Talli Roberts: It Starts with Collaboration


Talli Roberts is an interior designer and partner at Allard+Roberts Interior Design, an Asheville-based design firm.

By Talli Roberts

Design is not a solo sport. It takes a team.

The best interior designers are collaborators. Most (myself included) cannot build what they dream or envision. Some of my more creative moments have been when I’ve met with a cabinet maker, furniture maker, fabricator, job supervisor or trim carpenter and asked their advice on how to achieve a certain vision. I’ve been at this for twenty years and I’ve learned that asking those who know it best isn’t weakness. It’s a learning opportunity. 

If the architect never puts pen to paper to develop something new, or the builder never establishes a solid team of talented craftsman, an interior designer is unlikely to be able to take cues from their work and add layers of creative problem solving to address how people live, feel and experience a space once they move in. Most often, interior designers are not able to craft our own vision. We need a team of skilled partners to realize it.

A designer’s vision can be severely limited by uncooperative or inexperienced team members. If our roles are perceived to be only that of selecting paint and pillows, we cannot collaborate effectively. Interior Design firms like ours are accustomed to collaborating with the architect, builder and homeowner from space planning through construction, in addition to selecting and specifying the furniture and décor. When we wade into areas like custom cabinetry, lighting control, space planning, exterior materials, etc., and aren’t collaborating with others who value our input, the end result is simply not what it could be. 

While we don’t personally know every detail, our job is to know who the “go to” experts are in each area related to custom home interiors. As my business partner, Sharon Allard, has said “We are like general practitioners, in that we have to know which specialist to refer to.” For any specific detail, we have to know who to call. We have spent years developing relationships with architects, builders, developers, craftsmen, carpenters, furniture makers, artists, work rooms, installers and more. At this point, we know who to call. 

When we hear from an area developer, builder or architect that we don’t work with, asking for our opinion or a referral to the right specialist, we take that as a high compliment. At a minimum, they know our firm to be experienced and collaborative, or they wouldn’t pick up the phone. 

This work requires a profound amount of trust. For our clients, it’s the ability to hire the right team and entrust their vision and investment of time, energy and resources. For a builder or architect, they must refer the right designer to achieve the overall project vision and a happy client. For the designer, we must pull in the right specialists to solve each problem and create something that addresses both form and function. It’s all based on trust.

If we are all willing to put our egos aside and work on behalf of the client to meet their goals, the end result can be magic. Without that trust and perseverance, it’s a painful 18-24 month process. Building just the right team of collaborative professionals who value one another’s contribution is key to any successful renovation or new construction project.

Learn more about Talli and team at Allard + Roberts.