Big things are happening in the world of interior design. By harnessing the flexibility and connectivity of the internet and mobile technology, apps and online services are shaking up all types of industries, from accommodation to clothing to tourism… and interior design is no different.
Interior design was once reserved for the rich and famous: a service that cost just as much as the bespoke furniture that designers would flagrantly recommend.
But that’s soon to be a thing of the past.
Homewings, an online interior service and the force behind our new service UDESIGN, is helping us to make quality design accessible for everyone (read: without the typical price tag!) through online collaboration with a professional interior designer. The flexibility of working with a pro online, using a specially-designed interface that makes communication and file sharing easy, has democratised the industry in a way that puts the needs of both clients and designers first.
Cornelia de Ruiter, interior designer and founder of Homewings, believes that the service has the capacity to change everyday people’s lives. And we couldn’t agree more.
We spoke to Cornelia about the changing nature of interior design and what she’s coveting most this SS17 season (because when you’re speaking to an interior designer, one should never pass up this opportunity).
How long have you been an interior designer?
I’ve been designing all my life, ever since I took my first interior design course in Italy when I was 20 years old. Or arguably it started well before that, as one of my best birthdays was when I turned nine and my mum had bought me the exact new accessories I wanted for my room. Not your average birthday request for a pre-teen, right?
What inspired you to challenge the interior design industry?
When I considered starting my own interior design practice, I realised that even if I found the lucrative big projects, that’s not what excited me. I wanted to work for people like my own friends – people that don’t have a big budget yet, but who are equally looking to have a fabulous space!
This is how Homewings – the company powering UDESIGN – was born: through the desire to offer the finest design service at an affordable flat fee per room, with the added convenience of working flexibly through a state-of-the art online platform.
By partnering with URBANARA to launch UDESIGN, we’re giving people a convenient way to (re)design their homes. Customers are already looking for things to add to their space, but may need a hand pulling everything together.
What advantages does UDESIGN have over a traditional, off-line service?
First, you’re in full control of your budget and whether you want help selecting the right URBANARA products or a new sofa or table from elsewhere, your designer will give you exactly what you need.
See the before & after makeover of the URBANARA founders’ own UDESIGN project.
Second, It’s obviously way more affordable than traditional off-line interior design, but it’s also extremely convenient. Being able to interact with your designer via the online collaboration board means that you can engage and give feedback from wherever and whenever is convenient for you, harnessing the flexibility of technology. Whether in the evening from the sofa or while you’re sipping your morning cappuccino. It’s all possible.
With platforms like Pinterest, thousands of interior blogs, and a world of inspiration at their fingertips, are people more likely to take on the challenge of interior design themselves? Is it undercutting the role of the typical interior designer?
No, I don’t think these platforms are hurting the interior design industry at all. If anything they are helping increase people’s awareness of the possibilities and the impact a well designed space can have. Having access to the ideas and inspiration is also far from being able to actually crack the design of a specific space. Many of our clients seek our help, because they have so many ideas on their Pinterest boards that they don’t know anymore where to start and need us to curate and help making the right decisions.
What are the most common interior design challenges people face?
Often people forget that ultimately the devil is in the detail – You can get a great sofa and an amazing coffee table, but it will still look incoherent and bare without the right soft furnishings, art or other decorative pieces to pull the look together. I also always add fresh flowers or plants, as they make a space come to life.
Example of a UDESIGN room visualisation
Second, people often forget to consider the different ways a room is used. For instance, the living room might be where you watch TV, but at other times it will be where you want to be able to have a nice conversation and a glass of wine with your visitors.
It happens so often that I see a living room that is completely optimised for watching TV, with all the furniture facing in one direction making it really awkward for entertaining (unless you’re watching a game obviously..!).
How has interior design evolved over the past few years? Is there anything that frustrates you about it?
Personally what frustrates me about interior design is the price tag that is so often attached to it. Or how some designers consider a sofa that isn’t ‘bespoke’ to be like a personal insult..!
I mean, there are so many great products out there that are extremely affordable. The trick is to combine them in the right way. Mixing and matching them with other unique pieces, customising, being creative with arrangement, and of course investing in some more expensive pieces that are really worth it too, produces excellent results. You don’t need bespoke!
How did you discover Urbanara?
I was introduced to URBANARA by its founder, Ben Esser, actually. It was then still in its ‘incubation’ phase but I was immediately impressed by the beautifully curated collections and the vision of elegant, timeless and honest products. They’re products I love to work with.
Anything on your Urbanara wishlist?
Oh so many things! But at the moment I’m really lusting after the light grey Bellvis Bed Linen with those beautiful mother of pearl button details. I’d pair it with a pair of Annaside Cushions – I love the tribal design and think it would work really well with the light grey bed linen.
Right now, going into summer, I’d give the heavy winter curtains a rest and replace by bedroom curtains with these. Nothing says summer quite like billowing white curtains for maximising light and being able to open the window and let the breeze softly come through.
And the Filiz Hammam Towel would also make a wonderful summer essential which I’d use for the beach! It would also look great draped over an outdoor chair for when the sun goes down on summer evenings.
What’s your favourite part of SS17? How would you incorporate it into a home without completely redecorating?
I’m loving seeing a lot of blue and white this Spring/Summer. Generally it’s considered quite a pretty, English countryside look, but we have seen it in really contemporary settings too. It has that fresh feeling of spring!
To start, I’d update the cushions and replace those cosy velvet and fluffy wool ones with some lovely cotton or raw silk versions in lighter, brighter colours. It’s the perfect way to not only refresh a look, but instantly bring the sunshine in.
And then for the bedroom, start with blue bed linen and pick up on the tribal trend with accessories for a modern lift. Give a touch of contrast with black lighting, and switch to curtains in a light, summery colour. Voilà: new look!
As a part of our newly-launched UDESIGN service, get a free, no-strings-attached 30-minute phone consultation with a professional designer like Cornelia to get bespoke advice on decorating your space.
Simply call 0800 77 97 527 during business hours and we’ll set up a time.