You & Your Interior Designer
So you want to begin a project for interior designing one or multiple rooms in your home but have never before worked with an interior designer. Perhaps you don’t know how to find a good one, how they will work with you on the project, as well as how much fees they will charge you for their services. Below is a look at some important questions to ask an interior designer before you hire them. With this list, you no longer have to feel overwhelmed or confused by the prospect of hiring an interior designer.
Can you provide me with examples of your work?
Ensure that the work the interior designer shows you relates to the type of work you want them to do in your home. The designer could be amazing at decorating bedrooms but terrible at designing kitchens.
Do you have any client references or testimonials?
This is a great way to check up on the rapport the interior designer had with their former clients.
How do you charge? Percentage fee, fixed fee, hourly rate, commission on items supplied?
From the very beginning, it is important to know how the interior designer will charge you such that you don’t get any unpleasant surprises once the project is completed. Ensure that you understand the payment terms clearly.
Will you provide an engagement letter that states the amount of your fees, how you want them paid, and the scope of work this pricing is based on?
It is vital for you to know what work the interior designer has said they will do, how much it will cost, as well as when and how you need to make payment.
What is your experience and qualifications?
This should serve as the ultimate determiner of the fees of your interior designer. The more experience and qualifications they possess, the more they are likely to charge you. This is all relative as they probably can do your job in half the time it would take a design graduate charging you half their fees. Just as you would not want to entrust your well-being and health to a self-taught doctor, or even your car to a mechanic who learned his trade from eBooks, you should demand the same level of training and expertise from the individual who will assist you with key design decisions.
Do you typically recommend and utilize preferred contractors?
For various reasons, this is a useful question to ask. The interior designer already has rapport with the contractor who is familiar with understanding their plans and who knows their mode of operation, and has a basic idea of how much the cost will be before they provide the plans. When all parties are familiar with each other, the contract is likely to run much smoother. This will save you the hassle of hiring a contractor you don’t know only to find out mid-project that they were not the right fit for that project. They must have skills in your interior designer’s niche, which is why they use them. The last thing you want is to have to pay a contractor who will instead be going on a learning curve whose bill you will be forced to settle.
What happens if we begin on the project but I become dissatisfied with your work?
This can easily happen: you begin and your interior designer is wonderful, but their performance begins to drop. It is important to address this during the hiring process. Make sure that you have put in place an agreement that allows both of you to get out of the contract; that you can obtain the work that has been done up until that time, agree on a fee that is fair for that work and then part company. This will save you a lot of stress and you will both be content. Thereafter, you may find yourself a different interior designer to go on with your project. While this is a rare occurrence, it is nevertheless better to beware of all your options before you begin.
Do you do free consultations and home visits?
Some interior designers will offer a home visit and a one hour consultation free of charge. This is great, however, you should beware that once they have their foot in your door, some designers find it difficult to leave. What you are in need of is a professional and not a salesman doing your interior design job.
How much say will I have in the design process?
This is a very important factor. It is unwise to ride along on the designer’s wave of past work. Don’t forget that this is your project and you will have to work or live in it, therefore the design has to fit your needs. Ensure that they take your design brief and still utilize their own design flare. But don’t allow them to design in a way that leaves you feeling uncomfortable. It is important that you have input.
What is your experience in designing a room in my chosen style?
It is vital to identify a versatile designer who is able to design a room in many varying styles. You should ask to view their portfolio. If the rooms that they have designed display a broad range of styles, this is a good sign that they will be able to successfully adapt their own aesthetics to your very unique style, taste and preferences. You want an interior designer that keeps themselves updated on current design styles, both old and new, and listens well to clients so as to effectively assess their taste.
What is your experience in designing a room within my indicated budget?
What you want is an interior designer who can source laborers and products that span a wide range of prices. The designer should be able to work well within your budget, no matter how modest it is, and deliver well on your project. Their low product mark up and purchasing power should enable you to recoup your design fees through savings on products.
Will you mark up furniture or any other items that I buy through you, and if so, by how much?
This is a vital question to ask the potential designer before you sign the contract, seeing as the costs of completing the design of an entire room can significantly add up. Many interior designers offer a standard mark up rate of 40% above their cost. If the interior designer is willing to go lower than this figure, then that is a plus.
How will you ensure that the furniture you choose for my room will fit into the space available?
While there are various ways in which interior designers can ensure that all the furniture will fit into your room, the best way is by preparing the floor plans using computer aided drafting programs (CAD). By preparing the floor plan to scale on their computer, the interior designer will be able to purchase furniture that fits, as well as provide you with multiple options fast, and easily accommodate any changes you may have. Avoid interior designers who hand draw the room on a graph paper as they are unlikely to want to take extra time in doing multiple options and their changes will be time consuming. The designer should be ready to provide you with multiple options for the floor plan, as well as make changes easily to these plans to ensure that you end up with the best possible option.
What will you use to communicate the design to me such that I am able to understand how the room will look before I make my purchases?
Many interior designers continue to use sample boards displaying small swatches of colors, fabrics and pictures of the items they wish to propose for your room. Other design professionals provide you with a true to life virtual mock up of the room containing the actual pieces of furniture, wall colors, rugs, as well as accessories before any purchasing decisions are made. This will truly enable you to see the room before you spend money on it to ensure it will be something you like. Whatever your interior designer uses, it should enable you to fully understand what your room will look like before the design is implemented.
How will you handle any problems should they arise?
If I were you, I wouldn’t trust any designer that said they had never encountered a problem designing a room. You should take this to mean that either they lack a lot of experience and will be unable to know how to cope with problems, or they are simply not telling you the whole truth.
Don’t just jump into a working relationship with the very first interior designer you meet. Ensure that you are comfortable working with them and build your trust such that you have the peace of mind of knowing that they will look out for your best interests. These questions should assist you in finding an interior designer that fits your needs.