Questions To Ask An Interior Designer - Behind the Scenes Series, Part II
Last week, I posted my suggestions about How Do You Pick An Interior Designer? (CLICK HERE) but did not really go into the detailed questions to ask an interior designer. So let’s dig into that just a bit here as we continue our Behind the Scenes Series.
Going through the process of selecting a professional with whom you will be working for an extended period of time can sometimes feel like dating. “Is s/he the right one for me? Do we have the same long term goals? What if it doesn’t work out?” I’m only partially kidding. It’s a good analogy though. So here are a few opening questions to as an interior designer as you meet with them:
What sort of projects are a good fit for your firm?
Posing this question, you are looking for a little bit of discrimination. Not every project is a good fit for every firm.(Just like dating, right?) Even if the designer does not have years of experience, the designer should be able to narrow down where their “lane” is. Whether it is a particular style of design and/or a client’s personality fit, they should not be “right” for everyone and be able to explain to you who they are right for.
What is your design process?
Interior design is not fairy dust and rainbows and POOF your design is delivered. And even though this is a creative process, there should be a process. You should be looking for how the designer learns about you and your preferences, how they work with outside contractors that may be needed for your project, and whether or not they provide any communication – or collaboration – throughout the development of the design. We have a 16 step “experience” that we introduce to our clients during our first meeting and explain it acts as our roadmap through each project.
Can you work within my budget?
Getting all of the nuances of money out of the way early in the relationship is key to a good relationship. And, just like dating, it’s important that these big details are 100% understood by all parties before proceeding together. You don’t want to be so invested in the project and find out halfway to completion that your budget is spent. So you need to be up front with how much you have earmarked for the project. Don’t play coy and say you have $150,o00, when really you’re willing to spend $175,000. You should be able to share those details with the designer and let them know that you WANT to spend $150K, but are WILLING to spend $175K if it makes sense and trust she won’t go all willy nilly spending that extra money if it’s not necessary.
How do you charge?
This question should be in line with the overall budget question. Did you know there is no single way to charge within the interior design industry? Yah. We are literally all over the place. Some designers charge by the hour, some by the square foot, some charge a markup on the furnishings. It’s important that you understand how your money is being spent and what value you are getting for it each step along the way. It has taken my firm a long time and quite a few years of data to really dial in our pricing structure. And although interior design is a luxury service, our goal is to be good stewards of our clients’ money, providing a good return on their investment, while also creating a solid profit for the business. At the end of the project, everybody should feel like they were treated fairly and respectfully.
What are my responsibilities during this process?
Yes, you do have responsibilities throughout the project. If nothing else, your promise to provide honest feedback and prompt responses is key. Some designers work in a very collaborative manner and you’re along each step of the way, possibly pre-approving items prior to them working the piece into the design. Other designers enjoy the freedom to explore options and present you with the final selections all at once. In most instances, we work somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, depending upon the client’s preferences. But we do require our clients make decisions within a specified timeframe, or run the risk of delaying the project.
(More) questions to ask an interior designer:
Those are the most important questions to ask an interior designer as you interview. Here are few more to consider within your conversation(s):
- How many projects do you work on at a time?
- How long would you anticipate my project to take? And does our availability align?
- How do you resolve problems during the project? (Furniture arrives damaged, wrong piece was received, etc.)
- Do you track price differences / refunds / etc.? And if so, how?
- May I have a client reference?