First of all, interior design is a very personal service. One that requires quite a bit of trust – from both parties. When exploring how to pick an interior designer that is right for YOU, all of the following points are moot if there is no trust. The client must trust the designer will be able to interpret their style and translate it within budget – and the promised timeframe. And the designer needs to trust the client to speak up, share their honest thoughts, likes, dislikes, budget, and so forth – and then allow the designer to express creativity in the design delivered.
So, without further ado, here are a few key points to remember when you’re considering hiring an interior designer.
Confirm the designer’s aesthetic lines up with what you want. Does the designer specialize in one specific style? If that style isn’t what you want in your house, even if the photos are beautiful, the designer is not the best one for you. AND – key point – make sure the photos in the portfolio are actually the work of the designer. Yes, some designers use stock photos (or other designers’ work downloaded from the internet) to begin or expand their portfolio.
Did you know that budgeting is not a subject taught within the interior design degree? Yah. Me neither until I hired a degreed designer and had to teach her what the word meant. haha. Seriously though, unless you have a money tree growing in the backyard (and if you do, pssst…please call me), it’s imperative that your designer be able to advise and approve your budget for the deliverables you are asking for. Otherwise, the experience is going to be very uncomfortable when you have to tell your designer to make different selections because you’re not willing to pay for what was presented, no matter how much you love it.
The topic of budget is a great segue to learning how the designer’s business model is basically set up. Yes, this is a business for most of us, and not a hobby, so we are here to make a profit. But you should understand where your money is going. Maybe not to the nickel, per se, but a general transparency is key. The business of interior design is not regulated, so we all run our businesses differently.
In general, there is a design fee – this is the cost to receive the design genius solutions to your space.
There is a Procurement Fee, which is applied to the actual order placement and tracking. I’ll be writing a blog on that step soon, because there is a LOT that goes into this step. Creating custom designs entails more than just clicking on an item, dropping it into a virtual shopping cart and checking out.
Finally, most designers and decorators receive discounts from vendors who sell “To the Trade”. This means our access to unique furnishings, art and accessories create a design that will be unique to you, and probably not including pieces that your neighbor purchased at Nebraska Furniture Mart. We pass on some of our discount to our clients, and depending on the size and scope of the project, we have often seen that the amount of savings for our clients off of the MSRP is substantial enough to offset the actual design fee. More on this in a future post too. (Whew, I just created a lot of content I need to create!)
The amount of detail that goes into a single room is astounding (do you KNOW how many details go into a single custom pillow? If not, stay tuned, I’ll put that into my Procurement Blog). Not only the actual design selections, but tracking invoices received, payments made, shipments, tracking damages and so forth. And not to forget, coordinating the trades, AND keeping you apprised each week is a huge endeavor that one must be well organized and prepared for. We manage our details both online and within project and order binders.
Of course, at the end of the day, how to pick an interior designer, the personality match is HUGE. Do you believe you will enjoy working with this person (or team) for an extended duration? Do you believe he / she will listen to you and treat you respectfully when you request changes? Are they fun? Or do they take themselves very seriously? (And which of those personalities are more appealing to you?)
Consider “interviewing” 2 -3 designers and see who you “click” with. They may cost a little more. They may cost a little less. But consider the overall package of what they are promising, how they promise to deliver and how you feel when you’re in their presence. Do you feel intimated? Or welcomed? Judged? Or understood? Intuition will generally lead you accurately if you listen to your gut.
This “how to pick an interior designer” post is a great start to the Behind the Scenes details in a Design Studio Series. I’ll share some specific questions you should ask when you’re interviewing designers that you can add to your ideas.
And if you would like to discuss your own project and “interview us”, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We have years of experience creating happier and more efficient homes and begin our process with a (free) in studio Meet & Greet. Contact the team at ML Interiors Group today at 972-248-4733 or via the website contact form. We offer interior design services in all of DFW and beyond.
Originally published How Do You Pick An Interior Designer? (Part I In a Behind the Scenes Series) in 2019 by ML Interiors Group.