Is E-Design Right For You?

Online interior design, or e-design as it’s more commonly known, is a phenomenon that has grown hugely over the last year, partly out of necessity and partly, I suspect, because we have all had to adapt to a more online life and familiarise ourselves with the technology that comes with that.

interior e-design by topology from £299 per room
interior e-design by topology from £299 per room

In this latest episode of The Great Indoors podcast, Sophie Robinson and I discuss the concept to discover if it’s right for you and your project. It’s a booming sector at the moment with companies like Topology (above) and My Bespoke Room (read on) offering affordable interior design by remote. Designer Vanessa Agyemang, of Copperdust, said she first put together an e-design package in 2019 but back then “it didn’t take off.”

Then 2020 blew in and she said: “In response to COVID it became incredibly popular and I had to redesign the package to give a broader offering. I love it because it gives the clients power to create their dream space with guidance – like having their own personal design assistant to help them make informed decisions.”

Unsurprisingly, her most popular requests are how to transform a room into a multi-purpose room so a guest bedroom that is also a home office or best use of the living/dining room space.

designed by Fiona Duke Interiors photo by @annastathakiphoto
designed by Fiona Duke Interiors photo by @annastathakiphoto

However, e-design isn’t for everyone. While it’s definitely more affordable than having a designer on site, Fiona Duke, feels that Zoom consultations can miss out on that “little bit extra” such as the glances between a couple when you present an idea and way you can react to and evolve a plan as you go along.

“I feel that E-design doesn’t always want the designer to get that involved. It has a step by step guide to services which you just follow,” she says.

“The cold early morning site visits, the late night calls and messages from clients is tiring and can be stressful and exhausting but you do genuinely feel as if you are on the same design journey as them and, despite the frustrations, you do also get to see the joy and satisfaction from the client when it’s all complete and that, for me, is what makes it all worthwhile.

wallpaper wraparound by fiona duke interiors
designed by Fiona Duke Interiors (not by remote) photo by @annastathakiphoto

“Our lives have become so ‘tech’ that we are craving human contact even more although I appreciate in lockdown that is hard. Clients want to tell us their story and we want to hear that story. We want to know where our products are made and who made them and I think the relationship between client and designer is an extension of that human touch.”

But Emilie Fournet, a designer known for her stunning use of colour – surely something that is very hard to get right online, is a convert: “When I first started as an Interior Designer, I must say I didn’t have the best opinion about remote design. but this has changed greatly over the last year. I have seen how a two hour remote consultation can pretty much solve most problems people have with their interiors providing it is planned properly with both parties,” she said.

pink and yellow by colourist emilie fournet interiors
pink and yellow by colourist emilie fournet interiors

“Obviously since lockdown e-design has boomed and has allowed people to get on with fixing their home in a safe manner without having to rely on government guidance. I have worked on farmhouses in Ireland and flats in Portugal so far and I must say I am quite enjoying the variety from the comfort of my own house.”

Emilie offers the same services by remote as she does in person from colour consultations, lighting plans, spatial planning and room layouts as well as revising architects plans for extensions and advice on window treatments, fabrics and finishes and guidance for furniture and accessories.”

Create your own bespoke headboard like this triangle design in 3 different colours. Just one of the design ideas featured by Kate Watson-Smyth for her Monday Inspiration feature. #paintedheadboard #mondayinspiration #madaboutthehouse
triangle painted bedhead interior design by emilie fournet interiors

To get the best of the service she asks that clients provide the following: floor plans, a video tour of the space so she can see how the light flows, as well as detailed measurements. Finally, she requires a pinterest board so she can get an idea of a client’s taste as well as what they are hoping to achieve with the space.

When it comes to samples, obviously the client has to order their own, but Emilie will often also order a duplicate set so both parties can see they are looking at the same thing. If you are happy to get involved to that extent then e-design might be the solution for you.

One company that has pivoted to online design is Neptune, who were quick to start an online kitchen design service last year. They will also send you a video telling you exactly how to measure accurately, which is vital and not just for kitchens. And, while they feel a remote designer will never be the same as an in-store in-person consultation they plan to keep up the service beyond lockdowns.

a small kitchen designed by Neptune who have pivoted to offer e-design
a small kitchen designed by Neptune who have pivoted to offer e-design

Another company offering e-design is My Bespoke Room, co-founded by Laura Simpson, which has come up with tech-based solution to affordable e-design. Customers must first fill in a detailed questionnaire which is followed by a video chat so the professional designer and client can get to know each other.

“We have developed a whizzy chat function so we can fire questions and answers back and forth and we also use Google maps to work out which direction their room faces so we can see how the natural light might affect the colours.”

In addition, Laura says they have some automated tech which saves on admin for the designers. “Designers can spend 80 per cent of their time doing admin so we have stuff running in the background that makes that all easier (and helps keeps the costs down) so we have a programme that will pull in all the relevant products and brands together so you can drag and drop what you like which can help with both time and the overwhelm.”

my bespoke room e-design project
my bespoke room e-design project

As Emilie says: I think e-design is a great concept that makes design very accessible, and it can also answer those dilemmas that sometimes people get completely stuck on and they are unable to make a decision so they end up doing nothing. If your house isn’t working for you – if you know something needs to change but you don’t know what – it could be that just a couple of hours with a professional answers all your questions and will give you a direction to help you move forward and ultimately fix your house.”

If you think e-design might be the solution for you then My Bespoke Room is offering 10 per cent off their design packages with the code GreatIndoors10 (see below for details).

Elsewhere in the show, I am in a bad mood and Sophie discusses her small wins for lockdown including decluttering and reading books. We also answer your questions in our regular Style Surgery slot – this week Small Spaces.

My Bespoke Room discount: GREATINDOORS10

My Bespoke Room: The code gives you 10% off any of the My Bespoke Room Design Packages. It can only be used once per person. Valid for 12 months/ Can’t be used in conjunction with another discount code.

Design Pal Pro:The code is valid on either of the Design Pal Pro monthly packages. It can only be used once per person. Valid for 12 months. Can’t be used in conjunction with another discount code.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Oh, this post has come.along at just the right time! I have been stuck on how to redesign downstairs and never thought i would be able to afford a designer. E-design will really help. Thank you. And the kitchen design featured actually gives me hope for my tiny one.

  2. George Clarke is searching for rooms to remodel for his new series. See his Instagram post a few days ago for details.

  3. John Lewis is also doing FREE Virtual Home Design appointments via video link, they started in the first lockdown and the service is incredibly popular. The wonderful home designers can create moodboards, plans and 3d renders of your room and send free samples etc. they also have a virtual measuring service with expert estimators helping you to measure for curtains blinds and flooring. Have a look on the JL website just type in home design service

  4. after reading about Emilie’s use of colour in one of your posts I decided to contact her and she consulted with me via zoom with my farmhouse rennovation in Ireland! The process was really useful and she was excellent at maintaining focus for the consultation and answering all my queries as well as giving me loads of ideas. I would highly recommend e-design.

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