How To Find that Special Designer that Understands You
Thinking about a home renovation project this year? Even a simple bedroom makeover can be overwhelming when you’re faced with a maze of aesthetic decisions such as choosing furniture, fabrics, paints, flooring, window treatments and the like. That’s when the counsel of a good designer comes into play – someone who can help you sort through it all with expertise and resources in the industry.
However, hiring a good professional doesn’t come cheap- it requires a big financial and time commitment so you want to make sure you choose the best person for the job! I have always encouraged my new clients to make sure that they do their homework when selecting a designer. It’s very important for the relationship to be a good fit! Here are some guidelines I put together to assist you in the interviewing and selection process…
What are the benefits of working with a designer vs. going iN alone?
A designer knows all the latest products on the market – Beautiful but durable family friendly fabrics or storage options that maybe you didn't think of. This is what they do everyday for the customer.
Mistakes can be costly. A designer will measure your room and create a floor plan so you know what size furniture the space can accommodate. Sometimes just because you want a sectional doesn't mean its the best thing for the room. I see a lot of rooms with the wrong size furniture or too much furniture.
What should I do to prepare for my first meeting with a potential designer?
Create a list of questions about how they work. Make a list of the things in your home you want to work on. It’s a good idea to bring pictures and/or create your own Houzz page or Pinterest Boards to show the designer examples of what you like... This will give the designer a sense of your style. Also before you meet, go to her website or Houzz page and look at a portfolio of past work. Do your research.
When interviewing a designer, what types of questions should I ask?
Ask about experience, availability and fee structure... How long has she been designing? Get references! Ask about the duration of the project. Will she be willing to work on a partial project or just consult? Make sure you write everything down.
Is the designer full service- such as rugs, window treatments, furniture and accessorizing? Some designers don't finish the project with accessories. Ask their policy on using existing furniture or what happens if you purchase something for your home somewhere else? When working on a project I expect my clients to purchase 90% of their items from me. Sometimes I will suggest for them to purchase something on their own. But that's how I make my money. I'm up front with them about that. So we don't have any issues later. The biggest problem in this industry is when we get “shopped.” Clients come to us, pick our brains-then take our designs and order a couch on sale online. 98% of the time, it won’t work and now you have broken the trust with the person you have hired.
How do I know if I really “click” with a designer?
Talk to many designers. You'll know when you find the right one. I encourage my clients to talk to other designers before they select one. You have to kiss a lot of toads before you meet your prince! It needs to be a good fit. Your home should reflect you and a good designer knows this.
Talk about the importance of having a budget?
It’s important to have a realistic budget to work with. Based on what you want and how much money you have, a good designer can tell you if you are on point or off.
I am different from a lot of designers in that I am willing to work in ways that are uniquely customized to my clients- I don't need a minimum budget to work with.
When you are redoing your home it's expensive- whether you spend ten thousand or one hundred thousand dollars. Whatever your budget is, it is a lot of money to you. There are different price points of fabric, furniture, rugs, etc. There are always more options.
Some people break their projects into Phase 1, Phase 2 etc. They do one or two rooms at a time. Design can be like drugs. Once you start, you can't stop and it can get expensive.
How do I know which payment method is best for me- Fixed fee vs. hourly rate?
I generally give a client a fixed fee for my time to do the entire project. I never go back and ask for more unless they change the scope of the project- for example, a non-construction project becomes a construction project. When they want to pay by the hour, I keep track and it ends up costing more than my original estimate for time.
I have a construction/design client now and she is trying to save money so she meets with me for just two hours at a time. She and I discuss everything and then she does the work. She shows me pictures and we look online together. It is actually wonderful and a great way to get my help within her budget!
While in the construction phase, she and I meet and we discuss everything. I’m on her side, not the contractor’s. When she is not sure how to approach a construction problem, I provide guidance. Once the construction is completed, I will take on a more active role and start her interior design.
Should I reveal my budget or let my designer come up with one?
It's really important to give your designer a budget so she can guide you to make realistic choices. I like to push limits and advise my clients on how they can maximize the effect by allocating budget toward items that add to the "wow" factor for the best results.
Be honest with your designer. I had a new potential client ask me if I could do her entire downstairs for $40,000. Windows, rugs, furniture, accessories etc… I told her I couldn't and she said she interviewed another designer who could. I encouraged her to go with that designer. I don’t like to cut corners and sacrifice the quality of my work. I have many lines that fit all kinds of budgets. Talk with your designer. If she is professional, she will be upfront with you and let you know if what you are asking is realistic.
If you have no idea you can ask your designer to come up with a budget but ask to see what she specified to get there. No designer is going to give a full plan until they are hired, but they can give you an idea of quality for that budget.
How do I tell my designer that I don't like something she is doing?
Be honest. I can’t stress this enough. A good designer will appreciate your feedback and understands that your home should reflect you... BUT on the flip side, let your designer show you the entire plan before you poo poo it. It’s a process. A good designer will listen and zero in on what you want. There may be a fabric or a chair that you may not initially like, but let her present the project as a whole before you comment. You may change your mind once you see it all together. She has been working hard for you- give her a chance.
Talk about the importance of a "give and take" relationship.
If there's a give and take relationship you will get more! You as a client need to put your faith in your designer and allow her to do what she's good at but at the same time, be upfront and honest. She will be in your home often and it becomes a very close relationship between the two of you. She knows all the nooks and crannies of your home. She knows where you put your underwear, where you store your socks... You need to feel comfortable with this person and vica-versa.
Remember, your home is your sanctuary; It's the place where you laugh, you cry. Memories are being made in your home. Choose someone who understands that and is willing to let go of their own ideas and listen to what you want.
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You've got good ideas for finding a good interior designer. I like how you said that you should ask how long they've been designing. That experience is really important. We're hoping to remodel our living room soon, and I'd love to work with a professional. I'll be sure to check that.