing the YouthfulNest platform and process. I tried my hand at popular established e-design sites. There are those that establish your style by having you take a "style quiz" based on images that they pre-select and present to you on various screens. Then in turn you pick the product/s or room scene/s that are most attractive to you. Other sites have you complete a questionnaire to help establish a persons style and expectations for the specific room. Some sites don’t even provide any actual pricing or detailed process. Instead, they work more traditionally by determining pricing and process based on the project that you present to them.
Ultimately, all of the communication and sharing is done virtually through e-mails and digital uploads. Some sites also offer a brief phone consultation as well. For example YouthfulNest takes advantage of as much virtual interaction as possible to keep the process efficient and stay on track. For example the first thing that happens is a client submits their room inspiration via a Pinterest board or Houzz ideabook, that they themselves developed specifically for one room. However, we do conduct a 30 minute phone or video consult to review the clients desires in their own words regarding various design, functionality and budget details. Using a video call also allows us to see the flow of the space and how different permanent elements relate to one another. The second best thing to being there. Finally, we set-up each client with a virtual, Personal Studio that only they and the designer can access once logged in. All deliverables can be viewed or downloaded from this digital studio space.
Above, I mentioned a informative article I read via Apartment Therapy, Would You Do it?: Hiring a Long Distance Designer. I not only read the article, but I also read through all the comments. There were both positives and negative comments regarding e-design. I would like to address the unsatisfied clients and ne-sayers who doubt the power and the positive outcome of e-design services. These are a few comments that stood out:
“I am sure that an online decorator can work perfectly well for many design challenges. However, when we are talking about decorating an entire room, I can't help but feel that a decorator needs to be physically in the room to do a good job.”
"If I were hiring a designer, I'd want somebody who lived and worked in the Southwest -- it would not lower my stress to have to be explaining that yes, we WILL HAVE a ceiling fan because it is NECESSARY…”
"The online designer gave me a design that didn't fit the physical requirements of my house at all. A desk covering a window. A chair in a place that any fool who read the measurements and looked at the photos would know a chair would not fit.”
So, when choosing the e-design process a large part of the client’s responsibility is to be thoughtful about the style they want to see in their space, but it is also imperative that they share any and all particular details in the room that the virtual designer cannot see in pictures, i.e. expressing the intensity and quantity of sunlight the room gets, which may effect wall color selection. Or the need for a fan due to the additional heat supplied by the intense sunlight. The more information that is provided by the client, the more satisfied a client will be with their final space. You might argue that this is the designer’s job. Yes, we would agree when a designer is working in-person, on location of the actual property. However, this is one of those particular differences between traditional and the online process. You can see this client's contribution to a project reflected in the lower fees for online design services.
Just like finding the right doctor or dentist. You need to do your homework on finding the right designer. Whether that be a traditional or online designer. Of course, on their site you will read through the design process, click through their portfolio and check their experience. But don’t forget to take time to read through the “ABOUT” section. For example if you read the YouthfulNest “OUR STORY" you’ll discover that while I am currently living back in the Midwest, I have lived/worked all over the world, including the Southern United States. So, when it comes to my eclectic design knowledge or understanding the need of ceiling fans…I totally get it!
When it comes to dimensions, it is tricky not standing in the actual space. But a good e-designer will go through the same steps as a traditional designer when selecting final pieces for any room and that includes careful reading of product and room dimensions.
Step one requires the taking of room measurements. However, this is one of those processes which is slightly different than that of traditional interior design because the e-designer relies solely on the client to take and provide accurate measurements of the room, vents, doors, windows, outlets and existing furniture and fixtures that will remaining in the room. Step two requires the designer to review and consider the dimensions of the space prior to sourcing product. Step three is checking each product dimension, every pillow, rug, armoire, curtain, crib, table lamp etc. These are not new challenges to any designer, even for those working offsite. It is true that sometimes the sum of a designer's choices, once all placed together in the actual space, do not always mesh perfectly requiring that a piece or two be swapped out. This could be due to size, proportion, color or something else altogether.
In response to the client above who says the desk was too high, covering part of a window equals the designer didn't do a good job. I would say that isn’t instantly a negative thing. (Especially as I sit in my studio at my father’s vintage postman’s desk typing this article, which happens to cover my large picture window trim by a good few inches). Depending on the overall style of a space it may not be a design no, no. If you are doing a very traditional space and wanting to follow traditional design aesthetics than yes, this may not be what you want. In this case, be sure the designer is made aware of the error immediately and they should be able to provide you with an alternative option.
Who does it work for?
Are you a D.I.Y.'er or design enthusiast? Do you use Pinterest to gather inspiration onto dream boards titled “Boho Home” or “Nordic Nursery”? Do you spend hours gawking over the room inspiration on Houzz? Do you read Matchbook and LONNY online magazines? Are you a registered user with online shopping sites like The Land Of Nod, Wayfair, LuLu & Georgia and Serena & Lily? Then we think you are an excellent candidate for such a virtual collaboration.
Other good signs and scenarios that E-design will work for you:
+Good when the room is closed off to rest of your home
+Good when you aren’t able to focus or decide on one overall style
+Good when you want to be hands on with some of the design tasks
+Good when you don’t like to research or shop online
+Good when you don’t have the time to research products online
+Good when you know the style you like, but not how to get it
+Good when you are computer and social media savvy
+Good when you live in a city where you have limited access to home stores
Additional noteworthy articles on e-design
Inc. - 5 REASONS WHY INTERIOR DESIGN IS MOVING ONLINE, 2015
Elle Decor - THE ART OF E-DESIGN, 2015
She Knows - ONLINE INTERIOR DESIGN SERVICES: ARE THEY RIGHT FOR YOU, 2012
A self starter in pursuit of all things smart, savvy and stylish.