Selecting a Professional Designer
In today's busy world, there just isn't time to do everything yourself, so when it comes to decorating your home, consider working with a professional designer. Don't be intimidated! Today's designers pride themselves on providing you with design expertise, quality service and affordable products that meet your family's needs. Working with a designer is a team effort — you provide the insight into your home and lifestyle, and the designer transforms your visions into reality.
How to begin
- Keep a file of magazine pages with photos of styles you like, or keep track of your
favorite TV design show episodes — what catches your eye most consistently? Keep
"Style Files" — filled with elements that cater to your specific
lifestyle and personality. Keep one file for ideas — and another one filled with
actual paint chips, fabric swatches and photographs of the actual rooms in your home.
- The better you can describe or show the style you like, the easier it will be for the
designer you choose to give you what you want — remember, a designer can make your
ideas work even better! Trust them to extend your ideas and develop a creative solution
for your home — be open to their suggestions.
- Ask friends for recommendations of designers they've worked with and liked.
- Visit showrooms, furniture stores or specialty retailers to see what their in-house
designers have to offer.
- Research designer's websites to view their design philosophies and learn about their services.
Conduct an interview
- Interviewing a designer should be a process of finding a trusted friend to bring into
your confidence. You'll be working closely with each other so you want to make sure
you get along. Let the designer know you're not looking for free ideas, but for
someone you'll enjoy working with and whose philosophies you share. The more input
you have and rapport you build with your designer, the better your relationship … and
results … will be.
- Interview several designers. Choose a comfortable setting — their
design studio, and/or your home — for a "get-acquainted" meeting.
Familiarize yourself with differences in personality, style and business practices.
- Ask to see each designer's portfolio and request a list of relevant experience
and client references.
- Find out what their educational background is, how long they've been in business, as well as what professional organizations they are affiliated with.
What a designer needs to know
- The designer will want to know as much about you during the interview process as you
want to know about him/her.
- It's important to discuss the scope of the project at the beginning so a wise
decision can be made. If you're building a new home, a designer can effectively
assist you from blueprint stage on.
- They'll want to know lifestyle information — such as how much you
entertain, if pets have the run of the house — this can affect everything from
furniture to fabrics.
- Even with pictures in hand, still be prepared to have the designer ask lots of
questions to narrow your needs down. What image do you want to project? What are your
color preferences? Your decorating style? What is your time frame for completion, and
what is your budget?
- The more information you provide, the more successful the designer will be in meeting your needs and expectations.
Budgets, Fees & Deadlines
- Definite consideration needs to be given to your budget — both by you and the
designer you select. This will save you valuable time during the interview process so
both parties are aware of expectations.
- Ask about all of the many services the designer can provide to help you optimize
your understanding of the costs involved.
- Have a clear understanding of what type of fee will be charged, and what that fee
- Fixed or flat fee — A specific sum covers costs, exclusive of reimbursement for expenses, covering a complete range of services, from concept through layouts, specifications and final installation
- Hourly — Based on actual time expended by designer on project or specific service
- Percentage — Compensation is computed as a percentage of total construction/project costs
- Retail — Designer sells furnishings, furniture and all
other goods to the client at retail rates to cover the designer's fee and
services (this is most applicable to retail establishments offering design services)
- If you clearly understand the type of fee being charged from the beginning, you
won't have problems down the road.
- Whether the project entails one room or an entire house — keep an eye on the
finish dates. Discuss project duration and deadlines.
- Establish parameters for updates and on-going communication between you and the designer.
Make your decision
- Carefully review each proposal and cost estimate submitted.
- Don't make decisions based on price alone. Keep in mind that differences in each proposal may reflect variables such as level of service and quality of merchandise.
Sign a contract
- A contract is important as it allows you and the designer to define the scope of the
- It allows you to specify who will be responsible for what, how long the project will
last, and what the budget limits are.
- It's in both the client's and the designer's best interest to have a signed contract before any work begins or money is exchanged