Designer Insights Archives | Vellum Interiors | Sydney Interior Designer and Decorator

Designer Insights


Do you need an interior designer if you’ve already got a builder?

The short answer? Yes (in most instances).


In my experience, the most successful, efficient and smooth projects — whether that be a website design, a wedding or a renovation — are the result of a talented team of experts who have clear roles and responsibilities, within their area of expertise. 


This same logic applies to a renovation project. In fact, in many instances where a homeowner has contacted a builder first, the builder has put the clients in touch with me prior to even quotes being produced, with the view to having a smoother project.


Having both an interior designer and a builder on board your project makes for a more efficient, streamlined process, and much less stress, time and energy spent on your part. Assemble your ‘A’ team of experts, and they’ll expertly guide you through the process, and ensure you get an incredible result.


Many homeowners I speak to just have no idea where to start when they decide to do a renovation. I hope this will give you some clarity and help you understand the renovation process more. 


Note: As with just about anything you read on the internet, the below is based on my personal experience and opinions. You may have a different perspective, and I am OK with that. I share my knowledge and viewpoint with the intent of providing assistance and education, not to sell interior design services to everyone — I know that not everyone will benefit from using an interior designer. Thank you for keeping this in mind as you read through the below.


What a builder’s role is in a renovation

Builders are do-ers. Their role is to make the vision and plan for your home come to life in the best possible way. 

Their responsibilities can include:


What a builder’s role is not

A builder isn’t responsible for anything to do with the design or planning. Their focus is on constructing something to the best possible standard, not how the end result is best going to suit how you and your family live.

Specifically, here’s what sits outside of the builder’s remit —


Note: In some instances, a builder or trade will have a GREAT design idea about something that you or your designer haven’t thought of. In my experience, a good idea can come from anywhere, so I like to keep an open mind. As long as everyone’s clear on who the head design decision-maker is, the project will go smoothly.


What an interior designer’s role is in a renovation


What an interior designer’s role is not


Other questions you may have — 

Q. What if I can’t afford an interior designer? I’m on a tight budget. 

I get it — Full Service Interior Design is a high-end, very personalised service that not everyone can afford — or needs. However, the interior design industry has changed a lot in recent years, and today there is a design service for just about every budget. At Vellum Interiors, we cater to a variety of budget levels, depending on the scope and level of service required. 


Keep in mind that using a designer can actually save you time and money, because the construction work will be much more efficient and well-managed.


Q. My friends have said I can manage the renovation fine on my own, as they’ve done it before without a designer. What do you think of that?

I would say — proceed with caution. Yes, you can manage a renovation on your own, but it is a very time and energy-intensive process, before, during and after the trades have left.


While it can be fun to go out to showrooms with your friends, there are literally hundreds of decisions to make on a renovation. And this is where people often become completely overwhelmed and stressed throughout the process. Even if you have the time on your hands to do all of this, ask yourself how much time you really want to be spending on this. 


In my experience, homeowners embarking on a renovation without the assistance of a designer can become overwhelmed with the amount of options available, and get sick of fielding phone calls from trades on site needing decisions made or wondering where xyz item is.


I’ve also seen communication go awry when there’s not a clear set of plans to communicate every detail. Builders have a lot to manage on site, so a clear set of plans and documentation is *crucial* in making sure everyone is on the same page — literally! I’ve seen awful things happen, like original fireplaces being demolished, and shower heads being installed the wrong way because of a lack of clear plans communicating the vision to everyone involved. 


Q. I’m just renovating my kitchen, and my builder has said he’s got a kitchen company he uses. Why would I need an interior designer in this situation?

Many builders have preferred cabinet makers or kitchen companies they refer to clients for the design of a kitchen or bathroom. In my experience, you will always, ALWAYS get a better result if your kitchen is designed by an interior designer, rather than a kitchen company or cabinetmaker / joiner.



If you’ve got a tight budget or you’re not a big cook, then I’d be fine going with a cabinet maker or kitchen design company. Companies like Freedom Kitchens and Kinsman are cost-effective and work Australia-wide.  


Q. My builder has already included specifications for things like tiles and tap ware in his quote. Why would I need a designer if that’s already done? 

A builder may include these items in the initial quote so you can get a sense of the overall renovation cost. Most likely, the items costed for will be from builders supplier — often cheap products that don’t stand the test of time. You’ll also only have a very small range of choices to make selections from. 


Unless you’re doing a quick and dirty renovation for something like an investment property, I would allow extra for these items at the quoting stage. Keep in mind that you still need to spend time making the selections in this instance. 



Got any other questions on whether you might need an interior designer on your project? I’m really passionate about educating homeowners on this, and I’d love to give you more guidance. Send me an email at or book a free project planning call and I can help you determine what help you need. 

online interior design, virtual interior design, finishes selection for renovation

Do you need an interior designer if you’ve already got a builder?

19 September, 2020

  Do you need an interior designer if you've already got a builder? The short answer? Yes (in most instances).   In my experience, the most successful, efficient and smooth projects — whether that be a website design, a wedding or a renovation — are the result of a talented…
Read Article

FAQ: What is my interior design style?

13 January, 2020

FAQ: What is your interior design style? Some interior design studios are known for providing the same look or aesthetic for each client. There are many in-demand designers who do this, in fact. Take a look at Amber Interiors or Studio McGee in the US or The Stables here in…
Read Article

Why Details Make a Difference in an Interior Design Project

6 January, 2020

Why Details Make a Difference in an Interior Design Project Often it's the smallest details that bring me the most joy in a project. And they also add meaning and depth to my clients' relationship with their home. One way I like to add meaning to my client's homes is…
Read Article
How to tackle any size renovation

How to Tackle Any Size Renovation

2 September, 2019

When it comes to tackling any renovation, people often talk about how long and drawn out renovations can be, and, yes -- it does take time and can be stressful. But like most things in life, the better prepared you are, the better the outcome. My advice is to have…
Read Article

5 Steps to Planning a Successful Renovation (or Decoration!)

4 June, 2019

  How to plan a renovation or decoration: Whether you’re a DIY’er planning to undertake the design and project management yourself, or if your pulling in experts (like us!), having an overall plan for your renovation or decoration, with your thoughts organised, will keep you on track! This system can…
Read Article

Reasons to hire an interior designer (not just a builder) on your renovation

21 August, 2018

You’ll have a better result at the end Interior designers think holistically about your home and how you live, rather than just thinking about the build works. We create drawings for the structural works as well as furniture and lighting plans, and this means we consider details like where power…
Read Article

What I’m thinking when I walk into your home for the first time

9 July, 2018

I’ve been into homes of all shapes and sizes, in all states of array and disarray. Yes, I take cues from how you live, your style, and how the home functions,  but I don’t mind if you’ve got piles of laundry on the sofa or if you haven’t updated the…
Read Article

5 things Interior Designers get asked all the time

27 June, 2018

What do you actually do? Almost every time I meet someone new and tell them what I do they say something like “that must be so fun!!”. And yes, parts of my job are really fun. But it is also hard work! In a sentence, we turn virtually any residential space into something…
Read Article

3 Books That Changed How I think about Interiors

21 March, 2018

Because I do read so much, it's not often I find something that truly inspires me, and catches my attention. The 3 books listed below have all inspired me in some way, and really have changed the way I think about interiors. They've also informed my work, both for hospitality…
Read Article

3 Benefits of Working With An Interior Designer

1 February, 2018

THEY WILL GET YOUR PROJECT DONE! What I think is the key benefit of hiring a professional interior designer (i.e not a school mum that collects House & Garden magazine) is just that — they’re a professional and they will finish that project you’ve been dreaming of for so long.…
Read Article