A home redesign can take months — sometimes years — and finding the right interior designer can make all the difference. Both in the end product and the experience overall. But how do you choose the right interior designer for your project?
This is a question I’ve been eager to address for a while. Partly because it’s so important, and partly because almost half of the project inquiries I receive are from clients who’ve never worked with a designer before. And there’s often a lot they don’t know about the design process and the importance of selecting the right interior designer for their project.
So, after over fifteen years as a design professional, here are my tips to help you find the right interior designer.
First of all, get clear on the scope of your project.
To choose an interior designer, you need to have a good understanding of your goals for a redesign. Is it a total remodel or are you simply looking for a design refresh for your existing space? The ideal interior designer for these two projects might be different.
Like doctors and lawyers, most designers have a specialty — residential, commercial, or hospitality. Some focus solely on kitchen design. Others might only take on coastal homes over 5K sq. feet. Spend some time researching and find the right designer for your home or project.
Now is also the time to consider your budget. Designers have different rates and fee structures, often based on skill sets, experience, credentials, and location. Keep that in mind during your search if budget is an important factor.
The key is to find the right designer for you.
A designer’s job extends far beyond selecting pretty furnishings and fixtures. It may be tempting to choose an interior designer based on a gorgeous Instagram, but there’s so much more involved in a good designer/client relationship.
We tailor a space to your habits, your lifestyle, and your needs, desires, and goals. To accomplish this, you need to be comfortable with us and transparent about your life. Your relationship with an interior designer will be an intimate one! Many of my own clients become dear friends, and that chemistry shows in the final design results. Take time to decide if your personalities are compatible and find a person you won’t mind spending some time with.
It’s also important to find a designer who shares your values and priorities. For example:
Are you passionate about shopping local or using sustainably sourced materials? Some designers are experts at this. Others are not.
Have five dogs but your designer “isn’t really an animal person”? It might sound simplistic, but if your designer doesn’t understand the realities of pet hair, she might steer you down the wrong path in materials selection.
Same goes for designing with young children in mind. Because when it comes to toddler jam hands and ill-advised crayon masterpieces, all upholstery is not created equal.
Take the time to find a designer who understands not only your aesthetic — but your life.
Gather design inspiration.
Don't show up unprepared - have magazine images or a Pinterest board ready to show your prospective interior designer from the get go. Visual communication is more clear than verbal and you'll be able to better illustrate what what you’re looking for.
These images often reveal more than just aesthetic preferences, providing insight into your goals for quality and functionality. Be clear about your expectations and hopes so your designer can be honest about whether or not they see your project as a good fit.
Not sure where to find a great interior designer?
You may be in love with Kelly Werstler’s (goddess) or Amber Interiors’ (also goddess) aesthetic, but unable to afford their fees or wait three years for them to have an opening. So where do you find the right interior designer?
Talk to your friends. Referrals are the best way to find a great designer because you have a first-hand account of a designer’s work.
Ask around at local design or furniture showrooms. They’re always in the know and many of them are also owned by designers.
Look around your neighborhood. The projects that look like they’re going well? It’s because they are. Make friends with that neighbor and ask them who designed their home.
Ask another designer. Maybe you follow them on Insta or considered them for a project that didn’t pan out. Ask them! The design community is incredibly tight-knit. We all know each other and are happy to steer clients to other colleges that might be right for them.
To hire the right interior designer, ask the right questions.
There’s always a surprise or two (or ten) in a remodel or redesign — items on backorder or a contractor who’s a week behind schedule. But there shouldn’t be any mysteries when it comes to an interior designer’s rates, fees, or process.
At all of my initial consultations with prospective clients, we begin by touring the projects and discussing their goals and scope. Then, I sit down with them and read through my contract line by line to make sure they understand every detail of how their project will run and be managed. This step is so important. If a designer doesn’t take the time to make sure you’re clear on their process and procedures, that’s a red flag.
At your initial meeting, make sure you understand:
Every line of their contract or agreement.
How and why they charge for their time, plus any additional fees for items sold to you.
Their work process flow. How do they achieve and communicate milestones? What deliverable should you expect at every phase of your project? Double-check that your communication styles, preferences, and expectations align.
Who you’ll be working with. Some designers are solo or have a few employees — meaning you’ll end up working directly with them most of the time. Others have larger firms. So, you may end up primarily communicating and meeting with a senior designer or project manager throughout your project. Neither is right or wrong, good or bad, but clarity at the onset is important.
When it comes to hiring an interior designer, there’s a lot to consider. But a little research and planning can lay the foundation for a spectacular end result and a wonderful designer/client relationship for years to come.