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DESIGN CONFIDENTIAL: HOW TO WORK WITH AN INTERIOR DESIGNER


Are there rules to working with an Interior Designer?

Not necessarily.
Are there tips to keep in mind to ensure you get the best out of your working relationship with your designer?
Absolutely. 
As my business has expanded and I’ve had an opportunity to work with a wider range of projects & clients, I’ve been able to hone in on the things that I think really make for a great working relationship between a client & designer. As I stated before, Interior Design is technically considered a luxury service, no matter your price point. That being said, a varying array of services and price points have opened up the market to new consumers who’ve never hired a decorator before. Interested in hiring a designer but not sure where to start?
Here are my tips for working with an Interior Designer:
1. Tell the truth. Be honest about everything upfront–it is imperative to a great outcome and personal relationship with your designer. Only want to spend $8K on your redesign? Don’t say you’re willing to spend “whatever as long as you like it.” Tell the truth and let your designer figure out the best way to help you, even if that means suggesting another service or passing you along to another recommended designer in your price range. 
2. Know what you like. You don’t have to know exactly what the final outcome should look like, but you should have a general idea of the look you’re going for aesthetically. Don’t say you’re open to “whatever I pull” if you know you hate wallpaper, don’t like brass and would rather have no furniture than sit on a modern sofa. Keep in mind your designer is (generally) being paid by the hour, so it’s really a waste of time to have them source items that you know you don’t like–you’re actually paying for that time! To avoid this problem, spend some time perusing sites like Pinterest, Houzz, House & Home, Elle Decor & House Beautiful and create a file of the images you like, even if they’re not for the specific room you’re working on. Love the cozy feel of a certain bathroom? Save the picture. Love the lighting in a specific Dining Room? Snag the pic. Don’t worry about how it’s all going to come together–just show your designer the things that are catching your eye. This will help you get clearer about look your eye gravitates toward and will ensure that you & your designer are on the same page as you begin your project. (As part of my design process, I require my clients to have inspiration images). 

3. Be honest. Okay, this is the same as #1 but I wanted to say more about this. If you don’t like bright colors, plaids, geometrics, florals, vintage furniture, black, or hand-made pillows from the remote villages of Afghanistan, take responsibility and communicate that to your designer. Don’t be afraid to speak up or make suggestions to tweak a design a little more to your liking. After all, as I always tell my clients,  “You have to live here, I don’t–so I want you to be happy.” Don’t say yes just because your designer really loves it, because they really don’t want is for you to hate it (and bad mouth them) down the line. Keep in mind, you and your designer are on the same team and ultimately want the same thing–to create a beautiful space that you’ll love.

4. But remember, you hired a professional. Our job as professionals is to take your ideas and make them more…and that means that your designer is going to present options to you that you’ve probably never seen, didn’t previously know were possible or hadn’t thought of on your own. As a professional, your designer has some foresight and vision (especially with regard to the design process) that you don’t have, so it’s important that you give them some space to work their design magic.  A common complaint I hear? Many clients are still afraid of wallpaper, due to the lingering effects of being visually assaulted by Grandma Josephine’s wallpaper as a child. Wallpaper isn’t hard to remove (if the wall is primed first) and there are SO many options on the market (especially to the trade) that it’s almost guaranteed that there will be something you’ll like. Keep an open mind and let your designer present options that take you out of your comfort zone a bit…after all, if you could design the whole thing yourself, what’s the point in hiring a designer??

5. Have patience. Remember, this is your designer’s profession so they know all about change orders, back orders, discontinued stock, items that arrive broken, unavailable contractors and the whole list of things that potentially go wrong–and often times do–on a job site or in context to a design project. There are so many components to a design project and the majority of them are not controlled by your designer, so have patience. A good designer will manage your expectations and keep their own emotions in check as well. Don’t get upset if your designer doesn’t mirror your anxiety-ridden state–we know better than anyone that replacements can be shipped, fabric will eventually arrive (or a suitable replacement can be found) and changes are a part of the process so if your designer appears too calm, it’s because they know it will all be okay in the end. Trust, believe & have patience.

6. Be realistic about your budget. Most consumers seem to be aware of this now, but real life design is much different than TV design. This means that the complete kitchen renovation you saw on TV for $4000 is NOT going to happen in your home when you hire a designer…unless you’re cast on a TV show. Trust that your designer will give you the best that your money can buy and if you have a smaller budget, that might only mean new pillows & accessories. Or, maybe you’ll want to push your project back a few months to save up for the look you really want. Either way, know that your designer is here to help you figure out the best way to approach your project and make sure you’re not only getting the look you want but the appropriate value as well. Just don’t expect your designer to be a miracle worker with your budget…’cause ain’t nobody got time for that. 

If you’re a consumer and you have additional questions, please leave them in the comments below! If you’re a fellow designer and have additional points, please share–I’d love to hear your thoughts!
photos via here & here

4 Comments on DESIGN CONFIDENTIAL: HOW TO WORK WITH AN INTERIOR DESIGNER

  1. LiveLaughDecorate
    July 9, 2013 at 10:43 am (4 years ago)

    Well, I think you hit the nail on the head here lady and opened up the floodgates. Honesty, honesty, is the best policy here. Don’t tell us you “don’t know what the budget should be” when you know exactly how much funds you have in the bank or available under your mattress. Withholding this information, out of the fear that we’ll jack up our fees if your budget is generous, is disingenuous. We CANNOT come up with a realistic design and proposal if we don’t know what we’ll be able to spend. It is pointless to have us source Quartzite for a kitchen project, if your budget will only allow for laminate or tile countertops. Time wasted.
    I’d also add Trust. Trust your designer in the same vein you trust your barber or hairstylist. Have a seat and let us get this thing done. You hired us because you CANNOT/COULDN’T get the job done, so let us do what you hired us to do. No need to micro-manage and question every detail. You’ve seen our work, or heard great things before hiring us so please just let us do what we do. Thank you very much. That is all!

    Reply
  2. Coco @ CohesiveRandomness
    July 9, 2013 at 11:54 pm (4 years ago)

    Three snaps in Z formation!!! This post is like scripture in the Bible!!! Going to be featuring this on my blog ASAP!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!

    Reply
  3. Quintel
    July 10, 2013 at 8:27 am (4 years ago)

    Well said, Dayka! I often find that most people are nervous about hiring a designer due to not understanding the working relationship. These tips are spot on and very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  4. Amanda
    July 10, 2013 at 9:31 am (4 years ago)

    Great post girl!!! Amen to all of it! Especially the honestly about the big “B” word. I always tell my clients the number you give me will determine where I shop for you- Ikea, Pottery Barn, or the Designer Showroom.

    Reply

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