How do I work with an interior designer?
November 13, 2011 9:51 PM   Subscribe

Have you worked with an interior designer?

I have a unique residential home that has to be furnished top to bottom. I don't have the time or resources to do this myself, so I'll be hiring an interior designer.

I'm just wondering about the experiences others have had working with interior designers. Were they good? Bad? Lessons to be learned? What you might have done differently had you only known? Funny stories? Useful tips? Did you interview them? How should I screen them? What should I try to find out before I hire one?

I've never worked with one before, so this is all new to me.
posted by zagyzebra to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I worked with one fairly recently. I think the most important thing is to understand your own personal style and try to find someone that has produced that style in the past (based on their portfolio) or is a very flexible and innovative designer that can understand your vision and translate that into a space you love.

Other things I looked for:
1) Someone I could feel comfortable with. This is a person who is going to be in my home and who needs to understand my lifestyle and who I am to a certain degree in order to do the job. It may seem obvious, but you need to feel comfortable with the person. You also need to be able to say, "I don't like it" without hurting their feelings.

2) Someone who has a lot of resources- you need someone who knows the market, knows a lot of vendors at various price points and what they have to offer, and who is generally tapped into the design world. Someone who is too new to the field will have a harder time doing this.

3) My designer passed all her discounts on to me. Other designers charge you and keep the difference for themselves. I live the former strategy because I felt like I was getting a deal.

4) Make sure you express your budget clearly and find a designer who will stick to it.

5) Definitely interview them to assess all the above things. References and portfolios are also key to take a look at. At the interview, ask them to give you some basic ideas, so you can see how they think.

Good luck!
posted by superfille at 10:02 PM on November 13, 2011

Have a look at her/his previous work. Each designer has a general aesthetic they are most comfortable providing. This could be provided in an interview so that you can go online or through a portfolio to check out their work. There's no point hiring a minimalist when you want ranch house or French Provincial. [Although I think you can accommodate hints of other influences into an overall aesthetic.]

Think carefully about your 'brief' - materials, colours, textures, fixtures etc should be some areas where you have an opinion, no matter how broad. It's a starting point that will help to narrow the brief you give to your ID.

Communication is absolutely the key. Don't just nod your head or stay quiet on the things you DON'T want to avoid upsetting her/him. Say 'that's not what I want' directly, and of course, 'that's the kind of thing I'm after, could we accommodate X/Y/Z if we use this/go for this idea?' or 'How does that work with kids/dogs/fish etc?' For me, I'm a stickler for asking about cleaning, dust, longevity of materials.

And, remember, no matter how slick a 3D mock up on a computer screen looks, it is still about you getting what you want. Don't ever think that the ID did all this work making 3D images, so you have to go with the flow. Everything can be modified, no matter how much rendering and fiddling about someone has done to create the image. It's irrelevant if it doesn't meet your brief.

In that vein, collect some images or pictures of things you do like. Again, it may be divided into materials, textures, colours, fixtures, furniture types to help clarify what you want.

There are journals for ID/interior Architects in most countries so check those out for names or companies that are reputable. [in Australia you can use the DIA - Design Institute of Australia - to see recommendations, for example. These also have pricing guidelines for each professional team.]

Many IDs are affiliated with fabric companies - good for discounts, but still rather limiting in terms of overall interior expertise.

Stipulate a budget at the first meeting and clarify what will be included. Some site works are outside the ID's scope and these should be discussed.

Ask about lead times for materials and execution of your brief. Sometimes there are problems getting fabrics or tiles or timber in a reasonable time frame. What is your time frame?

Many good furniture companies [like Hulsta for example, but there are many others out there] provide IDs as part of the package, so maybe have a look at some of these companies to see what they can do, if you like the look and feel of their stuff.

Paint companies also provide colour services - a consultant can come out to your home and work with you on a paint scheme, often with a discount on the paint purchase as well.

I don't ever rely on just images. I want to see samples of materials and I want to see the product. You might be different, but I've found it leads to a lot less drama if you/the client has had direct exposure to the product and not just a picture of it.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:36 PM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thank you for the excellent suggestions. I will begin building a 'brief,' as honey-barbara recommended, and look for a designer who has experience and similar aesthetic.

The reason I need to hire an ID instead of doing it myself is because I live 600 miles away from the house being renovated and furnished. It makes me crazy to put the job into someone else's hands, and I've been going back and forth whether to move there while it's being done. Honey-barbara just helped me make that decision. I decided not to rely on just images, either, at least not if I want to avoid drama and disappointment. I need to be there to touch/feel/see.
posted by zagyzebra at 7:35 AM on November 14, 2011

Also I would add, set expectations clearly and repeatedly - especially those involving project management.

If deadlines matter to you, make sure they are conveyed with rewards or penalties.
Ditto with budgets.

If you are comfortable with 'in a week or two, maybe' and or 'plus or minus a few hundred here and there', then disregard the above.

It was hard for me to focus on the art when I knew the practical was getting kicked to the curb. But, that may just be me.
posted by susandennis at 10:33 AM on November 14, 2011

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