big ideas | Nov 30, 2020 |
A new study finds reason for optimism in residential design

In an era when it seems like everything we do is quantifiable by data, the residential interior design industry remains something of a black box. The ecosystem’s fragmented nature and old-school qualities give it much of its character, but make it fiendishly difficult to gather useful numbers. Which isn’t to say there’s no hope at all. In fact, fans of both data and design have been gifted an early holiday present this year in the form of a study conducted by fabric house Schumacher in collaboration with consumer research company Statista.

The goal, says Schumacher CEO Timur Yumusaklar, was to do a pulse check on the industry for the collective benefit. “We wanted to share our findings, as we hope it will help others in our industry in their decision making, as we believe that we all have to empower each other for this industry to remain strong and to grow,” he tells Business of Home.

The study, which polled 427 people in and around the industry, is a treasure trove of residential design data. It offers up not only big-picture takeaways on the health of the industry, but also microtargeted nuggets, like the fact that 45 percent of interior designers in the South like to use text messages to communicate with suppliers (who knew?).

Yumusaklar is hoping to make the survey an annual trend, perhaps with the participation of other brands. Until then, here are five takeaways from Schumacher’s 2020 number crunching.

Things are good.
Maybe the biggest takeaway from the study is simply that the residential design industry is doing well. Sixty percent of respondents said their company was either doing “very well” or “well”—and a tiny minority (only 2 percent) said business was “very negative.” What’s more, though COVID-19 has clearly impacted lead times and schedules, it has generated new business: Almost half of respondents said they had received an uptick in new project inquiries.

It’s still an old-school industry...
We cover a lot of technological disruptors here at BOH, but Schumacher’s survey finds an industry that often operates on old-school principles. Word-of-mouth recommendations are still far and away the best method for designers to get new clients (social media is No. 2). Tips from peers and new showrooms at design centers remain the top two ways for designers to discover new sources. And good news for fans of print media: Interior design magazines were cited as the biggest source of inspiration. (Influencers were seen as the least influential, ironically.)

...but some things are changing.
It’s too simplistic to say the study suggests that design is and always will be an old-fashioned industry. More than 70 percent of designers say digitalization has improved their business, at least slightly. Communication with vendors and clients is increasingly happening online. And while most design firms say their biggest challenge is clients’ unrealistic expectations about budget (some things never change), a close second is competition from “online design shops” like Havenly, Modsy or RH’s interior design program.

You should be on LinkedIn.
No surprise here: The three biggest social media platforms for designers are Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, in that order. A less obvious takeaway is that LinkedIn only trails Pinterest by 6 percentage points (from there, the numbers drop off a cliff).

Sustainability is not a fad. Maximalism might be.
In looking at trends, Schumacher found that the most resonant design ideas were related to sustainability and the natural world. Biomaterials and natural elements were seen as extremely relevant for 67 percent of respondents; upcycling and “sustainability-chic” by 56 percent. Interestingly, “more is more” maximalism style was only seen as relevant for 15 percent of respondents.

The study is available here.

Homepage photo: Adobe Stock

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