Updated: May 26
I was talking to a prospective client the other day and they mentioned they did not know what to expect from a professional designer as it's their first time. I thought this might be a good idea for a blog topic.
Years ago, if you received a call from a prospective client they most probably had used a designer before, you had to have a lot of money as we were regarded as a luxury.
Nowadays, due to the advent of reality TV shows and accessibility of product due to the internet creating general knowledge of the subject; more and more people are wanting to create their perfect home with help from a professional. And, you know, it's not easy making the right decisions about space, size, colour or finishes, and if you need to rip out a bathroom or kitchen and start again, you really will need professional guidance.
INTERIOR DECORATOR V INTERIOR DESIGNER
You might not realise, but there is a difference between the two. Some qualified designers that have gone to college and achieved a degree within the interior design discipline, can get very upset with wannabes that think they have a good eye and can do the job well. Now, some can, but some can't. I would always say to anyone that is looking for a designer to make sure they are qualified first. This is easily done with platforms such as Houzz, Instagram and BIID, to be a member of this the designer would have to be approved as a professional. A decorator normally deals with just colours and final finishes, a designer will consider more of the technical aspect of a space and make it work, maybe move walls, plumbing, electrical, floor and joinery details.
WHAT TO EXPECT
So, what should you expect? I would recommend a face to face meeting, either in person or using a video conferencing app such as Zoom, which are so easy to use nowadays. You need to know if you like each other and if your chemistry clicks.
We need to be guided by you. The designer will ask you what you are looking for. They will ask you if you have collated images using a Pinterest or Intagram account. Pinterest is an efficient way of privately sharing images between client and designer so they can build up an idea of styles you like. I would recommend creating a wish list of your of what you'd like to create. The designer will then take that info on board and interpret this into a feasible design scheme and solve your big, and small, design problems.
It's important to let them know your budget. Not all clients want to do this because they feel they might be leaving money on the table and the work might have come in cheaper if they had not disclosed this figure. That's really not the case. You know how much you want to spend, it's down to the designer to create a scheme within that budget. It wastes your time and the designers if they do not have a good idea of how much you would like to spend. If for some reason it's more than you expected it's up to the designer to explain why. As a client you should always be in control of your budget and project and work closely with your designer.
Just talk to each other. The designer will provide you with a breakdown of the cost which you will or will not agree with. Depending on what level of service you have discussed with them, they will provide you with a colour scheme, layouts, specification of product, elevations, and even a 3D visual, if this is covered in their fees and your budget.
Most customers expect a visual of some sort, whether it be a coloured elevation or a full 3D visual. These are expensive to produce as they are time consuming, there are also different levels of rendering available. Your designer can explain this to you. Not all fee levels offered by the designer will provide this level of service, it's best to ask and see if this fits in with your budget.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT/BUILDING WORKS
This is another level of service that some designers offer at an hourly rate or as a percentage of the overall build cost. The designer can easily manage the installation of furniture and fittings and this might be within your quoted cost, but best to check. Your designer should be making sure that large pieces of furniture can fit through doorways and hallways, a costly mistake otherwise.
The interior designer can oversee the building work to an extent, but it is up to the builder to make sure he is on time and budget and the quality is up to standard. Make sure the builders come with good testimonials, go and see a job they have done. Please don't try and squeeze your builder on price and try and save money. A Joe Bloggs builder might be cheap and quick but from experience will cause all sorts of problems further down the line.
Please do not put unreasonable pressure on your designer to complete the design of your home quickly, they should be advising you how long your project will take. Designing your dream home will take time and should not be rushed. Why would you rush something where you will be spending most of your time and is precious to you, it needs to be thought through and nurtured, with a reasonable and agreed timescale that is kept to.
Of course every client and designer is different and there are many solutions out there for you. I believe the process should be as transparent as possible with no surprises from the client or the designer.
I hope this helps you make your decisions if you are thinking about using a professional interior designer - your home, and you, deserve it.