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August 5, 2021

As an interior design and interior fit out company in Dubai, A&T Group Interiors provide a range of services from interior design, interior fit out, design and build, turnkey solutions, FF&E and MEP. Our team have the capability to undertake a wide range of projects, varying in size and specifications and we regularly receive enquiries for the delivery of projects across a wide range of industries including food & beverage, hospitality, commercial, retail and residential. When we receive enquiries for our services, we occasionally notice that when it comes to interior design and interior fit out services in Dubai, our clients can sometimes be confused as to the difference in the scope of work included in the two. In this article, we take a closer look at the components that define these two very distinct services.

Interior Design

When we talk about interior design this is more the look and feel of a space. It is a multifaceted profession but simply put, it is the art and science of turning a blank canvas into an aesthetically pleasing environment and functional space for the end-user. 

The modern interior design profession developed from the pursuit of the effective use of space. It is a creative profession that constantly evolves and adapts to new trends, and further involves the ability to understand people's behaviour to provide a well-trained understanding of how people are influenced by their environments. By understanding the psychological effects of colours, for example, an interior designer can impact how an end-user will feel and interact with a space. Colours have the ability to make a room feel either calm or stressful, big or small, and so it is, therefore, important to choose the appropriate colour combination to work towards achieving the desired feeling for the end-user. Whether designing for a retail store, restaurant, office or residence, smart space planning, aesthetically pleasing and functional interior design, will greatly optimize the user experience. For commercial spaces, in particular, high-quality interior design can attract customers, keep them coming back and increase the return on investment. 

Interior designers commonly work hand-in-hand with architects, engineers and interior fit out contractors to ensure the structural elements of the interior environment are not only functional, but safe, and adhere to local building codes and regulations. 

Conducted by an interior designer, the overall scope of work generally includes regular communications and meetings with key stakeholders throughout the following key phases to form the overall interior design process:

1. Strategic Planning Phase

Dissimilar to construction, interior design is often based upon very personal choices and decisions. To understand what a client wants, it is important to get to know them well. It is important to understand in detail the client’s taste, goals, how the client or end-user will interact with the space, and it is also important to consider the approximate budget the client has to complete the whole project, including the construction phase. During this phase, it is likely that there will be several site visits, rigorous research and brainstorming sessions. The interior designer and client will work together to mutually decide on ideas that will bring the vision to life!

2. Conceptual Development Phase

During the conceptual development phase, the interior designer is going to try to add functionality to the space. Smart space planning is just as important, if not maybe more important than aesthetically pleasing design. As we mentioned earlier, functional interior design will greatly optimize the user experience. During this phase, ideas are turned into sketches, and illustrations should include basic site plans and simple elevations. A review process will take place with the client and a final design should be realized and approved. 

3. Design Development Phase

Now that an approved concept design is in place it’s time to get down to details, and that is just what the design development phase is all about - juicy, intricate, little details! There are several questions during this phase that need a lot of consideration. From fabrics, finishes and furniture, to wall coverings, textiles and lighting, all must be in sync with the approved concept design and illustrated via detailed drawings and finally converted into 3D renders to be sent to the client for approval. 

4. Construction Documentation Phase

This is when the interior designer must start to think about how to effectively translate their work into construction reality. During this phase, essential documents are produced to enable interior fit out contractors to follow the lead of the designer and progress onto pricing and building the project. All specifications must be included because the approved construction documents will be processed to create a bill of quantities used for cost estimation. Construction documents are also required to obtain necessary construction permits from the local city municipality. Site plans may be required to show scope, elevations and material schedules. 

5. Construction Management Phase 

During construction, it is often the case that the interior designer will be regularly on-site to moderate and ensure that the interior fit out contractor follows the precise specifications of the detailed design.

Moving onto construction....

Interior Fit Out

When we talk about the interior fit out of space, this is following the completion of the interior design phases and it is when fit out contractors are engaged to make the interior space suitable for occupation/use. The base construction (shell & core space) is usually already completed by the developer and then the final fit out is done by the occupant. The base or existing interior fit-out present will usually be one of the below: 

  • Shell & Core: The key here is in the name - 'shell'. This type of space is the very first stage of a building's fit-out. It is a simple basic structure including walls, cladding, base plant, and toilets. 
  • Cat A Fit-Out: This space is already at a standard ready for occupation. A category A fit-out generally includes raised floors and suspended ceilings, distribution of MEP services and internal surface finishes. Basically, it is a fully functional, but empty space.
  • Cat B Fit-Out: This space will usually already have fully fitted kitchens and amenities, partitioning, fixtures, ceiling design, floor finishes, wall finishes, staircase installation and maybe even furniture. 

The level of fit out already existing in a clients space will ultimately affect the bill of quantities (BOQ) and the scope of construction works to be conducted by the interior fit out contractor. The overall scope of work, however, generally follows the below key phases to form the overall construction process:

1. Authority Approvals 

Before any construction project can commence it is mandatory to obtain the necessary construction permits from the appropriate local authority departments. This is where the construction documents mentioned earlier come into play to demonstrate scope, elevations and material schedules. Other required documents can include a NOC from the developer, NOC from the unit owner/landlord, copy of title deed/contract agreement, copy of tenancy contract, fit out contractor letter of appointment plus contractors documents (trade license, undertaking letter, acceptance letter…etc.).

2. Site Mobilization 

Mobilization refers to the steps involved to be able to commence work on site. At this point, the contractor has been selected and the construction documents have typically been approved by the local municipality. The next step consists of the detailed preparatory work and operations necessary for the movement of personnel, equipment, supplies, and incidentals to the project site. 

3. Demolition Works 

Once the contractor is mobilized on-site, any required demolition works will be carried out first. Demolition is the dismantling of an existing structure that is present and not required as part of the new interior fit-out. This can include the removal of any existing mechanical, and electrical works, interior fit out, joinery etc. 

4. Civil and MEP Works

Next up is the installation of any Civil and Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) works. Civil works provide shape, structure, and aesthetics to the space, whereas MEP work to bring in the facilities for providing services such as air-conditioning, power and lighting, water supply and drainage, fire-fighting systems, building management systems, and telephone and data systems. These are key requirements for the energy efficiency of modern commercial construction. The MEP designer must ensure that all of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are integrated seamlessly and efficiently in the early stages. 

5. Ceiling Design/Closure 

Once the MEP provisions are in place and the inspection is cleared, the fit out contractor can progress to close the false ceiling. A false ceiling is the overhead interior surface that covers the upper limits of a room, including the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) installations. Ceilings are more of a design element than a structural element and the most common are exposed or suspended ceilings. They also serve a functional purpose for installing components such as lighting fixtures, speakers, fire and smoke detectors, and automatic sprinklers. 

6. Final Finishes 

The final finishes refer to the fitting out of all individual areas. This is the true aesthetic design fit out phase and must follow precisely the approved detailed design. It may involve installing lighting, adding flooring, partitioning, painting, branding and more...

7. Joinery 

Joinery involves constructing the wooden components of a fit out. These can form integral parts of the structure but also include other exposed wooden components that need a more refined hand and neater finish such as bespoke furniture, stairs, doors, window frames, and skirtings. Many joinery elements are fully customized, or bespoke, and go on last, after decorations.

8. Fixtures, Furniture & Equipment 

The final step is to bring in all the movable furniture, fixtures, or other equipment that have no permanent connection to the structure or utilities. Known simply as FF&E this includes the client’s selection of items such as chairs, desks, tables, rugs, artwork and soft furnishings. 

9. Completion Certificates 

Once the full interior fit-out services have been completed, the interior fit out company, or the client must request a completion inspection to obtain the necessary completion certificates in order to open/use the space. The completion certificate confirms that the project has been constructed in accordance with the relevant building guidelines and local regulations.

Once the above is completed the project is ready to go! 

So there you have it. A full and thorough guide to the components that make up interior design and interior fit out. We hope this guide will help you, our clients, to resolve any confusion between the scope of work involved in these two types of services. And don’t forget, A&T Group Interiors provides both interior design and interior fit out services in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the wider UAE and KSA. Make sure to get in touch if you need help to transform a blank canvas into an aesthetically pleasing and functional space.

Our news and blog posts intend to keep our audience up to date with everything A&T. Via this section we strive to deliver information that provides real value to the design and construction industry. If you would like to open a conversation with us, comment or debate – please get in touch with info@atginteriors.com.

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