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Seven Learnings to Abide by in the Interior Design Sector Seeing beauty, identifying key elements that become part of the design story.

By Constantina Tsoutsikou

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There are certain attributes of a profession and one has to catch hold of them in order to work efficiently and grow in that business.I share my experience as an interior designer, a profession of great esthetic value and charm.

1- The Art of Listening

I start my work by listening. Interior design is about expressing ideas in a visual and experiential way. At the beginning, before any proposal or suggestion, I firstly listen carefully to find out what the client's vision is. Sometimes, it is not clearly defined, but through discussion and getting to know a little more about them, their way of life, it is easier to craft a framework for a narrative.

Listening is also about having all our senses open and being receptive to inspiration around us.

Recently I was on the Adriatic Riviera, for a hotel renovation that is on the water. While walking with the client to get a feel for the upcoming project, I paused and listened to the sounds of the gentle waves against the rocks. It was the lulling, dreamy and calming sound of the sea, that I have taken with me as a memory to recreate on the mood board.

2- The Ability to Observe

Next step is looking, seeing beauty, identifying key elements that become part of the design story. The world around us is rich with examples of good design, showcases of craftsmanship, and moments of exquisite inspiration. Extracting details and inspiration from our surroundings, like choosing an antique piece and updating it for a contemporary use is something I find as the most enjoyable part of the interior design process.

3- The Interface with Architecture

A sense of place and respect for the architectural envelope is a pillar of interior design. Interior design embraces location, and should be a natural progression of the architecture it is set within. The best projects I have worked on are the ones where interior design and architecture have overlapped seamlessly, from floor transition to harmonious material palettes, all the way to a great result, where people don't talk about it as a space but more like an experience that has left a memory.

4- Functionality

I am a believer of 'If it doesn't work, don't do it'. Function comes before form, so for an interior design that stands the test of time, it should have purpose. …to paraphrase Adolf Loos's 'ornament is crime' thesis on design, I believe that beauty for the sake of superficial decoration is harmful and waters down a strong concept.

5- A Question of Scale

Studying scale and seeking the right proportions is fundamental to interior design. Grandeur, luxury, intimacy are abstract notions that take form by how we apply scale or with which materials we choose to work with. High ceilings give a sense of space and airiness to a room. Human scale is important to make us feel comfortable and cosy. Large floorboards from mature oak trees, where you can "read' grain are more luxurious than thin strips of wood on a floor for example. A wall of large bookmatched slabs of a veiny stone is always more grand than regular tiles. The choices we make, when it comes to scale, are imperative for the end result.

6-Balance and Contrast

A sense of balance and harmony is my ultimate quest when designing a space. I use layering to achieve balance and harmony. The could be a 'tone on tone' scheme with one accent strong colour or a material palette that combines smooth , polished textures with more natural, stripped down surfaces.

Natural materials are always best and at the top of my preferences list. Knowing the properties of each material is essential. Wool is naturally fire retardant, a very important property for commercial spaces. Silk breathes and is cool in the summer as well as warm in winter. Colour may fade however if used in a room with direct sunlight. Ceramics are so versatile. I personally love the relief ceramic tiles, and like using them in unexpected ways, like on table tops in a restaurant or to add " movement' and interest on the front of a cocktail bar counter. Contrast adds drama. Playing with light and dark adds interest. Sometimes it is about creating a sequence and transition from a dark space to a lighter one.

7-Maximising Potential

You can apply this rule in many things in life. In interior design it means making the most of what you have. Planning a bathroom to be as efficient as possible, or creating flexibility in a hotel lobby to be used by different people in many ways. In small bedrooms, using a writing table by the bed, means a bedside surface doubles up as a desk, bringing down the number of furniture in the room and making it feel spacious without compromising function. If there is a window with great views, it is about choosing to have a comfortable armchair there and creating a "relaxation' moment. The art of interior design combines knowledge from different fields, the ability to discover opportunities and convert a given space into a truly memorable experience. Ultimately, interior design is a step towards creating a better world, starting from our surroundings.

Constantina Tsoutsikou

Creative Director

Constantina Tsoutsikou is the Creative Director and a Senior Associate of the world’s leading hospitality
interior design firm, Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA),
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