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How to Choose the Right Interior Designer for Your Home

Updated: April 15, 2024
Are you considering hiring an interior designer for your upcoming project, but you’re not sure where to start? I understand how that is. There’s a lot of ambiguity about what kinds of services interior designers provide outside of paint colors and furniture selections. I often think we might be one of the most misunderstood specialties in the building industry. With that said, how are consumers supposed to sort through the confusion?

Below I’m sharing tips to help shine light on interior designer’s scope of work, as well as how to hire just the right interior designer for your project.

INTERIOR DESIGNER – AS A TITLE

Much of the ambiguity with the services interior designers provide is due to the confusion of the title. Theoretically, the title interior designer is reserved only for those who have completed a minimum four-year degree, plus additional certifications determined by each state, but only about half of the states in the U.S. recognize and protect the title as such.

INTERIOR DECORATOR OR INTERIOR DESIGNER

The terms interior decorator and interior designer are often used interchangeably even though they have different roles and expertise. A decorator’s focus is on the furnishings and embellishments of interior space.

Although an interior designer also shares the same skills in beautifying space, an educated interior designers’s work also involves interior architecture, designing floor plans and elevations, determining where walls, doors and windows are are located, and how the space flows and functions. Their design work has a strong emphasis on safety for those who live in the space, as well as those who will visit.

Unlike interior decorators, interior designers work closely with architects and structural engineers during the design phase of the project, and then continue during construction working a long side the contractor and sub-contractors.

Generally speaking the more technical the work, the more education and experience is required for the designer to be able to provide skilled service to the clients.

There are many people working in the field as interior designers that have no formal education but are instead self-taught. In these situations their role tends to be focused on colors and material selections but they don’t always limit themselves to that.

WHAT TYPE OF PROJECT

In finding an interior designer that’s well suited for your project, first start by identifying what the project needs are.

  1. Do you need help with selecting furnishings for an existing house, remodel, additions, or a new build?
  2. Are you looking for someone to help select colors, finish materials and fixtures for an existing house, remodel, addition or new build?
  3. Are you in search of someone to design a floor plan for a remodel, additions, or a new build?
  4. Do you have a floor plan for your project but need someone to consult with before finalizing the plans for your remodel, addition or new build?

FINDING THE RIGHT INTERIOR DESIGNER

  1. Based on the scope of work for your project, search for a designer who’s skill set, experience and education matches up. The more technical the project (floor plans, etc) , the more education and experience will be required of the designer.
  2. Start with asking friends and family, but don’t limit yourself to that. Spend time doing Google searches too. This will most likely produce some great leads.
  3. To learn more about possible leads, spend time on their websites and social media pages. Glean as much as you can from those sources. If in doing so, they look like a good match for your project and you feel excited about the possibility with working with them, contact them through the sources provided on their website.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

When reviewing websites of potential leads, look for information that shows that they provide the type of services you’re looking for, and that they are experienced and skilled.

  1. In reviewing their website and social media pages, are you attracted to their brand, and the way they showcase their work? Although it would be wonderful to see exactly the look you’re going for represented on their site, keep in mind that most designers are multi-faceted and can design within a variety of genres.
  2. Look for the “why” behind what they do? This will provide good insight to what their passions are and what drives their work.
  3. List of qualifications, years of experience, certifications and specialties.
  4. Types of projects they take on.
  5. Do they prefer to collaborate closely with their clients, or do they prefer to be set free to do what they do?

PERSONALITY MATCH

  1. Though it’s not always easy to tell in a single phone conversation, do your best to predict if good rapport could be developed between you. What does their personality come across like? Easy going? Assertive? Bossy? Confident? And then consider how you, and your partner (if applicable) will respond to that type of personality.
  2. In choosing a designer think about how much you would enjoy their company if you were working side by side with them for extended periods of time. If for whatever reason you think they would wear on you, then it’s not the right match. Design projects can be inherently stressful even in the best of situations. Typically projects last for months and even years. On top of that, there’s a million decisions to make, with tons of deadlines. Choose someone who is a calming force but also assertive enough to get the job done.
  3. Are they good listeners?
  4. Do they communicate with ease?
  5. Will they be a team player? Will they work well with the other people on the project?


HOW SOON TO INVOLVE AN INTERIOR DESIGNER ON YOUR PROJECT

I get asked this question all the time. The short answer is as soon as possible. It will depend however on what services you are specifically want their help with. They will be a great resource in guiding you through the process even if the bulk of their work is months out.

When construction is involved, the sooner an interior designer is brought on board, the better the end results. Interior designers have a unique skill set in blending form and function. They will see things that otherwise could be overlooked, and will offer solutions and ideas. For the best outcome of your project, it’s best to include them when the project is still on paper.

CONVEYING YOUR STYLE

You will be asked to provide concept and inspiration photos for the designer so they can understand the aesthetic direction you want to go with the project. Keep in mind what they are looking for is a general feel, as opposed to the want to replicate. A skilled designer will be able to interpret the style you are attracted to without duplicating another designer’s work. They will be able to read between the lines and design something unique and custom just for you.

BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH AN INTERIOR DESIGNER

Though a significant financial investment, design fees are generally a small percentage of the overall project cost and will add tremendous value to your project and investment. Though the list is long, here are just a few of the benefits of working with a designer.

  1. Trouble shooting and problem solving for areas that have been overlooked or unsolved to that point
  2. Provide cost savings in preventing mistakes and oversights
  3. Will design comprehensively and throughly, while providing specifics in drawings, details, selection list, etc. This approach will take the guess work out of it for both you and the contractors and subs.
  4. Can see the broad scope of the project so as to prevent conflict between one phase to the next
  5. Bring a fresh perspective to the spaces and how they will relate to one another
  6. Provide best utilization of space, improve function, flow and improved livability
  7. Reduced stress by providing solutions and confirmation with selections, etc.
  8. Integration of other design professionals
  9. Will bring years of experience and knowledge that will assure a successful outcome
  10. Trade discounts from vendors

VETTING PROCESS

Keep this in mind, during the vetting process, the designers will also be vetting you and your project. It’s a two-way street. They will be looking for many of the same things in a client / designer relationship as you will be. Given that typical projects last anywhere from several months to a few years, the designers will also need to be selective as to what projects they accept.

  1. Have you taken the time to review their website so you are familiar with the services they offer, their processes, etc?
  2. Do you communicate clearly?
  3. Are you a good listener?
  4. Will they enjoy working with you?
  5. Do they feel excited about your project?
  6. Does it seem as though you have confidence in their work?
  7. Do they value what you can bring to the project?
  8. Do you return calls, emails and text in a timely manner? Are you thorough in responding to their questions?
  9. Do you communicate during regular business hours?
  10. Is your construction and design budgets realistic for the project?
  11. Is your timeframe for the project realistic?

THE TAKE AWAY

  • Let’s circle back to the part about personality matches. Residential design projects are inherently intimate. Choosing someone who gets you, and your style is paramount. Think about it as embarking on an adventure, or a journey. You’ll want someone along side of you that has your best interest, and is a delight for you to work with.
  • If you want to be apart of the process and all the details, look for someone to partner and collaborate with that shares that same approach (This is what I favor. I very much enjoy the collaborative process with my clients ).
  • If you prefer not to be bothered with all the details and and are looking for a beautiful outcome but don’t have time for the collaboration, find a designer that prefers working this way (Though not my favorite approach, from time to time, I do take on these types of projects).
  • I think I can safely speak for most designers in saying that in order for them to do their best work, they need time to do it. Start early in your vetting process, and secure the right designer for your project as soon as possible. Allow time for them to work you into their project load. It’s heartbreaking to get urgent calls from potential clients that are feeling panicked and overwhelmed but have waited too long to enlist someone’s help. Those situations are not only stressful, but the end result is never good.
  • Keep this in mind too, a skilled designer will know exactly how to help you achieve your design style, even though it might be different then what they would personally choose. Good design is good design, no matter the style.
  • It might take some legwork finding just the right designer for your project, but they are out there. Do your due diligence, follow the tips I’ve provided, ask lots of questions and then follow your gut. It will lead you to just the right designer to partner with.

By

Mr. BS Parasher, Founder @ Interior x Design & UrbanDAC, He is the Top Interior Designer in Gurgaon & India's Premier Home Theater and Home Entertainment Designer, A Hi-end AV Expert with a deep passion, vision and knowledge about Interior Design.