How to choose an interior designer

You’ve decided that its time to get serious about the design of your project. Pick an interior designer with the intent of building a relationship (ask the right questions, meet and get comfortable, continue with some more detailed questions). The relationship between an interior designer and a client is dynamic, built to handle tough questions, and founded on trust. Trust is critical because the designer is going all-in with creative vision and because the client is going all-forward in a constructive and directive manner.

We go a little off the beaten path here: most resources you’ll find mention style and aesthetic. They point out online photos, pinterest boards, and ideabooks. We advise to only take these references with a grain of salt. A good interior designer will create a space unique to your style and aesthetic. Don’t know what that is? A good designer is there to help you find it. Don’t allowing social media FOMO to impress someone else’s style on your space. Create something that is specifically for you.

Step 1: Get references

getting interior design references from friends and family

Photo by @criene

The best source of information for lawyers, contractors, dentists, etc etc is client referral. Talk with friends about who did their design work. Get an honest opinion and short story about the interior designer’s involvement with the project. We see lots of comparisons of the interior design search process to online dating. In our opinion, finding a complete designer-stranger online through “online dating” mentality can result in a shoddy “Match”. Keep things old-school and shake some hands, get to know who used what firm for their project, and vet people on word-of-mouth reputation.

You are looking for a designer that

  • aligns with your personality
  • empathizes with your needs
  • understands your priorities
  • communicates comfortably
  • collaborates compatibly

Step 2: Grab a coffee with your two top choices

photo by

Make a point to get to know the interior designers as people. Style and aesthetic are important, but the collaboration between client and designer is paramount. We suggest meeting with at least two if not three designers to get a feel for who you would be working with – and to make sure that the right fit sticks out.

Just as you wouldn’t marry the first human you met, make an effort to meet an array of designers. Take some time to meet with a couple of designers in person. A mistake is to choose a designer based solely upon a photography shoot. Keep in mind, what you see is partially work of the designer, partially the work of the photographer. You are hiring an interior designer to make a space for you, not someone else. A few topics to discuss:

– How many projects do you work on at a given time?- How do you decide which projects are right for your firm?
– What’s your internal structure, and who would I work with on your team other than you?
– How long would you anticipate the project to be completed?
– Does our availability line up?
– Are you comfortable with ______? (Anything special to your situation like dogs, kids, fabric allergies)
– What is your project management style and what will you expect of me?
– How do you keep track of my budget, payments, and refunds?
– Is there a particular style/example that you like or that you don’t like?
– How do you resolve supplier/contractor problems during the project?
Make the budget a part of the very first discussion. There’s nothing worse than not discussing expectations and having both designer and client hearts broken due to a lack of resource planning. If you’re unsure about a budget, do a little research before you meet to get a better understanding of what things cost. Furnishings and finishes can go from affordable to astronomical.

Step 3: Collaborate

interior designer reviewing plans with client

@ijeab via Twenty20

This is the time to bust out that pinterest board. Show your designer what you would like to accomplish in style and aesthetic. A good designer can pull influence from a clients taste in music, sport, art, and lifestyle. Make sure to introduce all of the influences you find important.

The best working relationships are created when interior design is a collaborative effort. You’ve put in the time to setting things up – its time to make that space yours!


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