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Monday, April 14, 2008

The designer’s dilemma

Ideas may be aplenty, but creating a great interior is best approached by looking through the eyes of the owner

I have been asked many times in my profession as an interior design consultant what is it exactly that I do.

One word that sums it up is “advise” – on all matters pertaining to interior planning and design improvement from concept to implementation.

From the onset, designers can let their imagination go into overdrive and come out with a great deal of ideas … but only the one that best suits a particular client should be the style chosen.

I’m often reminded of the saying “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”, and don’t believe in forcing design ideas down my clients’ throats.

Thus, understanding an individual’s needs and lifestyle is vital, especially if the design project involves a private residence. For commercial jobs, my preference would be to focus on a specific theme or image that the business is striving to portray.

In this modern day and age, we often hear “fashionable” words such as “Zen”, “avantgarde”, “Balinese” and so on being used. While these flowery words can depict trends, they are quite meaningless if the people who will be using the space cannot appreciate their benefits.

A concept is only as good as its ability to create an environment that can bring out the best in people, and it shouldn’t be applied just because it makes for good conversation when the occasional visitor drops by. This is because when the last guest leaves and the lights are dimmed, design just for design’s sake can make for a very uncomfortable experience.

Having said that, coming out with good design that can suit a user can be difficult, especially when the client is fickle or hard to understand.

I vividly remember one who, for some reason or other, loves halogen lighting. Even the lighting specialist I brought in failed to convince her of the drawbacks of installing them in her living room. And today, her home turns into a sauna whenever she entertains guests at night.

Her air-conditioning system doesn’t stand a chance against the number of lights she wanted and I’m sure the electric company has her on its preferred customer list.

As a consultant, it pains me whenever advice I impart is not heeded. It pains me even more knowing that because of this disregard, the user has to settle for a less than ideal environment and in all probability, is wasting money.

So, what is it again that I do for a living?

By New Straits Times (by Ian Lam)

Ian Lam is a freelance interior design consultant with over 20 years of experience. He shares his views out of his love for the art and science of his profession. For inquires, email him at maxfiver@

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