Hiring an interior designer is an exciting time for a lot of homeowners who are interested in reworking or redesigning their house. However, you cannot simply hire the first person who comes along. There are a lot of things you need to consider before officially signing a contract with a professional.
When interviewing your designer, you need to be prepared to ask questions like prioritizing budget, working with local or national contractors, and hourly rates. Without finding the answers to these questions early, you may be only hurting yourself in the long run.
Before you hire anyone, here are a few of the questions that you need to ask yourself and your potential designer.
What Services do You Need?
Many homeowners are a little confused about which services they actually need professional help with. There is a common misconception that an interior designer does little more than assist with selecting paint and a few throw pillows to pull a space together. However, you can get so much more accomplished with a professional interior designer.
You may need services like design consultation, site measurement, procurement of materials, and more. Narrow down your needs before you start calling around to various interior designers in your area.
What Inspires You?
While interior designers can create some almost-magical rooms, they do need a little bit of help getting started. They need to know what sort of things you like and dislike about a room. Find a few things that inspire you, such as area rugs, throw pillows, wallpapers, or any other elements that you want to incorporate into your- space. Your interior designer can work with what you give them to create something beautiful and one of a kind.
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Do You Want to be Hands-Off?
Some people relish the idea of hiring an interior designer because it takes them out of the equation entirely. The idea of having to make decisions for every little aspect of their design makes them sick to their stomachs. A feeling of overwhelm is common for homeowners, particularly when there is a large project at hand.
Make sure to check with your prospective interior designer and ask whether they want their homeowners to be hands-off or more involved. Figure out which type of person you would like to be and then find an interior designer that can work with you accordingly.
What Elements Does your Designer Use?
Every designer has a signature style that they enjoy even though they may vary from this slightly when the scope of work requires it. Find out what type of design projects get your interior designer excited.
Maybe they specialize in minimalism, farmhouse chic, or midcentury modern. Take a look at the color palettes they tend to use in their designs and other elements that tie the room together. If this particular style does not appeal to you, then you may want to seek out another interior designer.
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Can your Interior Designer Recommend Local Contractors?
Hiring an interior designer over the internet is becoming a more common practice. It can be convenient and cost-effective to consult with a professional in this way. However, it may not be in your best interest if you are going to be doing a major overhaul of your home.
The benefit of having a local interior designer is that they frequently have connections to contractors in the area who can perform manual labor. They can help you to arrange for that wall removal, refinishing the floors, and painting the entire house. If you are going to be planning a project that requires serious manual labor, be sure to look for an interior designer that is used to working with and recommending local contractors.
What Does your Interior Designer Prioritize in the Budget?
The reality is that your budget can only stretch so far. Everyone enters into a contract with their interior designer with a certain budget in mind. The only catch is that everyone may have a different idea about how to spend that money.
Ask your interior designer, which items in the room are going to take priority over others. Which ones will receive the lion’s share of the budget? This is a good way to make sure that your priorities align with your designer’s ideas from the very beginning instead of getting a nasty surprise mid-project when the budget runs out, and you didn’t get the light fixture you wanted.
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What Are your Designer’s Must-Have Items?
Along the same lines, you need to know which items your interior designer feels are non-negotiables in any space. Some designers might say that no space is complete without bold colors, while others prefer a more natural color palette. They might emphasize natural wood or stone elements. Maybe they need a particular type of lighting to feel like a project is officially finished.
Based on this answer and the one before it, you probably have a good idea of what the inspiration board for your room will look like. If it aligns with your vision, then you can move forward with confidence. If not, you might want to go back to your search for the perfect designer.
Does your Interior Designer Listen?
Some interior designers lack empathy to really connect with their clients and prioritize their needs. When you are interviewing potential designers, look for someone who naturally listens to what you want. They should be able to accommodate your wants and needs with kindness. You can tell a lot about a person from your very first impression of them.
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What Are your Designer’s Credentials?
Did you know that anyone can label themselves as an interior designer? While there are programs and educational opportunities for those who wish to become interior designers, they are not necessary. Make sure to inquire early about your interior designer’s education and experience.
You may decide not to go with an interior designer who has a formal education. However, you should make sure that you carefully review their portfolio to see a proven track record of successful designs that appeal to you. Hiring an inexperienced interior designer could be quite a gamble on the outcome of your space, but it could also be a way to minimize the cost of hiring a professional.
How Can I Improve my Home?
At the end of the day, you want your home to be convenient and functional. Sometimes, homeowners can get stuck in a rut and cannot see the many ways their rooms could change to serve them more efficiently. Ask your interior designer how you could improve the functionality of your home.
He or she may recommend something major like tearing down a few walls or something more minor, like rearranging your furniture. They may offer suggestions that you never even considered before. This is a great way to determine how creative your interior designer will be with your project.
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Are There Items I Want to Feature?
Many people have sentimental items around their homes that they want to include in their latest designs. Evaluate your rooms to determine which items need to stay and which ones can go. Make a list and work them into your inspiration board. It is important to let your designers know upfront if they have to work with that kitschy collection of figurines or your grandmother’s cherry dining room table.
Recycling items can be a great way to kickstart a design, or it can be a real challenge for your designer. Find out what their take on the situation is from the very beginning!
Who Will be Working on my Project?
Who is going to be doing the work on your project? If your interior designer works in a firm of other designers and their assistants, you want to be certain that the person you hired is the one coming up with your project ideas. After all, you hired them because you liked their style, personality, and more. You hired them because you liked them – not their assistant!
Knowing who is going to work on the project is also important when it comes to budgeting. You don’t want to pay a designer’s fee when the real person doing the work is their assistant. This would be akin to paying the rate for your lawyer to do the work when it is the paralegal putting in the hours. While there is a time for assistants, you need to ask some hard questions about when they are used and why (and how you will be billed for their hours!).
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Are you prepared to relinquish control?
The entire reason you are hiring a professional is so that someone else can manage the details and create the perfect space. Homeowners must embrace the fact that they need to relinquish some control over the finer details. While you should always have a say in how your room turns out, have a little bit of faith in your interior designer. After all, you were the one who vetted them and hired them for this job!
Hiring an interior designer for your project can be an exciting process. It can also bring about a lot of stress. By asking yourself these questions and interviewing potential interior designers, you can make sure that you get a great fit for your project.
Finding an interior designer is also about finding your limits and expectations for a project. You won’t know who will be best to work with until you know how you will understand the situation – and how you will react to your designer’s choices and ideas.
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Maria is the founder of GoDownsize. While studying architecture in Denmark she became fascinated with designing living spaces for boats, tiny houses, RVs, and other small spaces.
She mainly writes about space optimization, interior design, and downsizing. She’s also in charge of our YouTube channel. Read more about Maria here.