In Style: Working with an Interior Designer

Are you considering working with an interior designer, but don’t know where to start? How can you tell your designer what you want, when YOU don’t even know what you want? In this blog, I’ll share with you some tips on how to begin, how to work with an interior designer, and what you should know.

Your designer will want to know some things about your project, but there are also some expectations your designer will have of you.

1. If you’ve never worked with an interior designer, and don’t know how to find the right one, start with either looking in a professional directory (such as ASID) or do some internet research. Go to the designer’s website and check out their credentials and their portfolio.

2. Always inquire about the designer’s fee structure and method of operation. Some designers have “project minimums”. It’s important to find out this information in the beginning and that you are clear so there are no misunderstandings.

Many designers work via a “mixed fee” structure. I’m in the business of selling goods and providing professional services. I charge a fee for the design process and consultation and I also procure goods at wholesale or designer pricing and apply a markup. Even though the merchandise is marked up, it’s usually less than retail.

3. When you make an appointment with your designer, please try to eliminate distractions. I always turn my cellphone off for appointments so I can give my undivided attention to my client. Please extend the same courtesy. Of course, there will be an occasion when you might be expecting an important call, things do come up. Just let your designer know...our time is just as valuable as yours.

4. If you have worked with a designer in the past, what was your experience? Please share with your designer what your needs are in order to serve you better. I had a client that needed to see all the components assembled into a “mood board” because she was not able to visualize. Please communicate with your designer what helps you best understand the design concepts.

5. No project is going to go absolutely perfect. Problems always arise, but most problems can be solved. It’s important to allow your designers and contractors to come up with solutions before you start having a panic attack. Design is a process of problem solving and your patience and teamwork is critical to the success of the project.

6. We simply don’t have the answers all the time without doing a little research. We cannot create a product that doesn’t exist out of thin air. It’s possible that what you desire can be custom fabricated, but expect to wait...and you must be willing to pay for it.

7. Be aware that in some states, it is illegal for interior designers to hire sub-contractors on your behalf. If your project requires contractors (plumbers, electricians, carpenters), you will have to contract with them directly. Your designer may have a list of contractors to recommend. For large projects, you may want to consider hiring a general contractor to manage all the trades.

8. Interior designers have education and experience that makes them experts in the trade. You are hiring for their creative skills, knowledge of the built environment, and intellectual property. This is a profession, not a hobby.

There is a difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator. Interior designers are licensed professionals who manage projects involving architecture, construction, and building codes. Interior decorators work solely in aesthetic improvements.

9. Your designer places a great deal of thought into developing your design. When your designer presents you with ideas, don’t shop your designer. This is very inconsiderate.

10. Be as specific on what it is that you want as you can. If you cannot present more than a vague description, please do a little homework and give us some direction. Pulling out pages from design magazines, Pinterest, Houzz, etc., is extremely helpful to interpret your wishes.

Photo credit: Taylor King

11. Sorry, I’m not sharing my sources. That is precisely why you are hiring me. I have worked years scouring the industry for the best and this needs to stay in my tool kit.