1. Look for a full-time interior design professional
This may be a luxury service for most people, but it is important for you to look for someone where interior design is their career and not just a hobby. One way to screen for this on an initial phone call is to ask for their availability. Chances are that if your designer is available to meet with you right away, there is a probable reason. If they are booked out a few weeks, this is a good sign they are busy and in demand because of their talent and reputation. Make sure you are not hiring an interior decorator that may not have the educational background to support their talent. It is possible you may end up paying the same price for someone who is less qualified. Don’t forget, you deserve the best!
2. Check for references and a professionally photographed portfolio
Look for references from both clients and contractors. It is important that your designer has a positive reputation in her field as well as among her clients. Also, the interior designer’s portfolio should also be professionally photographed and show the level of work that you expect on your project. This is his/her representation before you meet in person- a picture and/or a website says 1000 words!
3. Education is the foundation
A reputable education in design could mean the difference between the ability to work with architects and not understanding how to read a set of construction documents. Often, interior designers are responsible for creating construction details and plans that will be shared among the architect, general contractor and subcontractors. Do not be afraid to ask for education qualifications.
4. What is your project scope, timeline and budget?
It is important to clearly define what your expectations are so that your interior designer can understand the parameters before agreeing to your project. After a project scope and timeline are established, you should be presented with a written proposal to review and sign. This contract should include the designer’s hourly rate and an estimate or proposal for the project scope. All other fees should be written in this document. Unexpected expenses are unprofessional and may cause you to lose trust.
5. Show a maximum of 10 sample pictures of things you like
You don’t want to create confusion. Designers are intuitive, and their job is to get to know you to figure out what you would fall in love with. Ideas are always helpful, especially for an initial consultation, but remember not to overwhelm yourself or your designer. Clear and concise ideas will result in a more efficient process and a more beautiful outcome.
6. Your style is YOUR style.
Check your designer’s portfolio. Do all the images look the same or is it evident that each gallery depicts the client’s taste? Your interior designer should never push her style, nor influence yours. Remember, this is your home and it should offer a personalized reflection of you.
7. Yes, there should be a discount!
A fair interior designer will pass on their designer discount when ordering furniture, area rugs, lighting, art & accessories. This is part of the value that they provide. Think of it this way- your savings could cover the hourly wage of your designer and STILL save you money in the end. Did you ever think an interior designer could be free? Luxury services do have their perks!
8. A professional presence with a professional experience
Something to consider while going through this process, is that you want an established interior designer that can offer a professional place to meet with you, make selections and receive your newly ordered furniture. Look for supporting team members that may be able to take your phone calls or answer your email while your designer is busy with other clients. The more established your designer is, the better your experience will be.
9. Look for more value
A designer’s value is also attributed to their external resources. Make sure to ask for business alliances and a team of reliable and insured subcontractors. Ask- how long have you been working together? Look for evidence of loyalty and professionalism in your designer’s network. This will say a lot about who they are and the quality of their service.
10. Protect yourself
There is no surprise that you will be making an investment in your designer and the valuables that will be provided by them. It is only a proactive decision to request a proof of insurances. All interior designers should have commercial liability insurance as well as worker’s compensation insurance. Designers will be receiving and delivering expensive items that you paid for, so make sure protection is in place.