So, you are considering consulting with an interior designer or decorator to assist with an upcoming project. How do you select one designer over another? And what should you expect at the first meeting? Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Decide on the scope of the project – What is it that you are really looking to get done? Are you remodeling the entire kitchen or just need help select colors for the kitchen walls? Are you in love with a chair or piece of furniture but not sure how to make it fit in the room? Ensure you KNOW THE ANSWERS to these questions definitively before you start your search. The very first question an interior designer or decorator will ask is -What is the project? The scope of the project will determine the type of help you will need – from a design build firm to an interior re-designer or somewhere in-between.
- Talk to local friends about experience with a similar project -Now that you are confident about the scope of project, ask friends and family about their experience in the same arena. If your friend started out with a simple color consultation that blew up into a major home remodel, you can talk to he/she to learn how it happened. And how to avoid the same situation from happening to you.
- Gather pictures and ideas of rooms that appeal to you -When you say ‘modern’, it can mean totally different things to an architect, designer and/or decorator. Show pictures instead! Collect pictures of rooms and ideas from magazines, web pages, pictures of friends homes, books and prepare them to show the designers in your first meeting. Additionally, if you like the décor of a local store, take pictures for yourself and ask the salespeople which designers shop there frequently. You may learn of additional designers to consider as well.
Now – you are prepared to meet with an interior decorator or designer and have narrowed down the list of possible companies. What should you expect next? As you contact and meet designers, keep the following things in mind.
- Expect a nominal initial consultation fee – As the old adage goes – time is money! Expect an experienced and preferred designer to charge for the initial visit. An hourly fee or set fee for the first meeting is common and some designers may apply it to the first order. Hint: Savvy interior designers use this as a gauge for new clients. If a prospect grumbles or complains about the initial consultation fee, the designer may assume the prospect will have trouble paying subsequent fees and not interested in taking the prospect on as a client.
- Expect to answer lots of questions about your taste and style – Since this is the first time that the designer is meeting you, he/she will do what they can to learn about your style. He/She will take notice of the current state of your home, your furniture choices (if those are evident) and how you and your family currently live in your space. If you have any big dislikes or likes, now is the time to express those – i.e. – no roosters in the kitchen décor or a desire for a water element in your bedroom. And don’t forget to show the pictures that you collected, as discussed earlier!
- Ensure important decision makers are available – Even if your spouse/significant other will not be involved with the process, if he/she will live in the space, then include her/him in the initial meeting. Especially if the room is shared, like the kitchen or master bathroom. Don’t set up this meeting during the day when the spouse/significant other is not available. This can easily become a cause for contention once the project gets underway.
- Expect to discuss budget – This can be a touchy subject but not talking about it won’t make it go away! Be sure to be clear about what your budget limitations are and ask the designer/decorator if your budget expectations match the reality of the project. And if the designers don’t mention budget, be sure to bring it up – you deserve to get a sense of things before any plans get started.
- Know what you like but be open to explore new things – The saavy designer won’t design an entire room at the first meeting, but he/she may suggest a few things to gauge your reactions to different ideas. If you find yourself reacting negatively to the suggestions, keep looking! Soon you find a designer/decorator who speaks your language…but keep yourself open to learn a few new words in that language! (I hope that analogy makes sense). That is what you are paying a designer to do – bring new and fresh ideas to your space!
We hope the above advice is useful as you consider hiring a design professional for your next project. The list was developed from our own experiences and interactions with clients before, during and after home projects.