Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring an Interior Designer
Interior Designer Questions
Designing your home is a highly personal endeavor. You want the person you hire to “get” you, be someone whom you trust and can see spending a lot of time with, who communicates well and works within the confines of your budget.
The initial consultation offers the best time to determine if you and the designer make a good fit. Of course, that’s only true if you come to the consultation prepared. Before signing on the dotted line, ask the designer to answer the following questions. Write down any other questions you may have, and record the designer’s answers to your questions to make the most of your consultation time.
1. What Is Your Signature Style?
Fun or quirky, classical or traditional, eclectic or minimalist, nearly every designer favors a certain style. That does not necessarily mean that he or she is not a good fit for your project, but if you want a minimalist aesthetic, a designer with maximalist sensibilities may not be the best choice.
One way to get a feel for a designer’s style before meeting is to view his or her portfolio, since the average designer tends to favor projects that match his or her signature style.
2. What Will the Level of Collaboration Be?
Do you want the designer to manage the entire project, making all decisions? Do you prefer to work together, sharing your vision and preferences, but accepting the designer’s input and suggestions where appropriate? Or, would you like a mid-point, where you explain your preferred style and tone for the space and then trust the designer to handle the rest? Some designers prefer the freedom to go nuts in the design space, while others prefer a more collaborative partnership.
Another collaborative question concerns the hiring of subcontractors. Some clients have preferred subs, such as painters and flooring experts. Others are happier working with crews chosen by the designer. Before beginning your project, it’s a good idea to make sure you and the designer are on the same page regarding collaboration.
3. What Is the Timeline for Completion?
The client needs to understand his or her expectations regarding timeline, as well as what is possible (or not possible) for quick turnaround jobs. For example, if yours is a rush job, this typically forbids custom pieces. If your home is under construction and you’re hiring a designer to have everything ready by the time you move in, make sure it’s a realistic expectation.
Only your interior designer knows for sure how much lead-time he or she requires. Explain your preferences and get a feel for the designer’s ability to complete the project in the time you require.
4. How Do You Help Me Understand Your Design Ideas?
One of the reasons many clients hire interior designers is their inability to visualize what a space will look like before redesign. They simply cannot see the finished product in their mind’s eye. One of the jobs of designers is to communicate those ideas to help clients see what they see.
Look for an interior designer who uses some type of drawing system, whether it’s old-fashioned pen and paper or a graphic design program. Obviously, the designer won’t have drawings on your project yet, but you can ask to see examples from previous projects, as well as samples of the types of items used, including flooring samples and fabrics.
Ask the designer to walk you through the drawing examples. If you can envision the finished product based on the designer’s walk-through, this is a good sign.
5. What Do You Charge, and How Do You Figure the Cost?
You know your budget and, if you’ve done a bit of homework, you have a basic idea of what your project may cost. If not, look at the rates of designers in your area, as well as what you might pay for materials. During your consultation, after you share some details about your project and your prospective budget, ask the designer for a quote.
When interviewing designers, ask about their rates; there is no standard price for this work. Some charge hourly, some have a flat rate, and others include a markup on the products used in the design. Some designers may even do all of the above. This all combines to make comparing the rates of different designers difficult.
You’re looking for a designer who fits with you in multiple areas, not solely by price (though, obviously, your budget is important). One of the things to consider when the designer gives you a quote is how well he or she explains the charges.
There are pros and cons to both hourly and flat rates. Typically, hourly projects do not come with caps. If the project scope expands or takes longer than anticipated, prices may balloon. Flat rates offer more reliability as to price, but you must clearly define the project’s scope before work begins. If anything changes, you need to complete a change order, which typically also requires an additional design fee.
When you schedule a consultation with a designer, prepare ahead of time to make the best use of your consult. These questions make a great starting point and cover most of your bases to help you find the right design team to complete your project.[ssba]