A Beginner’s Guide:  Working with An Interior Designer for The First Time

I have wanted to write on this subject for a while as I personally work with a lot of first timer’s, as such I have spent a significant amount of time note taking and collecting data.  If you have never worked with an interior designer before, the idea of hiring someone can feel like a daunting task, especially if you do  not know what to expect from the process.  Additionally, the design process can be expensive which is why we have compiled a list of what to expect before you begin working with your interior designer.

You have done your due diligence, you now completely understand the difference between a decorator and a designer, and you have selected the perfect interior designer for your project.  Congratulations!  Working with an interior designer is a positive, game changing experience.  I promise I am not just saying this because I am an interior designer!

Have Realistic Expectations

Before you begin, it is best to first understand your wants, needs and budget in order to accomplish them.  It is also important to consider if you will need the assistance of experts beyond your interior designer, such as a general contractor.  Your designer will present you with ideas on how to improve your space; help guide your designer by preparing with sample photos of spaces you like or specific pieces you are interested in.  On the flip side, you can also express what you do not like to your designer.  General guidance will help your designer better understand your sense of style and personal desires.

As a side note, and setting proper expectations every seasoned interior designer will tell you that as much as we all love to watch home design shows, they have done quite a bit of a disservice.  On television, they do not show the teams of laborers working behind the scenes, nor do they always fully disclose the cost of materials and labor.  The best way to get a handle on an anticipated budget and duration of a project is by asking your designer for this information upfront.

Remodeling and/or furnishing any space can add up quickly so it is important to understand the number you give your interior designer may feel like a large amount for you, it might not always be a realistic number to accomplish everything you want.  You must consider cost of design, shipping, delivery, installation, etc…

Trust Your Designer

Letting go can often be the hardest part of the design process.  Keep in mind that your designer is a pro and you need someone to help guide you- that is why you have hired them in the first place!  While some clients let their designer go in whichever creative direction they please, most wish to be involved in the decision-making process.  Collaboration is necessary and should be expected.  Ask your designer how much input they want up front so that they may do what they do best, for you.  Each designer has a unique process that allows them to work at maximum efficiency.  It is important to follow your designer’s lead and provide honest feedback when asked.

The bond between an interior designer and a client is sacred.  In order to achieve a successful working relationship with your designer, you need to be able to trust them.  It is important to remain true to who you are and what you wish for your space, yet keep an open mind and allow your designer to design.  When trust happens, beautiful things happen.  A great designer will find the perfect balance between your comfort zone and their design vision for your space.

Respect Your Designer

Every interior designer works differently and it is important to ask any billing questions you may have upfront and be specific to your project.  Most designers charge like attorneys do.  Read your design agreement thoroughly and ask prior to signing if anything is unclear.  Each designer has a unique way of billing and discounts are not always a given.  There is a common misconception that clients will always receive discounts when working with an interior designer.  It is important to understand your specific designer’s policy.

It is common that clients and their designer will form a close bond, because the nature of the job is very intimate.  As the client, it is important to understand that your designer most likely has multiple clients and multiple projects at the same time.  Understand your specific designer’s office hours, as well as the best ways to communicate. Is it best to text, email or pick up the phone and call?  More often than not, a professional designer is often in the field and not always near a computer.

Communication is Key

Above all, excellent communication is the key to making sure your design project comes to fruition the way you expect.  Often, new clients are hesitant to make their opinions known because they feel they are less knowledgeable than the designer, but at the end of the day, you, the client, are the one who will need to be happy with the end result.  Be decisive!  Designers prefer a decisive client.  Definitive opinions make the designers job easier in the moment and happy clients will lead to future business!  If you feel the need to request changes from your designer, do so immediately.  Feedback is necessary early on to ensure that changes can be made prior to purchases or additional fees incur.  Furthermore, it is extremely important to communicate with your significant other.  You cannot expect the designer to always be able to decipher if you disagree with your partner and have a different vision for the space.

Be Patient

Few designers nail every detail perfectly on the first try.  Designing any space is a process, one that requires a good amount of exploration.  As much fun as it sounds, deciding the best layout for a room, selecting finishes, determining patterns, etc… it is much harder than designers let show.  A successful interior designer is invested in making sure that interior spaces reflect the people that reside in them.  Your designer is creative and intuitive.  As the client, you might need time to deliberate on your own.  Making the commitment to delve into this process means you must give yourself ample time to get the job done right the first time.

Some clients take longer to pull triggers than others, which definitely impacts the pace of the project.  Great design does not happen overnight, concepts take time to develop and items are not always readily available in a warehouse somewhere- patience will always pay off in the end.

Trust Your Instincts

Being confident in your decision is important, but time can get away from you if you find yourself constantly weighing and changing options.  There will always be hundreds of other chairs, pillow, art works, countertops and tiles out there, but if you like what you see early on- commit.  Let go of the anxiety and fear that something better is around the corner.  This type of immobility can halt a project in its tracks, leaving you overwhelmed and under-designed.  Simply follow your instincts each step of the way and your designer will keep you on track to bring together all of your favorite pieces in a smart and stylish way.

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