Ahh interior contractors and suppliers!

This is such a large and all encompassing topic, I know there will be many other blog posts and podcasts touching on this subject. But to start off with…

Where do you find them? How do you check and choose? Can you trust them? What about insurance? These and more questions are answered in today’s podcast.

Let’s look at the relevant points..

Where to find your interior contractors

  1. Recommendation – either from other designers or suppliers
  2. Newspapers and magazines – keep a close eye on who is advertising and what new companies come up through the ranks. Keep clippings so you can refer to things when you’re back at your desk
  3. Out on the road – it’s amazing what you can pick up when you are travelling around the city or neighbourhood. Often you’ll see the work the contractor is doing. Make a note of any company names and research them – particularly if they are in areas that you do a lot of work.
  4. Client request – this is not something that all interior designers do. I personally use my own team as I can trust them and I can allocate the right project to the right team. Using a supplier associated with a client can be fraught with problems from the outset.
  5. Direct Marketing From The Interior Contractor – this is when the supplier contacts you, whether it’s over social media, email marketing or through the post. It can be seen as intrusive but it is still done today.

Checking and Choosing

  1. Websites and Testimonials – always check the company’s website as that can reveal how professional they are and what work they have completed.
  2. Email and telephone Responsiveness – giving limited information on email and monitoring the response is critical to judging suitability for work. Price, communication and detail can all be gauged by your prospective contractor’s response.
  3. Visit Contractors Offices – seeing them in their office or place of work can give you a good idea of how the business operates within seconds. Is it tidy and clean? Are staff polite? Are they looking after their products?
  4. Costs – knowing what their fees are for certain work will instantly tell you how they value themselves and whether they are running a decently priced operation.
  5. Instinct – reluctance or hesitation to tell you information about the company or their services can serve as a pointer as to whether you think they are easy and reliable to do business with. Anyone evasive always triggers alarm bells for me!

Building Your Black Book Of Contractors

  1. Renew your contacts regularly by trying different suppliers when it is safe to do so. Use new suppliers on small jobs so you can control what they do and find out how they work with you.
  2. Source List – keep a list of all your suppliers to remind you what they do and what they offer.
  3. Keep Clipping and Tear Sheets – investigate new companies regularly by keeping clippings that you see in the media and researching them when you have some time at your desk.

Interior Contractors That You Don’t Know

  1. Builders – I wouldn’t use builders I didn’t know for large complicated projects. But I would try them on small, easy jobs. Be cautious.
  2. Clients Contractors – the responsibility for any work undertaken by contractors lies with you and if there are problems, the client will look to you to solve them; even if they introduced you in the first place.
  3. When Things Go Wrong – ascertain if this is a one of genuine mistake or error or if it’s something more ingrained in the communication or workmanship.  If in doubt, repair the problem so the client is happy but think seriously about terminating your relationship with that supplier. If they have let you down once; they can do it again.

Payment and Tax

  1. Small Companies – artisans and one-man-bands will often have more cost effective prices. So seek them out and get some amazing deals.
  2. Tax and VAT – tax is something all clients wish they didn’t have to pay. Some smaller companies do not charge it and this can help with budgets.
  3. Payment Plans – be sure that your supplier knows that they may have to wait for a few weeks for payment coming from a client. Many smaller businesses will rely on forthcoming cashflow. Other companies will ask for 50% of costs upfront – just to confirm that you are serious about the order or purchase of services and products.


In the UK, one of the best and safest places to source a supplier is on the Trustmark site. They cover anyone from roofers, builders, drainage experts, carpenters and decorators.

For electricians there is the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting.  Bit of a mouthful I know! Often, when you have had a property rewired, the certificate of installation will have the NICEIC branding at the top. To find an electrical installer – please click below.

For builders – there is the Federation of Master Builders. Again this is a useful site if you don’t have any recommendations from friends: http://www.fmb.org.uk/fab/

For curtains and soft furnishings it’s best to go to someone that has been recommended to you, but if you’re really stuck, go to the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers website and search on there: http://www.upholsterers.co.uk/
We’ll talk more about upholstery, curtains and blinds in future podcasts too.

Anyway, I look forward to sharing the next post with you, so I’ll see you then.  Happy Designing!

In today’s podcast is the Ask Belinda question of the week.  We hear from Laura in Windsor who is a budding interior designer and asks the question: “Should I work from home or get an office?”

This is a common question and it depends on your set up at home. I am very happy to work at home on my own. Some people need that structure of going to an office and having colleagues around them and whilst I do understand that, if you are just starting out, being at home is a less costly option. Although you do have to be disciplined!
An office does give you definite work hours but I find that you’ll be thinking of work and looking at samples at all hours of the day and night – including weekends.  You won’t want to have to run up to the office to collect all your things when you have an emergency will you?