What to Expect When you are Expecting a Designer~ All your questions answered!

What to Expect When you are Expecting a Designer~ All your questions answered!

  • Blair Armstrong
  • 05/26/23

Are you new to the interior design world? Or maybe you are a seasoned professional when it comes to working with an interior designer, or maybe you just have questions about the whole process.

Good news, we have compiled a list of Most Asked Questions to help you to make informed decisions from start to finish! Let’s dig in a reveal everything you need to know.

1. What’s the difference between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator? And does it matter?

We get asked this question a lot, and there are some simple and not so simple answers!

Generally, an interior designer has a specific degree in Interior Design, Interior Architecture or some other design related field. They are often licensed and hold professional certifications based on a nationally accredited program such as ASID. Interior designers usually work closely with architects, engineers and contractors to make structural changes to a home such as additions and moving walls. They can also be trained in CAD, space planning, floor and elevations, furniture and art selection as well as budget planning and project management. 

The art of interior decoration is hundreds of years old. Quite often decorators were part of a staff and assisted the more affluent members of society under complete anonymity. It was only in the early 20th century that interiors decorators started to be outwardly recognized for the talents that were usually credited to the lady of the household.  Interior decorators can also carry a degree, such as in Decorative Arts,  and there are many professional organizations that an interior decorator will be affiliated with as well. Interior decorators generally wait for the structural work to be done and then assist with the aesthetics of the space. They may advise on and  provide space planning, color direction, furniture, art and accessory sourcing, plus purchase and placement. Interior decorators tend to offer design direction of a space that has already been built. 

While there are many states that require that you be a licensed professional, the industry is still a bit behind in a nationwide consensus. 

Take into consideration your personal project and what you think is required to get the job done. We suggest interviewing several interior designers/interior decorators to make sure you both have a shared vision, timeline and work ethic for your project. There is so much more to interior design beyond design, so make sure you are getting that perfect match on all the details!

 ~ Do they have a website or an instagram account so you can take a look at their work? We are a visual bunch, so it should be pretty easy to see examples of our work!

     ~Check their Google or Houzz reviews and ask for some recommendations from clients that have done similar work. If you are looking to redo your kitchen or bath, ask if they have any clients that recently had a similar project done or look for reviews that speak to that project.

     ~How much do they charge? We’ll get a little deeper into that later, but do they charge hourly, by percentage, flat fee or something else? Do they have a minimum hourly, budget or size of project? Some interior designers may say they have a project minimum of say $30,000.00 or an 10 hour minimum. Check to make sure your project expectations align. 

     ~ Are they a full service company or do they offer A-la-Carte. Some interior design firms are Full Service, meaning they provide everything for you such as design, furnishings (recommendations, procurement, and management), CAD, project management, correspondence, and install. Others may offer just design, or furniture packages, e-design or color consults. Check to make sure their offerings match your goals.

     ~ What do they offer? Again, are they Full Service? Do they offer just space planning, kitchen or bath design, color consultation, staging, model home merchandizing? The list goes on, so make sure you both line up.

     ~ Who handles all the back end logistics? Find out whom you might be working with on a daily basis. Will it be a junior designer, or is there a project manager that will be checking in with you on a regular basis? How does the company handle correspondence, invoicing and deliveries. 

     ~ What lights them up? What else is your interior designer or decorator interested in?  This might not be a totally design related question, but it’s nice to know a bit about your potential hire beyond their credentials. 

Let’s say you find out your designer also has four kids and dogs and has spent many a weekend on a sports  field, or the local urgent care for stitches (true common ground with one of our favorite clients!). You might feel like they really get you and will know how to design for you.

3.  My interior designers contract is 17 pages! Why do I need to sign   that?

Contracts are written documents that are meant to protect both you and your designer. They will outline all the expectations for both of you as well as the Scope of Work (SOW), payments, timelines and so much important information that is essential to a smooth process. 

Every interior design firm is first and foremost a business. We are in the business of beautiful design, but we take every aspect of our multi-faceted business seriously so that we can serve our clients in the most professional manner possible. 

Please don’t ask your designer to rewrite their contract, use your contract or just don’t worry about having one. If you don’t like the way a contract is written, that designer/client relationship might not be the best fit for either of you.

4. What if I want to do my own shopping? Or, what if I find it online for less? Or, our favorite, “Look what I found at___________ today while I was out shopping!”

If it is stated in your contract that you will be doing the shopping, or if your interior designer has set up clickable links for shopping then shopping on your own has been designated from the start. If you plan on doing your own shopping, then that’s something you will want to discuss during your interview process. 

You have hired us for our expertise and we assume you mean to use it!  Our systems and practices include tracking the quality of each item, monitor lead times, select materials, researching the ethos and practices of a furniture company, overall look and design of a space and many other important details. We also take responsibility when we purchase an item, meaning we are working behind the scenes to make sure it arrives without damage, has been properly inspected and then we also deal with any claims or problems. We also take care of the logistics of getting it to your house and properly placed. We are happy to take on that responsibility as part of our services. 

We also understand that everyone wants the best deal. We are professionals and want you to know that we are giving you a fair price based on all the effort that goes into an item as well as the cultivated relationships we acquire. You can also be sure that purchasing through us guarantees that you are getting an original item and not a knock off and that it is delivered inside your house and placed, not dropped off at the end of your driveway. 

 If you happen to  find something for less, go to your designer and discuss it. There may be an online retailer that has gone rogue and it’s helpful to know that. Your interior designer/decorator may be able to go to their vendor and get a better price. It’s always worth the asking.

Please try your best not to shop us out. We take this very seriously and the penalties (check your contract) can far out weigh the savings you think you are getting. And besides, it’s just not cool!

5. Why do interior designers/decorators ask so many questions?

Our brief is to bring the dream in your mind into physical being. To create a space that reflects your passions, desires, goals and aesthetic. To create a feeling and mood that bring sanctuary to home. 

It takes some work to get there, so all the questions are just to get all those not so little details right! 

6. What if I don’t like the design?

We take a great deal of time getting to know you and assessing your needs, desires and design styles. Some times we hit it out of the park and sometimes we don’t hit the mark. Not to worry! Most every designer has revisions written into the contract. This will be the time to be specific about what you do love and what isn’t working for you. The more details you can provide, the better chance of getting just what you are looking for in the next round!

The Money Talk

The importance of having a budget

7. Why do I need a budget? I’m not sure what things cost!

The dreaded B word. Asking you what your working budget might be is one of the most important questions we ask. With this information in hand we can guide you to making your dreams a reality. If you are unsure what things cost, that’s OK! We can give you some generalities, but remember, those are just based on prior projects and your numbers could greatly differ. Getting an accurate picture of your project will be done when we create a SOW (Scope of Work) and gather all the estimates necessary to create an accurate and realistic budget. And don’t worry, we won’t spend all your money just because you gave us a budget. Our job is not to save you money, but to wisely use the money you give us!

8. What kind of a financial investment is involved in hiring designer/decorator  And why are there different ways to charge?

Design fees can differ greatly depending on what part of the country you live in, scope of work and the experience of the design team.  

What we are beginning to see, as of late, is a shift away from hourly to Project Based/Flat Fee and Percentage. 

The Project Based/Flat Fee and Percentage models give the homeowner a better understanding, up front, of the overall cost for design services and allows the homeowner to budget properly. This Flat Fee may include: Consultations, correspondence with the homeowners, subs, vendors, delivery and set up team, design boards, presentations, drawings, furniture and accessories, procurement and management, inspection delivery and placement and administrative tasks related to the project. Feel free to ask your design what the Design Fee includes. 

A Percentage Fee is based upon the overall project and also gives the homeowner an opportunity to budget. A homeowner can expect to add 10-20% of the overall budget and this will include the same services as in the Flat Fee model. Your designers percentage fee model may be included in the overall budget or may be outside the budget, just remember to ask so there are no surprises!

9. How do we know if this is the right fit?

Hiring a designer is a lot like jumping into the dating pool. The more questions you ask, the better the chance of success! 

We want you to be as specific about your expectations and personality style as you can be. 

Definitely ask your designer how they work. Some Designer/Decorators welcome input and suggestions throughout the entire project. Some Decorator/Designers will gather everything they require at the beginning of the project and will then manage the project to completion with minimal input from the clients. 

Know how you like to work. If you know that you will want to be intimately involved (notice I didn’t say micro-manage :), or you are used to being “The Boss”, it’s probably better to state that right up front to avoid any personality conflicts. 

Conversely, if you are likely to just want to keep your distance and be wowed by the result, let us know that as well so that we can serve you in the best way possible. 

Team work makes the dream work!

10. I love how the design came out, but do I really need to write a review?

Yes, yes, and yes please! We are thrilled that you love your new space and we are so grateful for referrals. Think of a quick Google or Houzz.com review as a recommendation to the friend you just don’t know yet!

If you are stumped on what to say, reach out the the designer and collaborate on the review. 

Our goal is to be with you on your next design adventure and reviews help us to do that for you and others. 

Hiring an interior designer/interior decorator is a big investment in your future, so understanding how the process works and what to expect will make it go more smoothly for everyone. 

We are excited to answer all your questions, so if there are more out there, comment here or shoot us a DM or email!

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