How to Work With an Interior Designer
by Guest Blogger, Jennifer Davidson, Allied ASID, LEED AP
So you’ve decided you want to do some work on your home, perhaps refresh your dated bathroom, upgrade your home office into a tech haven, or rip out that frustratingly-designed workspace and gain the cook’s kitchen of your dreams. You have some ideas, but don’t really know where to start. How do you organize your thoughts into a coherent plan? Where can you find the fixtures and fittings you want? This is a great opportunity to bring in a professional interior designer, who can help you realize your goals.
Before you even begin to seek out a designer, start by gathering some inspirational photos. Go through old and new magazines, look at design blogs you enjoy and start to identify what your style and taste is. There are several easy ways to do this. If you have a Pinterest account, start a board with your favorite photos. Collect them together and you will start to see patterns emerge – maybe you like mid-century modern, or art deco, or maybe you like contemporary but definitely not too modern. It’s easy to gather products and vignettes on Pinterest and you can even share your board with your spouse or partner, and later with your designer.
You can also save photos of real interiors to an ideabook on Houzz, a fabulous resource for all things residential design. There you can follow specific designers whose style you admire, and you might even connect with a few designers and feel them out, asking questions about their selections and techniques. Another very happening source of inspiration is Instagram – tons of designers post their project progress photos, and items they are sourcing. Use hashtags to search on specific keywords and discover new designers that way, such as #fauxfinish or #modernkitchen.
Once you have an idea of what your style is, and maybe a few designers whose work you admire, sit down and think about your budget. Do this at a time when you are not rushed, and you have access to your financial information so you can record facts, rather than guesses. What is your budget range? Have a low and high end. Make sure you are not breaking the bank, but have a comfortable amount that is realistic for the project you have in mind. If you’re not sure what that is, when you start interviewing designers, ask them for their advice.
Here are some things to consider when selecting your interior designer:
Do you like their style? Have you seen their work – either online or in person? Do you like what they’ve done for other people? If not, keep looking.
What is their work personality like? Are they prompt about returning phone calls and emails? What is their communication style? If you don’t like reading long emails and you can’t get this person on the phone, then you might not be a good match.
What is their reputation? Do they provide references from prior or current clients? Do they have a Yelp and what are the reviews like?
Do they have a professional affiliation and credentials? Are they a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) or the International Interior Design Association (IIDA)? Do they have a degree in interior design? From what school? Have they passed the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam? Are they a Certified Interior Designer (CID)? They don’t necessarily have to have ALL these credentials, but they should be able to show that they are educated and knowledgable about the field in which they practice, and have specific current knowledge about building codes in the state(s) in which they work.
Do they share your values? Are you seeking a sustainable designer? They should be a LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional) or certified in Green Globes or some other green building and construction program. If you are thrifty or have a lower budget, your designer should share that value as well, to watch the pennies for you. However, keep in mind that designers need to make money also, so your budget should not be so low as to only work for DIY.
Are they transparent about their fees? Does your interior designer take a certain percentage of the total budget cost or a mark-up on items purchased for you? Do they charge an hourly rate? What does that include? Will they be there for installation day or do they leave that to the contractor?
Do they have local and international knowledge? They should know whom to contact for draperies and where to source a specific sofa you’ve had your eye on. While of course you can order items from overseas and have them shipped, it’s good to have relationships with local showrooms, installers and shippers, in case you run into difficulties. A good designer will know people both locally and around the world.
Finally, when you sit down to interview your proposed interior designer, make sure you LIKE them. Remember, this person is going to be privy to not only your finances, the contents of your closets, and your personal relationships, but will also be with you for quite a long time. A renovation project does not happen overnight, so you need to enjoy this person’s company and feel comfortable with them, and above all TRUST them. Think of this not as a single project, but possibly a lifetime relationship – your designer can give you valuable advice about art, purchasing a new property and how to create an entertaining space that will make you the talk of the town. While you should of course consider this a professional relationship, it will be a more satisfying one if you genuinely feel a connection.
So now that you know how to do it, don’t wait – get started on that project of your dreams today! One final tip: Kimball Starr is an excellent interior designer who meets all the qualifications I’ve listed above. Contact her for advice on your next design project. You’ll be pleased, you have my word.
JENNIFER DAVIDSON holds an M.F.A. in Interior Architecture and Design from the Academy of Art University. She is the Social Media Chair for ASID California North Chapter and consults with interior design professionals on their small business needs. Contact her via makesocialmediaeasy.squarespace.com