How To Work With An Interior Designer

Natural light in living room with antique safe bar by Michelle Gage

Alright folks, I’m going to let you in on a few designer secrets. While there is no real secret sauce, there are a few things that you can do to make your designer/client working relationship serve you best. I’m going to break down some tips on how to be an ideal client. I’m not providing these tips to imply that I need to school people on how to act. I just get a lot of questions from clients on how they can get the most out of their experience. Well, here’s how…

1. Have a vision. Many clients will hire a designer for their creativity and ability to see a room’s potential. Yes, designers are skilled at that – but keep in mind that you are the one who is most familiar with the space. If you’re interested in redesigning your tired living room, you probably already have a long list of dreams for the space. If you have a Pinterest board, share it! Ultimately, a designer’s goal is to have the space reflect the homeowner. Sharing your ideas sets the project off on the right track.

2. Have a budget. This can be a hard one. If you are working with a designer for the first time, you may not be familiar with what things can cost. However, I encourage you to try your hardest to come up with a budget. If your designer doesn’t know where you stand on certain items, you are just making her job harder and setting yourself up for disappointment. Your designer needs to know if she is sourcing you a $3,000 sofa or a $10,000 one. Remember, you’ve hired someone to design a complete space for you. In order to do so, they need the complete picture. 

3. Trust your designer. Yes, you should have a vision – but you should also trust that you have hired a capable professional to execute that vision. You have to believe that your designer has the space’s best interest in mind. Know that they bring many years of experience to the table and very aware of what is happening their industry.

4. Be decisive. This is especially important when you are using a designer that operates on an hourly rate. Being certain in what you want (and even in what you don’t) keeps the project moving along. If you’re getting hung up on every little decision, the space will stall. You just need to land on one item to get the ball rolling. That one item can be anything – sofa, rug or even a piece of art. That one decision informs the rest of the room’s needs. If you are having trouble making a decision, let your designer do it!

5. Be patient. Things take time – especially in the design world. On average, a sofa can take 8-12 weeks to be made and sent to your front door. It could take some time to get a painter out to your space to even just quote the job. These factors are outside of your designer’s control and unfortunately a fact of life. Your designer will help you navigate these unknowns, but know that many delays you’ll experience throughout the project have nothing to do with the designer’s ability to manage your project.

6. Play a part. If you aren’t really concerned with each and every item selected, hand the reigns over to the designer. If you tend to be picky, try to collaborate. I always encourage my clients to participate in the design process. More often than not, the homeowner has been the one to suggest at least one piece we wind up purchasing for their space. Know that your input is valuable. At the end of the day, you will be the one living in the home, so work with your designer to ensure the space reflects your personal style.

7. Understand your contract. Be sure to read your contracts terms and conditions. As with any form, don’t just sign on the dotted line. You really need to be familiar with how your designer operates. Her contract may have rules on late payments, photography and placing orders. If you have concerns about anything you read, be sure to ask for further clarification. My point – know who you are hiring!

If you can come to the table prepared, you’ll be set up for success. The process takes a lot of focus and determination. I wouldn’t say that it’s a hard process, but it can be emotionally taxing. You pour so much into a project – as the designer and as the client – and care so much about the results. Even if you pass the project off to your designer completely, you’ll need to review designs and orders along the way. Make sure you have the time to dedicate to such a project and be ready to be active in the process! 

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