Hiring an Interior Designer

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Most people will tell you that their home is more than just the place they lay their head.  Your home is where your family works, plays, loves, and lives! Your home is an investment. It is not just an investment because of its monetary value, but also its personal value.  Hiring an interior designer or decorator will maximize your potential to increase the value of your home, yes…but also the personal investment of improving the quality of your life in the spaces you spend your most valued time.

Many people find themselves intimidated when hiring a professional decorator or designer. I hope you never feel that way! Your home and your design style is about YOU; therefore your designer should be about you!  There are a few tips we want to share in how to go about hiring a designer that will make your renovation or decorating process more enjoyable than you thought possible!

Bedding fabricated by Creative Interiors.

Bedding fabricated by Creative Interiors.

With a boo coo of design challenges out there, it is no wonder we are turning to professionals. Whether you are downsizing and trying to figure out the best way to fit your furnishings from your suburban manse into your town condo, or finding your ready-made drapes dwarfing in your newly built home, or if you have been in your home since the 70’s and it looks like it…. we want to help you with that!  With the recent recession having reacquainted us with the virtues of frugality, clients are determined to spend decorating dollars wisely…. And guess what! Decorators and designers can, actually help with that too.  As designer, Mario De Armas, has put it, “it’s not about how much you spend. It’s how you present it.”

The least fun aspect of hiring any service comes down to money; so, let’s go ahead and talk finances and get it out of the way!  You always want to make sure you and your designer see eye to eye financially. Spelling out fees and budgetary concerns up front will save you both headaches down the road.  There are many ways decorators and designer may structure their fees.  According to the American Society of Interior Designers, there are three primary payment structures that are the most common.  The first being, a fixed, or flat, fee for all services.  Other designers may simply charge an hourly rate.  Or they may ask for “cost plus”; in which case, they buy furnishings and services at cost (or more commonly, discounted from retail prices) and they add an agreed upon mark up. Many designers, depending on the job, may use a combination of the fee types listed. For instance, they may ask for a fixed fee during the planning phase and then cost-plus to execute.  Be sure and check with your designer or decorator to see if they require a deposit or retainer.  Also, find out who will be paying for the furnishings- do you pay upfront?  Don’t let money come between you and your designer!

Media & Game Room designed by Creative Interiors.

Media & Game Room designed by Creative Interiors.

Your relationship with your designer or decorator is a special one. They get to know you and your family, and how you function in your most personal space. With that said, your designer’s personality should be compatible with yours. Make sure your designer is someone you feel comfortable around.  Likewise, you are looking to work with a professional. Do they return your calls? Do they show up on time? The stereotype of the artsy designer (fun, creative and even a little flighty) is not unfitting. Who wants a stodgy, uptight decorator anyway? However, customer service is one of the key indicators of satisfaction. So although you want your designer to be fun, make sure they are organized and professional.  Your designer should also take notes during your first few consults. They should be interviewing you as much as you are them.  Designer are problem solvers. Getting a grasp on the scope of the project and the challenges your job may present is their primary focus at the beginning. Don’t stress if they are asking you a lot of questions, it’s a good thing!

It is true that many designers have a signature look; however, a good designer should be able to accommodate your tastes even if his or her personal style is completely different. That said, you may be looking to grow your own personal style or discover what “your style” is. When considering interior designers and decorators, also consider how involved in the creative process you plan to be and, what kind of guidance you need.  Are you looking to collaborate with a designer on creating your perfect space, or are you looking for your designer or decorator to present complete décor options to you?  Are you open to suggestions? If you already have images of graphic designer wall paper dancing in your head, be prepared to communicate that to your designer. No matter how much knowledge or experience your designer may have, you can be sure mind reading is not a skill taught in design school. Keep in mind, your designer’s unique approach may not mesh with your needs, making communication critical in this area also.

As with any professional, don’t be afraid to ask your prospective decorator or designer about their experience, education and for referrals.  This goes back to the idea that you are looking for a professional, not someone who decorates as a hobby.  These days you don’t have to look very far to find a designer who has been formally educated. Working with a designer means that you will have a professional that is trained and comfortable with spatial planning, and can help design and renovate interiors, right from working with the architect or builder in drawing up the initial floor plans to placing the last decorative accent. Designers are proficient in enhancing the function of a room as well as the aesthetics, making the end result beautiful and practical. Decorators are not required to have a formal education while their experience may be indubitable. Decorators generally come on board after a project is complete. They’re hired to create a look that will be comfortable and inviting. When determining the scope your project, make sure your prospective designer/decorator’s credentials meet your needs. By looking at their experience as well as their education, you may find that the designer you are considering has experience in areas or lighting design or kitchen design.  Knowing you can lean on their knowledge and understanding in these areas can be a big relief in a big renovation project.

I hope you take away from this “how to” puts your mind at ease if you are considering hiring a professional designer or decorator for your next home project. As with any working relationship, communication is key. Whether its finances or your style dreams don’t be afraid to put it out there. The bottom line is your designer is there to make the experience of designing and decorating your home fun, and to help make sure you see it all come to fruition! As put by Interior Designer, Meredith Marlow, “Choose wisely and you will not regret it! The right designer will save you time, money and a lot of frustration.”

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