How to choose the right interior designer for you
So you're getting ready to embark on a home improvement project of some nature. And you see the value in hiring a designer to be a second pair of eyes for you, to bring to life and curate what inspires you. There are a few things to consider when hiring a designer, and these are the things that have helped us build successful relationships with our clients.
Maybe you're getting ready to build a home from the ground up, or maybe you're just furnishing a room in your current home. Not all design firms are set up to handle all types projects. While larger projects require more manpower, resources, and time - they are the perfect project for the firm that's set up for it. A team that is already in place and ready to tackle your project, albeit they have a little more overhead - are better equipped to fulfill on your project, often at a more economical rate. By the same token, a large commercial firm that solely takes on new construction and full renovations will likely not be able to fit you into their schedule if you're just looking for a little office refresh + space planning. Be clear on your needs for the project, and communicate those needs to your prospective designers - the right one will be willing to take on the project in a timely manner and will show the same enthusiasm you have for getting started.
Pictures Pictures Pictures
Want to know how to be any designer's dream client? Show us what you love! Show us what you hate! Show us just about anything. Pictures really are worth a thousand words, and they convey so much more to a designer than anything you can describe to us. Everyone has a different definition of "coastal modern", so when you can show us even one picture and tell us what you like about it, you save yourself and your designer time and money by being able to hone in to the very aesthetic we see appeals to you. Even if you can't articulate what you like about a particular space, we are experts at extracting the common denominators between even 3 or 4 pictures to understand what inspires you. If the designer you are considering is not comfortable with or does not work with the particular style you are looking to do, hours can be saved on both ends and the designer can likely refer you to the perfect fit for what you are looking to accomplish. Either way it's a win, win!
Ask The Right Questions
It's important you discuss these questions sooner than later to see if a particular designer will be a good fit for you...here are some we've found helpful when building a relationship with a new client:
-How involved do you want to be in this process? Some clients have a full-time job and kids and their time is precious. Others love getting more involved and working alongside the designer throughout the process. Either way - it will help your designer tremendously if you are both clear on the others' expectations.
-What does the designer anticipate for a timeline? Often we find that people that haven't been through a major remodel or construction project don't have a realistic sense for timeline. Nothing wrong with it - just not what you do for a living :) If you are planning on purchasing any furniture, often there is a 10-12 week lead time to get it made and have it shipped. Contractors and sub-contractors can be booked out weeks, sometimes months to get you on their schedule. Permits, inspections, and life are unpredictable and hard to plan with any type of real permanence. Backing your project up to a big deadline adds unnecessary pressure on you and everyone else involved in the project.
-How does this designer handle problems when they arise? With any construction project, there is inevitably something that goes awry. Whether it's major or minor, having a comfort level with your designer's conflict resolution skills is so valuable. A good designer strives to be so efficient and organized with your project, that if something comes in damaged or a piece is missing, it is just a little bump in the road - it doesn't throw the whole job off.
-Is there a particular style that this designer specializes in or one that they don't touch? Gone are the days where it can be difficult to get a sense for a designer's aesthetic. With social media being such a big part of people's decision-making process, there's no excuse not to narrow your prospective designers down by the general aesthetic you are interested in. A great designer can do just about any style. They can mix coastal and traditional and it will make you fall in love. That being said, there are so many great designers out there now who's branding is so specific to what they really love creating - and if you can find one whose work inspires you, that's the one you should hire. When a designer and homeowner are are on the same wavelength, the finished product is so much more meaningful, because it truly becomes a collaboration between the client and the designer.
The budget conversation can be a scary one. But when your designer has a firm grasp on your budget from the start, they are going to be so much more effective at steering the ship that is your project. If a designer doesn't know where the budget range is, everyone's time is being wasted...it's a little like trying to drive with a blindfold on, scary! When we have real numbers, it just becomes a matter of scope and timing. If you know you need the whole house done, but you know your loan will only give you $100,000 this year, it just got a lot easier to prioritize. Your designer will bring their experience in the industry to helping you group the items that are more cost-effective when done together. They'll know to direct you to the mid-range products or a higher range, all depending on your budget and what items are important to you. And just to be safe, plan for a 10% cushion. Our clients always come across that one thing, it's out of their budget but they can't live without it. Plan for that, so that you don't feel guilty when you see it.
Ask For References
Call us old-fashioned, but there's something about talking to a REAL person about a REAL experience that increases our comfort level about a person, company, or situation. Walking through a space a particular firm has designed is a great way to see their workmanship and aesthetic firsthand. People want to hear about the whole process, not just the finished product. Talking to references allows you to get a true read on how the overall experience was with a particular design team, how they worked with the contractor, and how well the budget was kept.
Trust Your Designer
We do our best work when our clients trust our leading. If you don't feel comfortable with a designer or you're not confident they are listening to and really understanding your needs, do not hire them. The whole process becomes a tug-of-war of control, leaving the client feeling like the designer is not doing their job, and the designer feeling like they don't have free reign to carry out what the client has asked for. We know that your homes are very close to your heart and they're where you live your lives, and we don't take it lightly that you are entrusting us to turn it into a haven for you. However, it requires a bit of faith on our clients' parts that even though they may not see the full picture until the project is done - this is what we do day in and day out, and we want to deliver on the promises we made.
You deserve to find your soulmate interior designer, and they are out there! We hope this helps narrow the search and leads you to a house of bliss.