FIND A DESIGNER > How to Hire an Interior Designer

How to Hire an Interior Designer


Before contacting an interior designer, take some time to think about what you want and what you need. The first step in this process is to consider some questions that an interior designer will ask regarding your project:

* For whom is the space being designed?
* What activities will take place there?
* How long do you plan to occupy the space?
* What is your time frame?
* What is your budget?
* Are you relocating or remodeling?
* What image do you want to project?
* What is the approximate square footage to be designed (for commercial projects)?

Also, be sure to consider the positive and negative aspects of the space.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry. Your interior designer will lead you through the design process. Keep in mind the more information you provide, the more successful your designer will be in meeting your needs and expectations. You may want to reference other visual images (photos, postcards, corporate logos, magazine photographs) or environments that reflect your aesthetic and functional criteria.

The second step is to interview designers. Interview several designers to become familiar with differences in personality, style and business methods. Take this opportunity to acquaint the designer with your project ideas. Keep in mind you will be working closely with the designer and you will want someone that you feel will make the right choices according to your specifications and will listen to your ideas and concerns. Ask to see the designer's portfolio and request a list of relevant experience and client references. During an interview, you may want to:

* Inquire about the designer's education, training, experience, professional affiliations and other credentials.
* Ask about other services the designer can provide and what can be done to help you optimize your understanding of the cost of the project.
* Discuss project duration or deadlines and what the designer's availability is for taking on the project within the desired timetable.
* Establish parameters for updates and on-going communication between you and the interior designer.
* Discuss the designer's fee structure.

Overall, look for educated and accredited interior designers who can demonstrate their creativity and talent.

The third step is to hire the designer. Once you've interviewed several designers, take time to compare their estimates. Don't base your decision on price alone. Keep in mind that differences in each proposal reflect variables such as level of service and quality of merchandise. After the designer is hired, you need to address specific project needs and goals. You will share ideas and the designer will lend insights and observations to your ideas to identify the overall scope of the project. During this process, your design professional will:

* communicate concepts and help you understand the design process
* articulate your ideas, and
* help you to visualize the finished product.

The more input you provide, the easier it becomes for an interior designer to respond with additional ideas and to create spaces that will meet your aesthetic, functional and budgetary goals.

Are Contracts Important?
Contracts are very important because they allow both you and the designer to define the scope of your project. A contract allows you to specify who will be responsible for what, how long the project will last and what the budget limits will be. It is in your best interest to have a signed contract before any work begins or any money is exchanged.

How Much Is This Going to Cost?
It depends on what you want. There are many variables including the size of the project (one room or whole house?), quality of products selected (custom or prefabricated cabinets?), and the timeframe in which the project needs to be completed (two weeks or two months?). Developing the budget is a partnership between the client and the designer. As the client, you should have an active role in developing the budget. If you're unsure about costs, your designer can help. Be honest with your designer about your budget. A professional designer assesses your needs and helps you determine where to spend and where to save, prioritizing expenses while creating an interior that is within your budget. Also, remember that not everything has to be completed at once. Your designer can develop a long-range plan, consult with you to establish a list of priorities and determine a time line for accomplishing your project.

For information about how designers charge for their services,

Designers, like other professionals, are different from one another in their combinations of talents, skills, knowledge, experience, personalities, specialty areas and reputations. What and how they charge will vary accordingly.

There is no such thing as a “typical” or "customary" fee for an interior designer. Many factors, including those mentioned above, influence what a designer may charge for his or her services. Most residential designers and many commercial designers use one of the following methods, or combine methods, to set their fees and may negotiate to suit a client's particular needs:

* Fixed fee (or flat fee) -- The designer identifies a specific sum to cover costs, exclusive of reimbursement for expenses. One total fee applies to the complete range of services, from conceptual development through layouts, specifications and final installation.
* Hourly fee -- Compensation is based on actual time expended by the designer on a project or specific service.
* Cost plus -- A designer purchases materials, furnishings and services (e.g., carpentry, drapery workrooms, picture framing, etc.) at cost and sells to the client at the designer's cost plus a specified percentage agreed to with the client to compensate for the designer’s time and effort.

For larger commercial projects, costs may be calculated on a per square foot basis, based on the area of the project.

In addition to the fee structures outlined above, designers may require a retainer before beginning a design project. A retainer is an amount of money paid by the client to the designer and applied to the balance due at the termination of the project. The retainer is customarily paid upon signing the contractual agreement in advance of design services.

At one time, cost plus was the most widely used fee structure for residential designers. It is becoming more common now for designers to charge an hourly rate for design services and cost plus for products and services the designer is asked to purchase or a fixed fee for the entire project.

In addition to the designer’s fees, there are other costs to consider. Only you can decide what a reasonable budget for your project is. If you have concerns about price, discuss them with the designer. Don’t be shy about asking the designer to help you optimize your budget. But be realistic, too. You may need to scale back your project or consider having the work done in stages. If you are concerned about the quoted cost of furniture or furnishings, ask the designer to provide you with a list of options.

A final word about cost: How you choose to furnish your interior and how you work with your designer will have tremendous impact on the final cost of the project. Items such as antiques or custom-made furniture, and modifications that involve altering or moving load-bearing walls or beams will significantly increase the cost of your project, as will requesting changes mid-project or making excessive demands on the designer’s time. The more research and planning you do before you start, the more you will be able to help keep costs down during the project.

To locate a qualified designer to help you with your specific project, click here.

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