Don’t Hire an Interior Designer Until You’ve Read This

Interior Design

Have you ever tried to remodel and /or redecorate your home? For those of you who have embarked on this journey of furniture buying, swatch ordering and working with contractors, you know that doing it alone is nearly impossible. This is where an interior designer comes into play. A good interior designer will not only give you decorating ideas based on expertise, he or she will also save you money by pointing out little intricacies and design details that otherwise, you may miss.

There are plenty of upsides in partnering with an interior designer, but when it comes to hiring the right interior designer, many people are skeptical or cautious. This is, in part, because designer fees and processes are not set in stone. To curb your skepticism, ask key questions before you hire an interior designer- a good designer will answer your questions and allay your concerns.

Because key questions aren’t always the easiest to pinpoint, I have gathered some FAQs from a few current clients and reflected upon them so that your remodeling and redecorating process is as seamless and enjoyable as possible.

Q: What if I don’t need a designer for the full design process and I just need someone to bounce my ideas?

A: Although there are some interior designers who only work on projects that involve the whole house, many will be willing to guide you throughout specific phases of the design process. The first phase where this type of consultation can really help your situation is when you are almost ready to start your project. The second phase is when you are in the process of making important decisions on specific materials, such as buying furniture. In fact, your interior designer can likely create a report that includes elements such as paint colors, fabrics, countertops, and cabinets, and where to find them. A good designer will provide recommendations, but in this case, you will be in charge of ordering and receiving. This will still allow you to have more control of your renovation.

Q: How do I come up with a budget for my home decorating projects?

A: The key is to create a design plan in stages, and keep in mind that your whole house does not have to be decorated at once. For example, some people decide to do the family room first, then the kitchen, then the upstairs bathroom.

I recommend a three-step approach:

Step 1: Make a wish list of desired items. Allow yourself to dream, but do not forget practical components, such as fixing your bathroom vanities.

Step 2: Assign price points to your wish list items by browsing for prices on the internet, in retail stores and catalogs. Don’t forget that labor for construction, such as painting, tiling and installations will add at least 15% to your predicted costs.

Step 3: Discuss the costs of certain options with your designer-do not worry about overspending, as a good designer will stay within the frame of your budget.

Q: What if I have trouble articulating my desired look?

A: A good designer will be able to find a common thread among a variety of different images and styles that you collected. In this instance, try creating a folder or an electronic library of images of rooms that have the look that you like, just to share ideas of what you are hoping to achieve.

Q: What if I want to shop for some items myself? Is this allowed if I work with a designer?

A: While this may not work for all designers, if you want to shop by yourself for a few things, this can be specified in the contract. Just one thing to note: many interior designers will request that you consult them prior to buying independently, because introducing different objects that deviate from the initial design plan will alter the final look of your space.

Q: Is it common to ask an interior designer for a contract?

A: Absolutely. If you are to work with a designer, never work without a contract that acknowledges and covers all the aspects of the project at hand. I recommend having all contractual components clearly defined before proceeding with a designer.

Q: How different are the services provided by in-store design consultants compared to an independent interior designer?

A: While there are a lot of talented in-store design consultants that could be a great fit for you, with in-store designers, they are likely limited by the products that are sold by only their store(s), and will not provide you with research on out-of-store resources. Also, they will not be likely to compare values of different products that are not in their store. If you desire a unique look, you should go beyond what a specific store has to offer.

Q: How does the markup process work?

A: When a designer has special trade discounts through existing relationships, it is up to that designer to pass along a percentage of the trade discounts to you. So, if your designer is buying wholesale for example, you might receive 25% off the retail price and her markup is 25% added to the wholesale cost.

Q: How long does it take to design/decorate a house that is 3,000 square feet?

A: The length of time involved depends on many factors- not just square footage. For example, if you want to order custom items, such as upholstery and pillows, you need to be patient. Projects can take as long as a few months to a year, depending on what is ordered, how quickly contractors accomplish tasks, the speed of fabrication and also how quickly you, the client, are able to make decisions. I recommend requesting regular updates throughout the process.

Q: Should I ask a designer for a portfolio and referrals?

A: Yes, you should. A good designer will be happy to provide referrals and portfolio of accomplished work, and will encourage you to review them.