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The Importance of Collaboration In Difficult Times

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In the first in a new series on collaboration we examine why supplier relationships are so important.

As we start 2021 under the same restrictions as much of 2020, many interior designers find themselves asking how they can do their job effectively. The role of an interior designer is not only to design but to use their product knowledge and supplier relationships to help their clients achieve the best possible outcome. We have spoken to two BIID members about how they collaborate with suppliers and how attending the recent BIID/Decorex event helped during the restrictions.

Claire Tull, BIID Registered Interior Designer and BIID Director with over 20 years’ experience in interior design tells us how she approaches collaborating with suppliers.

‘I consider collaboration to range from working one on one with a supplier to create a bespoke product to a strong working relationship on a design project and both are an integral part of being an interior designer.  I have recently connected with some craft people; this has improved my offering and therefore my reputation. You must show that you know the best people to go to so that you can deliver the best quality product to your client. It’s a full circle relationship where we need each other. ‘

Claire, founder of Studio 12 Designs advises all interior designers to approach supplier relationships with these tips in mind.

  1. Look after your suppliers. There may come a time when you need something doing urgently you will need their support.  Pay people on time, trust each other and give opportunities where you can.
  2. Don’t be afraid to look for new suppliers - If a relationship doesn’t feel relevant at that exact moment it is important to keep the potential in mind for the future.
  3. Suppliers have so much to teach, don’t be afraid to learn from them. Be it materials, best practice or products, it can really help build your foundation as a designer. Understanding your supplier’s processes is vital when managing client’s expectations.   

Emma Irvine is a BIID Provisional Associate with a passion for creating an interior that meets a person’s needs and budget. Having studied Contemporary Craft at University, Emma knew that she loved design, but it was only after working in the care industry and doing a post graduate diploma in Interior Design she started in the profession.

A role in the Home Design Service of John Lewis Chester was a stepping stone to working professionally. Within a year of leaving her position at John Lewis Emma had established a strong relationship with property developers and was designing for their student and rental properties. Now two years on Emma has established herself in this segment and says 80% of her work is for this type of interior design. This dictates much of how she approaches supplier relationships.

‘Small developers often only buy from the high street; having these relationships means I can sometimes offer property developers fair prices but a higher quality product. ‘

Emma explained the reason she decided to be a part of the BIID’s Building Relationships event at Decorex recently. ‘After everything that happened with Covid, it was an opportunity to network with people that you can’t get anywhere else. I was looking for new suppliers as that helps me to give a better service to the property industry.

Claire also attended the Decorex event. Having always attended events in person previously Claire was happy to find that the event being online had benefits. ‘I was able to find out about products and companies that I might have otherwise missed at a live event which adds enormous value to my supplier portfolio and product knowledge.’

Emma also enjoyed the online event explaining ‘The great thing about being online was that you could watch so much of the content that you couldn’t do in person.  The Networking provided an opportunity to catch up with an existing relationship and share contact details with new potential suppliers.’

Claire runs a busy practice and time constraints must be considered. ‘On a practical note, it was a very efficient and productive use of time. I would certainly welcome the opportunity to attend speedy networking events in the future and recommend them to designers and industry colleagues alike.’

Emma talked about future events she would like to see from the BIID to enable maximum value in supplier collaboration. ‘It would be good to have some longer events where we could get to know each other a bit more and for me it would be useful to hear more about the price points from companies.’

The BIID are committed to providing opportunities for designers and suppliers to collaborate and will be announcing future events soon. We will be listening to the feedback from Interior Designers and suppliers to ensure we create the best online options during restrictions.