Home Design = Service With Home Owner At It’s Centre

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In a candid discussion with BuildingandInteriors.com, Australian designer Mary Maksemos shares her thoughts on the positioning of a designer in the home improvement business. 


Q. What are the attributes of a good designer in Home Improvement industry?

A. Anyone who is currently working in the Home Improvement industry must understand that they provide a service. They solve a problem. They improve the quality of life. IT IS NOT ABOUT THE DESIGNER, but what the designer can do for the client. Therefore, one attribute not required is vanity or arrogance. I’d say confidence is a must. You must know your products and design elements and principles. You need to use your ears and mouth in proportion to each-other, hence you must be an exceptional listener and communicator. You must be a natural educator and  empower your clients to make sound decisions about products, materials and layouts. Whilst most would say that it’s important to be a sales person, I’d say it’s important to understand that inevitably the in-home designer is there to sell a product and service, but  his primary job should be to solve a problem through design.


The other very important attribute is a formal degree in design. In addition, a good apprenticeship adds lot of weight to the designers work.



Q. Which are the overemphasized and underemphasized areas in a house from the design perspective?

A. A home is the single most important investment in a person’s life. It might be the only one. So the utmost respect must be given to it whether it be the client number 1 or number 50. The home can be divided into zones. High traffic and low traffic. The bedrooms and living areas would be considered low traffic and kitchen, bathroom or wet areas high traffic.


The high traffic areas must be overemphasized because they are the areas that are used the most in a single day in a home. Things turn on and off, things open and close. Things are washed with water. There might be steam and heat or condensation. Therefore these spaces must take the bulk of the renovation and or building budget. They must take the most time to design and have correct product specified. Each clients needs and wants are different, therefore these spaces will be different for each.


The low traffic areas can be considered the underemphasised, and include bedrooms and living areas. These areas although very important, can be a work in progress. In these areas, furniture and fittings may change regularly or as often as the client requires. These areas take a toll on our overall mood and well-being and should be designed with the clients lifestyle in mind.

Q. How do you see relationship/synergies between a builder, an architect, a designer and the home owner?

A. The relationships of all parties involved should be based on mutual respect. The home owner should always be kept in the loop and always educated on the next steps. It sounds like common sense but communication is the key. Usually relationships turn sour when communication breaks down or isn’t there to start with.


Each trade should know what they are there for and be careful not to cross the line when it comes to recommending changes in another trades space. Also I have seen in the past that when a trade substitutes products for the sake of cost saving, without consultation can cause a great deal of problems.

Q. Can you throw some light on the emerging trends in the design language of homes worldwide?

A. There are so many new catch phrases. There seems to be a great deal of attention given to the upcycling (creative reuse)  movement and makers (technology based DIY culture) movement these days.


Mary Maksemos is a qualified designer based in Melbourne, Australia. She also runs training programmes for companies in the Home Improvement industry. Mary Maksemos can be reached on mary@marymaksemos.com