How to Select an Interior Designer
Many homeowners are intimidated when faced with the task of hiring an interior designer. Whether you are moving in to a new home or freshening up outdated decor, an interior designer can be your best friend. While you may think interior designers only work with the rich and famous, that couldn't be further from the truth. You can select and hire an interior designer to develop and execute an entire project, or simply bring one in to help you with smaller jobs.
You can hire in interior designer for advice and to help with things like paint color selection, lighting, fabric sourcing, furniture shopping or space planning. Hiring an interior designer on an “as needed” basis can save you money and gives you the latitude to follow your vision when creating the perfect space for you and your family.
Now that you’ve made the decision to hire an interior designer, you need to know the process involved in selecting the right one for your particular project. I will allay your fears and help you get comfortable with the idea of teaming up with an interior designer. You’ll find out everything you need to know about how to find one, the interview process and ultimately working with a design professional
Where To Look
Opening up the phone book or doing a quick Internet search is not the best approach for finding an interior designer. You should consider these three options as a starting point:
- Find Interior Designs That Speak to You. You can visit model homes or designer showhouses in your area and choose a look that speaks to your design sensibilities. Thumb through local design magazines and find a room that matches your design style. Find out who is responsible for the look and jot down their name.
- Ask Friends for Recommendations. If your neighbor, friend or friend of a friend had professional design help, find out about their experiences and contact the interior designer if you get positive feedback.
- Utilize Professional Organizations. If your city or town has a chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), use their list of members as a place to begin your search or click on this link for the ASID’s Designer Referral Service. Simply fill out the short request form and hit the “search” button for a list of designers that fit your criteria.
If this is your first experience selecting an interior designer, you may want to hire one that is professionally certified. Many states have qualifications that regulate the interior design business. Most require extensive education and a degree in interior design. They must also pass the state certification exam conducted by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).
ASID accreditation ensures your designer will have successfully completed all necessary education and experience requirements. They will also be familiar with building codes and project management, if your project requires construction and subcontractors.
If your project is small or you don’t feel the need to hire an accredited interior designer, look into interior decorators in your area that meet your needs, budget and taste. Interior decorators can be sourced much in the same way as interior designers. Some belong to professional associations that also provide referral services, such as Decorators’ Alliance of North America (DANA).
Determine Your Budget
Based on the size and scope of your project, you must determine a working budget. This is an amount that should be discussed upfront with an interior designer. Some designers will not take on small projects/budgets, so this will help you eliminate some candidates right away.
Also be aware that some designers will charge by the hour for your initial consultation. Sometimes that fee will be rolled into the price of the job, but be sure to get all the details before setting appointments with prospective designers.
As far as ASID interior designers go, there are several payment structures to choose from:
- Fixed or flat rate for all services rendered.
- Hourly rate
- Cost-plus – a designer will purchase materials and furnishings at cost and will mark them up (at a percentage negotiated with the client).
Or any combination of the above.
Another item you need to consider is your personal style. When you discuss your decor tastes with an interior designer, you must be very specific about what it is you like and don’t like.
A good interior designer should be able put their personal style on the back burner and focus exclusively on yours. Avoid interior designers that have a signature look – unless, of course, that look meshes with your design taste.
The best way to find out about a designer’s style and range is to ask to view their portfolio. If you don’t connect with any of the designer’s work, it is time move on to another designer.
Communication Is Key
Although you are trusting the instincts and experience of an interior designer to create the perfect space for you, you must be able to communicate what you want in your home. If a designer is not making you happy with their choices, let them know!
Whether it is something as abstract as design direction or as specific as wall color; you need to feel comfortable in your ability to communicate your wants to your designer. Before you select an interior designer, you might want to put together a file consisting of images from magazines of favorite room designs, personal travel photographs, furniture pieces, fabrics, lighting, etc., that express your design aesthetic.
Become acquainted with interior paint colors by visiting the home improvement center and picking up color chips that you like. Likewise, visit a few furniture stores and snap photos of furniture pieces that fit with your design vision. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to become familiar with industry jargon, so you are not caught unawares when conversing with your designer.
Don’t forget to take an inventory of your existing furniture and accessories and determine which pieces you want to incorporate into your new design.
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I've given you the basics -- now you're ready to go out and hire an interior designer. Have fun with it!
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