Delving deeper than decor to explore the power of home as a path to wellbeing #happyinside

February 23, 2021

Interior Design Masters: Episode 4

Shops: lessons 6 + 7

The Brief: Six designers faced with three shops in the historic Pantiles district of Tunbridge Wells. A cook shop, a pet accessory store and a photography shop. Three family businesses behind listed shop fronts with owners who are as passionate about their wares as they are specific about their requirements.

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: behind the scenes; Michelle Ogundehin and guest judge, Ross Bailey

Various key words were specified by the owners for their new and improved businesses, from the desire for a “vibrant, warm, and a sophisticated yet wholesome scheme” for the cookshop. “Eclectic, energetic and heritage” for the pet store. And for the camera shop: “a toyshop for adults with warmth, character and personality”.

And in this episode, the designers pitch their designs directly to the shop owners, who could then choose parts of both schemes, or a single lead scheme. Regardless, the designers have to work together. So this challenge is as much about the pitch process as the final designs.

Also, for these retailers, this is more than their jobs, this is their livelihoods. Thus, naturally they will be both practically and emotionally invested in the outcomes. Nevertheless, if they could have designed a better shop themselves, they wouldn’t be needing a makeover now. This is what the designers have to remember.

All smiles at this week’s briefing: Interior Design Masters Episode 4

Briefing the designers: Interior Design Masters Episode 4

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: behind the scenes, almost ready to roll

Lesson Six: pitching is the art of agreeing an intended outcome not decorative specifics

Working with any client is always an exercise in negotiation. At the end of the day, you need to be able to do a good job, as only you will be to blame in their eyes if they do not like it. But sometimes, in fact often, you have to give people what they do not know they need, let alone can describe. In this way, the art of a good pitch is to paint a picture of what you want to achieve based clearly on their requirements so that they trust you, before gently introducing creative ideas for how you intend to achieve it.

In other words, it’s all about navigating the tricky area between confidently standing your ground regarding your ideas, while staying flexible enough to be sure you’re really listening to the client’s feedback. Nothing is gained from backing yourself into a defensive corner.

For example, many retail briefs can probably be boiled down as follows…

  1. 1. Increase footfall
    2. Create an enticing window display
    3. Provide adequate storage space
    4. Maintain key items of stock on display
    5. Give people a reason to return

So pitch to acknowledge these points, with the rest up for designerly interpretation. This is where the magic of collaboration can happen. In other words, it’s crucial to allow your client to feel involved, not excluded.

Where designers often go wrong is in pitching in hard about the decoration (the bits they get excited about but which can be dangerously subjective) and forgetting to address the more practical requirements as detailed above. At the end of the day, there’s no point having a gorgeously fancy pants wallpaper at the very back of the shop if you can’t get anyone through the front door to see it.

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: behind the scenes; the production hub on location

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: behind the scenes; Charlotte and Siohbhan post-work and still smiling!

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: behind the scenes; posters in the production hub on location!

Lesson Seven: retail is about service, entertainment and experience.

Retail design has completely changed over the last few decades because consumer behaviour, as well as the economic landscape, has radically changed. And this was even before the pandemic complicated the issue even further. Retailers, from big brands to independents, are fighting to stay afloat, so adaptation and evolution of the shopping experience is everything.

But even in the era of e-commerce, physical shops have purpose and a vital role to play. Their design however must become focused on the kudos of visiting them IRL. Creating moments. Engagement. Touching great product. Connections and community. The experiential factor. All of this needs to be referenced and recognised. Shops can no longer just be about displaying product. If I can see everything a brand might sell from the comfort of my sofa, you have to give me more.

In other words, create a story. A reason to enter. An inviting atmosphere. A reason to hang-out. The background to the business so I know it’s all about people, not just products. Basically, make it about everything you cannot get online.

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: behind the scenes; the production hub on location, love this stacking set of tool boxes on a trolley. #lifegoals

Interior Design Masters Episode 4

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: Guest judge Ross Bailey, CEO Appear Here

This week’s guest judge

Ross Bailey has worked with everyone from Nike and Kanye West to Net a Porter. His company Appear Here, dubbed the “Airbnb for retail” by Monocle magazine and a “digital game changer for the high street” by The Guardian, is the marketplace leader for pop-up and short-term shops. The idea is frankly genius simple. You have an idea/product to sell or an event, then rent an existing empty shop, market or pop-up stall in any of many cities around the UK to Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Amsterdam. Then showcase it for as long, or short, as you like!

So Ross knows a thing or two about kerb appeal. As he puts it, “Shops should be seen as marketing fronts for brands rather than just places to make sales. The idea is that the customer comes to a store to learn and experience the brand, then shops online and spreads the word on social media.”

Ross is also spearheading a #SaveTheStreet campaign asking the government to support the independent retail sector, as they have done with other sectors, eg restaurants. the campaign highlights that the retail sector represents 20% of the UK’s GDP and it’s our independent retailers who will play a vital role in the economic recovery of local neighbourhoods. For every £1 spent with local independents an additional 63p of benefit is created for the local economy, compared to just 40p generated by larger national retailers. But as it stands, 1 in 3 British brands are predicted to disappear by March.

You can find out more here: SaveTheStreet

Save the Street graphics designed by Henry Holland for Appear Here.

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: behind the scenes; photo call in my office (check those sleeves!)

And finally, Wardrobe notes…

Briefing: Wray red top (bought from Nola Boutique in Brighton), Victoria Beckham jeans as before, ancient cork/raffia platform sandals from a discount store in Italy.

Viewing: navy blue S’ MaxMara cable knit jumper; S’ MaxMara Chinoiserie fabric silk coat (many years old now); Paige jeans; pale green Nike trainers

Judging: Roksanda Illinic red/pink top; navy blue See By Chloe wool trousers (bought from Tidy Street General Store in Brighton); Alexander McQueen gold shoes from God knows how long ago, definitely before small was born!

Interior Design Masters Episode 4: behind the scenes in the studio. I think we made short work of the Haribo!

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4 replies »

  1. As hugely funny as Alan Carr is ( and he is) , does, his presentation of humour and mirth in this situation, not belittle our industry?
    Also will we see another Cassie Nicholas, a contestant who seemed to provoke the public by her seemingly outdated and uninspiring work within the show.
    This show can elevate a person’s career hugely, especially financially, I do hope that it will be taken more seriously than just another reality show where viewing figures are seemingly more important than the seriousness of the industry.
    An Interior designer surely would NEVER work with another interior designer on a paid project in real life?
    Otherwise the show has potential, you have wonderful grace and elegance , but it would be nice to see more about your work, where you are coming from, how you ( and the guests started in the industry)
    Thank you

    • Hi Skyii, I think what you are suggesting would be a very different show. I think what Interior Design Masters does extraordinarily well, is to inspire ordinary folk, ie not millionaires, to get excited about the possibilities of interior design for their own spaces. It’s also as much about the people and the roller coaster ride they go on, as the designs. I don;t think it belittles our indistry at all, otherwise I wouldn;t have agreed to do it. Rather I think we show very clearly how hard it actually is to be a professional interior designer. As I say in the beginning, it;s about a lot more than just paint charts and cushions!

  2. Hi Michelle!

    I tried searching for BBC2 here on cable TV in Michigan but it does not seem to be offered as an option. I watched IDM I on Netflix, so will part II also be on Netflix? It’s hopefully coming soon!
    My daughter is gifting me with your book in hardcover and I’m really looking forward to it. She knows I love books that combine interior design and philosophy of lifestyle.

    • Hi Antoinette, I hope you love the book. I’d define it as a wellbeing book via the prism of home. And hopefully we’ll know global dostribution details for Interior Design Masters very soon! It’s all in teh hands of the Production team. best M x

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Writer, Author, Brand Consultant & TV Presenter

Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.