I hear it all the time - “Hiring a designer is terrifying - I have no clue what to expect!” In a day and age of DIY and HGTV, not many people have experience working with designers, and what they’ve seen is edited down for TV. If you’re looking to outsource your home design, starting the process can be intimidating. So, in my normal, brutally honest fashion, I’m going to lay out everything you need to know before you hire a designer.
Not all designers are the same.
The interior design field is the same as any other creative field: it’s full of varying styles, cost, capabilities, experience and talent. Before you head off to email every designer in your area, take a look at their website and social media - make sure their style is in line with yours! Be sure to keep an eye out for credentials - when it comes to taking down walls, moving plumbing, and selecting quality finishes, you’ll want someone experienced and knowledgeable.
Interior Designer =/= Interior Decorator
Interior designers are educated and equipped to handle anything within the shell of a building, such as renovations and finishes. They see the project through construction, renovation, and decoration. Interior decorators do not require the same level of education and focus on the existing surfaces, such as soft furnishings and decor. It’s important to know the difference. Many areas have laws that require education and licensing to call yourself an interior designer, however some don’t - so be sure you know your designer’s background before diving into a project.
Interior Design can be Affordable
One of the most common things I hear is “I wish I could hire an interior designer!” Don’t be sure you can’t - many designers offer a wide range of budget friendly services! Don’t be afraid to ask for a quote.
Know what you want.
Now, I know this seems basic, but this is an important one. It’s important to have some basics in mind before you begin looking for a designer. Do you know the scope of your project? Do you have a basic budget in mind? A designer can walk you through options, but it’s good to have a solid kicking off point.
The Design process takes time
Be aware that the design process is very different in real life than it is on TV - it’s a lengthy process with a lot of moving parts. Designers put a lot of thought and energy into every piece they select - for every step you see, there’s many hours of work behind it. If you want a truly custom, curated space that reflects you, expect it to take time.
We’re not mind readers.
It’s SO important to articulate what is important to you. What you deem hideous, someone else may deem beautiful, so be honest. A brutally honest client always ends up happier than a silent one. We want you to be happy in your space. Don’t be afraid to use your voice - if you’re having concerns, or you’re not loving a direction, talk to your designer.
Understand Pricing Structures
There are a wide range of pricing structures that designers use. It’s important to understand them and what they mean, so you understand exactly what you’re buying. These are the three most common structures.
Cost Plus - this means the designer is making money off of the sale of the furniture. They are buying furniture at a discount (known as trade pricing) and selling it to you at retail cost.
Hourly - The designer has a set rate per hour for the work completed on the project - this includes shopping, drawing, meetings, etc. This is usually billed in cycles, such as monthly.
Fixed Fee - The cost of the services rendered is settled upon up front. The scope of the project is established before the project is started. This may require full payment or a hefty deposit prior to beginning the design process.
Many designers do a variation or combination of these billing processes, and all of them are valid. Just because a designer is charging a fixed fee + hourly doesn’t mean you’re being ripped off - they’ve just broken up their costs differently. Transparency is becoming increasingly important in the design industry, so it’s good to know what you’re paying for and how you’re paying it.
Hiring a designer is a super personal process - this is someone you’re going to be letting into your home, and into your life for a substantial amount of time. It’s important to make sure you hire someone who is a good fit, who you’re comfortable with, and who’s style aligns with yours. Hiring a designer that’s right for you from the beginning can make a world of difference, and can make the experience a joyful one.