1. Buyer beware! Anyone can call themselves an “Interior Decorator” or “Interior Designer” no matter what their qualifications. The categories are not the same but many lay people don’t understand the difference. An Interior Designer can do all the same things an Interior Decorator does (select surface finishes and colors, place furniture, etc.) but is also qualified to work on construction projects and is educated in building codes and safety issues. They are qualified to prepare construction documents as well as supervise the construction and installation of the work. They have spent many years becoming educated professionals and have ethical standards they must adhere to, while Interior Decorators can just decide to open a business with absolutely no training or education at all!
2. Be sure to check them out thoroughly – are they a member of a professional association and in what capacity? Are they “certified” or “licensed” in your state? Are they educated and do they have plenty of experience and referrals? Of course, you should also check their website.
3. Don’t be shy about checking their references. You can even visit one of their projects if you are doing a similar large scale job, but do not take too much time of the clients who are kind enough to share their experiences with you. Ask about the people whom they work with and if the project came in on time and budget. Ask if they would hire them again.
4. Get a proper agreement or contract. Be sure the agreement spells out the scope of the work to be done and how much and when the fees will be paid. Be sure there is a dispute resolution clause in the agreement and that you thoroughly understand all components of the contract. If you are not clear, ask for clarification.
5. Be sure to establish a budget. Be open and honest with your designer about the budget. There are many variables in every project and items vary a lot in price and quality so it’s important to communicate what level you are looking for. The designer can’t do a proper job if they have no guidelines.
6. Get separate contracts from sub contractors. You should pay the subs directly unless the designer is licensed and running them through his/her firm.
7. Be clear in your own mind what you want to accomplish. It’s often helpful to have pictures of rooms and things you like in order to communicate your desires to the designer efficiently. Discuss your concerns with your designer before the project begins and during the process – open communication is critical to a successful project.
8. Be prepared for the unexpected. If you are remodeling, you may find issues you were not aware of before you opened the walls. Items are not always available in the time frame you have allowed and may delay the project or substitutions may have to be selected and they may cost more.
9. Be prepared for the stress of a remodeling. It’s difficult to have your surroundings disrupted and things not in their proper place. People don’t always realize how stressful this can be because it’s not usually just for a few days, but can last months or more. There will be dust and noise and people at your house at inconvenient hours if the project is extensive. Move out for part of a remodel, if possible. Although you will be displaced and it costs more, it’s less stressful.
10. Listen to the Interior Designer you hired. Keep the communication open with them and let them do their job. If they are truly a professional, they will guide you through the whole process. Don’t let other family members or friends give you advice or instruct the workers on the job. That could have a big impact on the designer’s concept and management of the project. Any changes or modifications should always be run through the Interior Designer to keep the project cohesive.
Hopefully that has given you some insight that will help you with your decision to hire an Interior Designer! I have 32 years experience so let me know if I can help.