The Pro’s and Con’s of Design & Build

As an interior designer I have come across a few poorly detailed and constructed projects that have previously been fitted out by Design and Build Companies.They do not by any means represent all design and build projects, but just the ones I get called in to resolve. They generally struggled in two areas, lack of innovative design and the wear and tear of the build.


So let’s look at the design issue first, Design and build companies like all companies need to make a profit and like to do things in a certain way. This can be certainly be said for the detailing aspect of projects, by using the same detail several times they get to save time on drawing up the detail and also the workshop will have had previous experience in building said detail which makes it quicker. Different companies take this to different extents and I can see the benefit in certain areas of a fit out. For instance if you know that building a bar a certain way is efficient and works practically then it makes sense to use that detail when design the bar structure, just make sure you use different finishes for the bar front and top to respond to the client’s brief in the right way.

The companies that I have found to have the most restricted aesthetic repertoire are the ones that get pigeon holed into a particular type of fit out. The Design and Build contranctors that build Indian Restaurants or Jewellery Shops are good examples of companies that struggle to have a broad creative range of projects.


This is the one that really annoys me, as a rough guide an interior designer will cost you 10% of your build which makes the construction cost 90% of the fit out budget. This is the case whether you pay a designer separately or pay the design and build company as they will pay their inhouse designer but make a profit out of them. So why wouldn’t you not want to pay the designer directly and have someone on your side scrutinising the actions of the builder rather than in cahoots with them. The big conflict of interests that can happen is that although their designer has been briefed by the you (the client) to construct the shop, restaurant or Kitchen to your set of needs the builder will also brief the designer to construct the shop, restaurant or Kitchen to their set of needs. This can be to use very little in the way of hardwoods and other robust materials and lots of MDF and laminates. The result can be details that are designed to look good for 6 months but have not been constructed in a way that will look good for the necessary amount of years required by you the client. A typical example of this is a fitted furniture detail which could be anything from a cash desk to a waiter station being constructed with a lot of laminate clad MDF without any lipping or hardwood edging. The result will be that the unit will have shelves that sag, leading edges that peal and eventually fall apart. All this has been done to enhance the profit margin of the company that is supposed to be looking after you.

A good analogy is that having an independent Interior Designer is like having an independent Financial Advisor, they won’t be tied to a limited amount of mortgage of pension providers but you will have to pay them for their time rather than paying the hidden fees they receive from their commission from the mortgage of pension provider. If you have an independent Interior Designer they will be able to design an interior that will just follow your brief which may include the request for expensive solid materials that will stand the test of time or cheap construction materials that don’t have to last long, the choice is yours.


The plus point of design and build is that if you are in a hurry they can be very efficient as the design team is in house and will have a close relationship with the build team.

I can’t think of any more plus points….

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