In an attempt to clarify the often mystifying field of interior design, I’ve added this section of Frequently Asked Questions. However, I think it’s important to clarify one thing first: you don’t have to be rich to hire an interior designer. As a matter of fact, working with the right professional can actually save not only money, but stress and time as well.
Another salient overview comment: Throughout my career I’ve seen women struggle with the admission that they need help in their homes. Somehow everyone feels they should be able to cook beautifully, raise perfect children, entertain like Martha Stewart, hold down a full time job and design like a professional. Unfortunately, the Do It Yourself shows have really fed into this belief. The truth is, it takes time, practice, and skill to learn any job well, and though burning an entrée isn’t too distressing, making an interior design mistake can be costly and frustrating. My feeling is that we’re in the new millennium and we should have an up to date plan of action: knowing when and how to hire a professional!
FAQ: How can I afford to hire an interior designer?
There are a great many designers who are happy to work with people on an affordable, per-project basis—selecting paint colors, finding the right window treatments, designing a small bathroom, and so on. Be up front with your needs, and maybe start the project with a one hour consultation. This will allow you to interview the designer on any subject that you want, including where to get drapes, what they cost, and what other suggestions the designer would have for your home. If you’ve seen some drapes at Pottery Barn that you think might work, ask about them! The bottom line is that working with a designer can save you money in many situations by allocating resources wisely, eliminating design mistakes, and increasing creative thinking about your project.
FAQ: What if I have a larger project—a whole room or remodeling project?
The secret is to match the appropriate designer with your job. With recommendations from friends and some internet research, identify a few designers you’d like to interview. Most designers charge a basic rate to come to your home no different than any other professional, but get this worked out before the appointment. You should feel comfortable not only establishing the experience and skill of the designer, but also talking about your specific job. Determine how they work, what they charge, how much input you will have, where they shop, and what hidden costs can be involved. Be clear about your budget—this is very important. A skilled designer should be able to tell you if your budget is realistic and if it represents IKEA or the Design Center.
FAQ: Do I have to get rid of all my stuff?
Gone are the days when an interior designer would dramatically sweep her arm encompassing your whole room, and announce that everything must go! Today’s interior designer is a collaborator, helping you identify what should stay and what should be replaced. Even if everything eventually does go, it should be cut into a manageable, step-by-step process. You don’t have to get everything at once; you can decorate in stages. Be realistic about the things you are willing to spend a lot on, like a sofa or new bed, and what things are less permanent (inexpensive throw pillows and accessories).
FAQ: How do I collaborate with an interior designer?
Sometimes you know what you want, but don’t know how to put everything together. For many homeowners, picking out a nice sofa isn’t the issue; it’s trying to pair that sofa with a rug. Or maybe you have all the foundations in place, but your home still lacks warmth and personality. There’s no right or wrong way to design a home, but it takes some skill to bring it all together. If you’re at the start of your project, bring all your pictures, dreams and hopes to the first meeting and make sure there is a clear understanding of your vision. The more information you can give to your designer the better. Be up front with your budget—this is key. Start slow so that you verify that the connection between your ideas and the designer’s product is what you want. If you’re near the end of your project when you hire the designer, drag out all your pictures and expectations again. If you’ve given it your best shot and the end result still doesn’t match your hopes, you may need to let go of some purchases in order to achieve your original goal. Remember, design is a collaborative process in which a designer honestly tells you what works and what doesn’t.
FAQ: What if my partner and I don’t agree on what we want?
I recently told a client that a designer’s degree from college automatically includes a degree in psychology. While that’s obviously not true, it’s a skill every designer should have. My secret? I always, always try to work with both partners. I’ve found it imperative that I hear both partners opinions and they hear mine. That way I’m not aligned with either party and don’t become a personal bludgeoning tool (“Well, she said my idea was good”).
Have another question regarding your project? Give me a call or send me an email. I’m happy to answer as many questions as you have. The more we understand each other, the more successful your project will be.