Along with building and decorating your own space comes the excitement and the daunting task of selecting the right color palette, the right furniture, and the right interior design company to orchestrate it all. The steps to this success always begin with the relationship between designer and client. You will find that this is a religious practice at UNNA Interior Design, a company founded and run by interior designer Rizelle Alvarez.
Alvarez understands that as a designer, putting the customer’s needs, vision and personality first before adding elements of their own. “At UNNA, we like to get our client’s referral before we get down to it. After all, this is our customers’ home. They are the ones who benefit from it, who live there. It is important for us to create the perfect space for our clients.
This concept of putting the customer first is in line with Alvarez’s belief in building strong relationships with the people she works with. After all, she works in tandem with her husband JJ Alvarez, an entrepreneur.
“There have been many instances where a client has asked me to recommend a contractor. Fortunately, I still have a contact, ”she noted with a laugh. “With our last project, we took care of the construction and the design. What’s great is that the client can coordinate with me directly. I especially enjoyed this as he turned out to be very happy with the completion.
The client’s vision is best balanced by the knowledge and skills of a professional interior designer. When it comes to a favorite style, Alvarez puts his own twist on the modern minimalist look; with a mid-century twist and a dash of the unexpected.
“I really admire Kelly Wearstler,” Alvarez said. “For my birthday, my sister surprised me with a trip to visit a hotel designed by Kelly. What really stood out to me was the way she imagined and created these unique spaces that people love.
It is therefore a goal for Alvarez to achieve this feeling of trust with its customers. “Everyone wants her (Wearstler) to work. I really studied his artwork in order to learn how to balance both the client’s vision and mine in the design.
As a Cebu-based design firm, Alvarez frequently travels to Manila to purchase furniture. “When we source our materials, we usually buy outside of Cebu. One of my favorite projects is the one I did for a penthouse in Marco Polo. I loved this one because the client gave us creative freedom and I was able to purchase furniture that I had been looking for for some time.
In specific cases like this, she has stressed the importance of picking up a client’s language. “There are times when customers give us free speech, but give little tips that we need to remember. Usually, recognizing the smallest detail has the most impact on the success of the project.
As a young company grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting has been a difficult feat, but not impossible. “We try to adapt by being online, with an appropriate system in place. This need to be visible boosted my use of social media platforms and made me realize the importance of a good website, ”she said.
One tip she’s learned is to use an online form to answer FAQs, weed out non-serious clients, and give those who are ready to begin their design journey with her business more time.
“One challenge that I remember well is a case where my client couldn’t make out the shade of white on a sofa that she asked me to buy. Unfortunately, the colors of a product are not reflected well on a computer screen. So to give her some peace of mind, I personally went to check out the room.
For Alvarez, it’s all about getting insurance and letting the customer know that everything is fine. There are times in the design when Alvarez must inform the customer that some designs cannot be executed, but this is done with great care. “When we present our creations, it is always done through a mood board. Right from the start, we present the samples, fabrics and textures. The most special thing about the interior is the feel and the touch of the materials.
The customer may not always agree with the presentation, but UNNA Interior Design comes with a series of options already made in advance. “For me, the way the customer feels about the design is what I prioritize. Faced with negative comments, I really choose to meet them in person, of course, with safety protocols. I try to solve problems right away and try to give them a sense of comfort and the assurance that the home of their dreams is created by both of us.
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