Industry Perspectives on Life & Business During a Global Pandemic 1st May 2020 | IN CORONAVIRUS | BY SBID

As we are all navigating this period of unprecedented uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, SBID Accredited professionals continue to come together to share their industry perspectives from across the interior design profession; from the biggest challenges they face, to how they’re staying motivated in lockdown.

C Bankei

RS Interiors / C.Bankei

How has the reality of social distancing affected you and your business operations?

Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “We have delivered concept presentations via PowerPoint on a Zoom call and that has worked really well.  The detailed design stage has been more of a challenge since of course so much of it involves touching and feeling sample materials but we have boxed up design boards and sent them ahead of a video call.  As a small husband and wife run business, we have always provided a personal service so clients have us involved from first meet and greet meeting to the final dressing.  Despite clients being really happy with the schemes being delivered to them via courier, they have said they missed that face to face element and to quote “having Jacqui bring it to life”.”

Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: I think there’s an awful lot of good/bad fortune associated with the timing of the pandemic. I’m aware of others working within the industry who have been relatively untouched (in terms of workflow) in the short term, whilst others (including myself) with a significant weight of current work within healthcare and hospitality who are really struggling.

On one current healthcare project which is heavily NHS funded, the separation measures have put a stop to planned meetings and workshops – but all work in general has been stopped for the time being. Finance teams are using this period to take stock a little and re-assess project programmes etc. This is all fine and understandable but for me, working under an agreed purchase order for services scheduled over 6 weeks, it means no income against that project. Unavoidable but just the harsh reality of the situation.

Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “The reality of social distancing affects greatly our line of work. Our everyday life is being surrounded by sub-contractors, employees, meetings for brainstorming, client-studio meetings and overseeing on-site construction. Therefore, even if it doesn’t affect the design process that much, it does affect the steps that happen before and after. ”

Henley Manor

HomeSmiths / Henley Manor

If you’ve had to work from home, how do you stay motivated / preserve your mental wellbeing?

Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “We have always worked from home but yes, this is different.  We usually have 2 staff members in the office with us so that in itself is a big change.  On the up side we have loved having our house back.  To stay motivated we keep to our usual work start time and I prepare myself as if I were video conferencing first thing with a client.  We’re not suited and booted, but we still make an effort.  David is the same, neither of us would feel right working in our scruffs.  We have a coffee break (something we never used to do) and currently enjoy that in the garden.  We finish work at about 5.30 (unheard of) and then go for a long walk and enjoy a small glass of wine with dinner.  We don’t watch the news before we go to bed.”

Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: I’m fortunate in that I own my office and it’s just a minutes walk from my home. I’ve tried to avoid going in too regularly, but the drop off in work has left a bit of a hole anyway so I can email and keep general correspondence ticking over without leaving the house. I’d already begun cancelling meetings and visits a couple of weeks before the lockdown so it’s been quiet office wise for a little while.

Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “As my offices are so close to my flat, I still go to my office every day and work there. I cannot bring all my work home – particularly files, software and computers to draw and also the information to be collected to study a project. I feel more inspired at the office, albeit alone, and get back home in the evening as usual. But I do practice pilates by video with our coach from the fitness club on Instagram and also meditation – it is a great help to be safe in mind!”

Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “The way I stay motivated throughout this pandemic varies. I try to find a bit of time in between home responsibilities and homework with the kids, to turn on some inspiring music and get to work! I can imagine how hard it’s been for everyone but honestly, I can really hear the birds chirping and singing and it’s lovely.”

C Bankei

RS Interiors / C.Bankei

What has been or will be the biggest challenge you or your business will face throughout this uncertain time?

Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “Almost all of our clients are in the care home and retirement living sector.  Planned refurbs will be delayed due to the immediate issues with COVID-19 but beyond that I am concerned that these projects will be pushed into 2021 as budgets will no longer be available.”

Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: There are two main things that concern me; finance and longevity. Being able to bring any money ‘home’ will be difficult for a while. Project fees worth £20k + VAT that were due before June have all been frozen/delayed without any indication as to when/if they’ll pick up again. In terms of longevity, although I’m confident that this or other work will be attainable, I have a number of fee proposals in place/ready to go, the societal shift we’re seeing does have me questioning what my own, long-term aspirations are. I tend to be very hands-on with my work and client base, but it can be all encompassing.”

Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “The biggest challenge for me is to keep my clients informed and following up new prospects offering work by mail or video conference so I begin to give some details about their project – even if I have not visited the place physically – so that we stay focused on their projects to be resumed after the confinement. I offered clients to send over the raw plans of their home, so I can still begin to give an idea of the works to be done, suggest proposals and discuss ideas.

I keep my websites,, Instagram and Facebook account fully  illustrated with inspirational notices about interior design, project images and encouraging words to help keep content positive and informative. I am also working on a website to sell some decorative items such as textiles, lamps, small furniture, rugs and wall papers – this keeps me completely busy with no thinking/worrying about COVID-19.”

Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “The biggest challenge we are currently facing with our business is that for the projects we have already begun, the furniture selection have now been put on hold since many factories all over the world have stopped production. This will of course cause a overlap in production once it begins again, resulting in an unfortunate delay of the overall project.”

Residential Interior

Three Percent

What measures have been put place for employees, customers and clients in response?

Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “We have one of our team on furlough leave and will probably have to furlough our other employee.  In such a fluid situation, it’s hard to know when that might be.  All it would take is for a new brief to come in and we would need that staff resource back.  Clients understand as they themselves have been the ones right at the outset asking for meetings to be remote or postponed.”

Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: I’m fortunate in that I work collaboratively with other studios/practices so I don’t have to worry too greatly about business dependants. I’ve actually been spending some time helping out other businesses over the last couple of weeks where I reasonably can. As far as measures go; I’m here and available to help support no differently than before the crisis hit. I’ve checked in on clients and colleagues where possible in case I can be of any help.”

Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “As I have some workers who are not my employees, I try to find work for them where possible. I connected one with an old client to do all the levels of a 3 storey building so he could remain to be employed during this time as the building will be empty, so he can work alone with no risk for his health! I also made sure any goods needed were ordered online and delivered directly on site.

For clients, I am going to write a weekly newsletter to keep my them informed about our upcoming activities, as well as keep them interested in interior design and give them ideas for their homes. Even though my show room is closed right now, I am still able to deliver out material samples when needed to help keep progress moving forward and retain those clients.”

Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “We have placed a few measures in place in order to keep working on anything we can. For example, we are still actively working in project brainstorming, ideas and design.”

Marc Maset Interiors

Marc Maset Interior Architecture

Have you got any plans to change the way you do business and provide flexibility during this period to keep your business running?

Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “Yes we have. I am embracing this time and using it to plan how we work differently. Having the house back as a home (we have been working from home with employees in the house for over 10 years now) has been great. I think this will change how we work in the future.”

Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: Everything is very fluid right now, but I don’t see any way that the ongoing situation doesn’t encourage fundamental changes to how I/we operate in both the short and long term. It’s hard to know in what way exactly but I think open mindedness is going to be very important.

Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “I had to think more about utilising our communication and being more opened-minded when it comes to finding new clients. Communication is very important and as we have internet and social networks, it is time to work hard on them. I am also sending a link to all my clients to get their reviews about past works we’ve carried out on their home to help keep us front of mind, as well as use their testimonials to reach new ones with confidence and reassurance.

I have also been trying to find new ways keep studying and improving my knowledge and skills when it comes to drawings and other matters dealing with my work.”

Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “Right now, we try and hold virtual conferences with our clients and partners in order to make all the ideas we have in mind come together into designing the plans and details for the projects. Other than that, we have had to be flexible with our fellow design team, who also have a lot of household responsibilities to tend to at the same time, seeing that families are in lock down together.”

Residential Interior

Three Percent

Have you been inspired to help support communities around you?

Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “I am already Chair of the Haywards Heath Dementia Friendly Community and this work is more important than ever right now as we try to support people in our community living with dementia and those caring for them.  My road has also started a WhatsApp group and I have got to know more about my neighbours in 2 weeks than I had in 10 years.  That’s been lovely.”

Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: Rather than be inspired, I’ve found the current situation has reinforced both mine and my families resolve to help local business and organisations that need a bit of support. My fear is that it may not be enough for some, but there is always someone that needs a bit of assistance somewhere – I’ll end up getting too political if I keep going!”

Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “I am mainly inspired to help all the workers who work with me and have a small firm to run with families to be feed. I try to find them some work where I can during this complicated period. I think as interior architect, it’s important to keep providing them with work and income as they work hard on the flats and houses, and they deserve respect and help. I feel responsible for them.

I think we all need to keep busy and focused on the industry of interior design, the beauty of our work and the benefits they create for clients. We should continue support those who work for us and help those people who are less fortunate than ourselves along the way.”

Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “I personally think the best way for us to help our community right now is to stay in place, stay home and try to spread a positive messaging through social media. Unfortunately, most people use the internet to spread negativity. There is also definitely a lot to learn about the most important design of all – EARTH, so we must instruct ourselves once we can to go out and enjoy nature, and learn more about how to embrace it, value it and protect it.”

SBID is dedicated to supporting the interior design profession and the interior designers in practice during this time.

For more related articles surrounding coronavirus and its impact on the industry, click here.

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