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Ellen Sohoel: Firms with integrated interior design and architectural services offer better savings on time and money

Ellen Sohoel: Firms with integrated interior design and architectural services offer better savings on time and money

Co-founder of XBD Collective shares her views on why multidisciplinary firms are more efficient in terms of operation as well as client requirements, especially in the GCC region

Ellen Søhoel, XBD Collective, Middle East interior design, Dubai interior design, Dubai architecture

While it is tempting to think of design in discrete stages — with an approach that addresses the purity of the architectural planning, the creativity of the interior design process and the complementary landscaping in sequence — good design should always be holistic.

During the design process, it is necessary to think of the project in totality; as a series of spaces that are linked together while also creating a 3D external form. It is, therefore, essential that a common style and theme is adopted throughout, and fully coordinated between the architect and interior designer.

However, globally, architecture and interior design, while always understood to overlap in theory, have traditionally been thought to be separate fields when it comes to agency delivery. For larger architecture firms, requiring high levels of specific technical or industry experience, that may still be the case. But for boutique offices, and specifically in the GCC market, we feel that to remain successful, firms must be integrated in their service provision in order to offer clients a broader, less rigid approach.

We founded XBD Collective as a fresh business model that was a departure from its previous incarnation as Bishop Design Residential. Our aim was to be able to offer a fully integrated approach, presented as one team, but internally split between XBD Collective. We are guiding the company towards the commercial and hospitality sectors, but equally as with residential, we saw first-hand the struggles caused in the GCC market by not having all services in-house.

From a coordination and efficiency point of view, spatial design and planning are crucially interconnected between architecture and interior design, and so projects often lose valuable time in attempting to coordinate and juggle disparate teams with often differing, and at worst, competing visions. Couple that with disjointed communications between teams not used to working together in close quarters, and we see many clients wasting time and money, growing frustrated with what should have been a highly creative and stimulating experience. For ease and efficiency, we feel clients greatly benefit from having both disciplines offered by the same design firm, operating from the same location. Both are specialist subjects that relate to the structure, style, look and feel of any building. When they work side by side simultaneously, the end result can only be a positive one.

Concerns can arise over whether this leads to a trend towards architects playing the role of interior designer, or vice versa, compromising the quality of the end project. This is certainly something to be aware of when appointing a team, but if the selection process is correct, and both teams are led by experts in their respective fields (as with XBD), the benefits are clear. And when it comes to the day to day, and the delivery of the project, separation and boundaries are easy, led by the architectural design and then complemented by the interior design process. But crucially, communication is vital.

For an integrated firm, the efficiencies from a financial perspective are also compelling. A multidisciplinary firm is likely to be more secure, especially in a market such as the UAE, which is in a constant state of change.

Quite often one discipline would suffer more, or at specific times of the year. New technology and IT software, such as Revit, are also now on the market, which cover all disciplines and end up being more cost-effective to the company.

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