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Sun 10 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Battling obesity

It's probably safe to say that no one's sorry to see the back of 2009. It was a year brimming with uncertainty, instability, caution and contradiction. For the region's interior design industry, it was a year steeped in setbacks.

It's probably safe to say that no one's sorry to see the back of 2009. It was a year brimming with uncertainty, instability, caution and contradiction. For the region's interior design industry, it was a year steeped in setbacks.

Overheads remained steady while design fees plummeted. Clients became more demanding, but less likely to commit - or pay on time. ‘Value engineering' became an unavoidable and inextricable part of the design lexicon. Unsightly squabbling over contractual small print grew increasingly commonplace. And a summer exodus combined with Ramadan to wipe out the best part of a quarter.

All in all, not the best of years. But when we spoke to some of the region's leading interior design firms for this month's Industry Speak, we sensed an inkling of confidence creeping back on to the market. Nothing dramatic, of course, but definitely the feeling that 2010 might bring some stability in its wake.

The past year has forced companies (the smart ones, anyway), to reassess who they are, what they do, and how they do it. Any interior design firm worth its salt has spent the last year taking a long hard look in the mirror. Maybe that's the great lesson of 2009: know yourself, celebrate your strengths, do not shy from your weaknesses.

As an upshot of all this introspection, many firms have come int0 2010 smarter, leaner and far more agile. And maybe, just maybe, the industry is better off as a result - no matter what the balance sheets say. After all, as the straight-talking Ross Lovegrove pointed out in an exclusive interview with CID. "Things needed to become more efficient. They were terribly obese".

Selina Denman is the editor of Commercial Interior Design.

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