A day in the life of an interior designer

12 August 2019

Samantha von Maltitz, an interior designer at Tétris South Africa, gives us a sneak peek into her day that lends insight into a profession that is a complex blend of art and science.

 There is a real coffee culture at Tétris. On arrival at the office, the habit is to gather in our kitchen/dining area (we have a really cool one) and grab a cuppa and some breakfast. The team has an informal ‘touch base’ on the day ahead which provides good mental preparation to tackle the day’s schedule. I check emails and project WhatsApp groups. We all like to think of it as the calm before the storm. Interior design is hard work and it covers so much more than choosing with fabric and furniture. There is plenty of administration and technical involvement over and above the conceptual stuff. I like to think of us as part artist, part engineer!

I head for the Library. The Tétris offices follow an activity-based design (we practice what we preach) and there are various workspaces to suit different individual requirements. Today, I need a quiet space to focus on my first solo project for Tétris. It’s an exciting one for a financial services firm, and it will see me liaising with the client and a host of contractors, so I need to have my wits about me.

I am making good headway on the compilation of a construction pack. This includes a demolition plan, space planning, partition layouts and an electrical schedule. I’ve been working closely with the construction manager and project manager. In this business you have to be able to communicate and do it well.

A colleague pops in to compare notes on another commercial project we are collaborating on for a new legal office. We put a call through to the client to confirm some details. We have an excellent working relationship and it’s good to be able to make quick decisions on-the-go.

I head out to a site meeting. It’s all hard hats and safety gear as we take a walk around to discuss changes. What’s on the initial plan can sometimes turn out very differently on site, and as the interior designer, you need to be on the ground to make adjustments as structural changes happen. You need to be able to read a drawing and visualise the desired outcome, both aesthetic and functional.

It’s time to dash back to the office for a meeting to present a new concept. We’ve had several briefing sessions with both the client and architect, and have developed a scheme that we think embraces the location and the needs of the client in a style that suits them. And, most importantly, is workable within the fixed budget.

Successful presentation! The client loved the sample boards, complete with finishes and furnishings that suit the budget. We got the go-ahead to commence so tomorrow I will put the order together and plan the installation schedule. It’s critical to be involved on a project from the conceptual stages. Interior designers define the scope of work, we set the programming and budget schedules, we steer the design development and handle construction administration. It’s a whole lot more complex than selecting a colour scheme.  To be successful in this profession you do have to be creative, but you need to be practical too – a good balance of form vs function.

I head back into the kitchen to eat my ‘lunch’ and chat to a colleague about a new concept for an industrial client. I tell her I’ll jot some design ideas down before I leave the office.

I grab a desk in our hot desking space to catch up on all the emails I missed during the day.

Home time! I will probably spend an hour later doing a bit of Pinterest research on ideas for office spaces. It’s a great app to see what the rest of the world is up to in terms of design.


Sam shares the three things she loves most about her career:

  1. The reward at the end: It’s inspiring to watch your vision come to life. What starts as a concept in your mind blossoms into a living, breathing creation – it’s amazing.
  2. Playing with design ideas: Ours is an environment where we can use our initiative. I enjoy pushing creative boundaries, and it’s even more fulfilling when you make great things happen within a small budget.
  3. The people: I liaise with so many different people from a variety of sectors on a daily basis. It’s incredibly stimulating.