Thinking about hiring an interior designer? Well, just like any relationship, you’re going to need to find that perfect someone, and the last time I checked there was no app for swiping left and swiping right for designers. So here are ten questions you should ask before hiring an interior designer. And since I love playing match-maker, I’m including a free workbook for hiring the perfect interior designer to help you find your perfect designer match!
Get your free workbook!
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #1: What’s Your Budget?
There are a couple of reasons why it’s crucial to establish a budget before working with an interior designer. First off, it’s good to be realistic with what you are willing to pay and the quality of the pieces you can get for that amount. Maybe this is your first place and starter furniture is all you can afford. That’s absolutely okay, but know that starter furniture is just that, and you will probably want to replace it in the future.
Another reason to establish a budget before contacting an interior designer is that some designers won’t work with smaller budgets. I once had a professor that wouldn’t work with clients that weren’t willing to pay $30,000 plus for a sofa- #snob! Me- I work with any budget, as long as:
- We’ve established a number beforehand so I know the direction to go in.
- We are realistic with the quality of furniture that that budget will get us.
Of course, if you want to raise your budget in the middle of the process and purchase your pieces a little at a time to get it just right, I’m all for that as well! In fact, I encourage a slow design process to ensure that your home is your dream home, even if it takes a little longer!
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #2: What’s The Designer’s Fee?
So important to ask! I once had a client interview designers and found a designer with a $20,000 per room fee, and I’m pretty sure her name was nowhere near Kelly Wearstler! This is money above and beyond your budget, so make sure you are happy with the fee before moving forward.
A word of caution! You all know that one of my core beliefs is that everyone deserves a beautiful home, but you do get what you pay for. So let’s go back to my dating metaphor. My husband knows the way to my heart is through a fresh, juicy burger.
So for date night, he has a few options. We could go to a celebrity chef’s restaurant in the city, which would provide a stellar burger option. But here’s the deal- that restaurant has a two-month waiting list, we’d have to drive into the city, and we’d both need to make sure we are dressed for the occasion. Sounds like a lot of work and money for a burger.
We could also go to McDonald’s, ‘cause a burgers a burger- right?
Or, he could take me to a nice little locally-owned place that has down-to-earth service, the most delectable bleu cheese burger with a balsamic reduction on a brioche bun, and the price doesn’t break the bank.
What I’m getting at is beware of the $99 design fee. What exactly are you getting for this fee? Do you get to pick your designer? How do you know they are reputable? Is there after-install support? I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying do your homework, just like you would with any other purchase. And don’t feel like an over-priced local designer that will look down on your style and your budget is the only option. Find a fee that you are comfortable paying and that provides the quality of service that you deserve.
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #3: What’s Your Style? What’s The Designer’s Style?
“We specialize in all interior design styles!” That doesn’t even make sense! You can’t specialize in everything! Look at all of the famous designers out there- they all have specialties. So the first thing to do is to figure out what your design style is (I’ve got a quiz for that below!) and then find a designer with similar styles. Look at their portfolio, check out their social media, ask them. And if they tell you they can do it all, run for the hills! You don’t want a Jack-Of-All-Trades-Master-Of-None! You want someone that gets you and your unique vision for your home.
Take me, for instance. I appreciate the Mediterranean style, it just isn’t my jam. And while contemporary design has a beautiful simplicity to it, one look at my portfolio, social media, and my website as a whole, and you’ll see that I am no minimalist. But if you’re a Glamourist, Modernist, Vintage, or Eclectic, I’m your girl!
Say what? You don’t know what your interior design style is? Take my quiz and find out!
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #4: Does the Designer Only Source Trade-Only Pieces?
This may not be something you automatically think of, but super important none the less. It is important that designers are able to source trade-only items (not all virtual designers do). This is how you get those unique, can’t-find-it-anywhere-in-the-stores fabrics, trims, and wallpapers that make your home stand out and ooze with personality.
However, if a designer only sources trade pieces, you may be at a disadvantage. Trade furniture is insanely priced, sometimes designers markup well above the suggested retail price (especially on accessories), and you can’t take advantage of any sales or coupons you may have.
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #5: Are You Ready to Buy Everything Now?
Not all designer will want to work with your purchasing plan, especially if they are sourcing trade materials. Why? Because they get a cut of the furniture and want you to buy it all now.
So if you plan on having an extended purchasing plan because you want to buy just the right pieces when you have the money to do so, make sure your potential designer is on board. Some designers, like myself, will source all of your pieces and let you purchase when you are ready. Also check to see if your designer will resource any items that go out of stock before you are ready to buy. I will resource any items that go out of stock within 90 days of the delivery of my final design packages.
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #6: Is the Designer Full-Service? Do You Need Full-Service?
The real question here is, do you want someone that will be there with you for the entire process? Full-service designers normally offer any or all of the following:
- Photography and Measurement of Spaces
- Floor Plans
- In-Home Consultations
- Meeting with Contractors
- Shopping Trips with Clients
- Handling of Purchases and Delivery
- Housing All Furniture Until the Final Install
- Overseeing of Final Installation
- Styling of Rooms with Recommended Accessories for Additional Purchase
The list can go on and on. If you need all of this, you will absolutely need to hire a local designer, and you will need a substantial budget for a designer’s fee, depending upon your needs. If, however, this is way out of the scope of what you need, I encourage you to look into virtual interior design. It might be just the right solution for you!
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #7: Does the Designer Have Testimonials?
We’re looking at street cred here. While photographs give you a glimpse into the taste and style of a designer, client testimonials are gold! This is all about what it is like to work with them. I invite you to check out my client testimonials here!
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #8: What’s Your Timeline?
Are you in a rush to get a project completed before a big party? Are you just moving in to your home and need the bare basics now and are willing to add finishing touches later? Knowing when you want your space to be finished is something else to discuss with a potential designer. If you’re in a super rush, custom pieces are a no-go, so make sure your designer will work with retail store items that are in-stock or ready-made.
It is also important to know your timeline so you can stay realistic with your project. The arc wasn’t built in a day, so if you need your space ready like yesterday, be prepared for everything to be an in-stock, ready-to-ship item. This leaves out any custom pieces but also a lot of mid-range furniture dealers, such as West Elm, Anthropologie, Crate and Barrel, and Restoration Hardware, that make their pieces to order. Lead times could be anywhere from 6-8 weeks.
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #9: What is the Designer’s Communication Process?
This is extremely important, especially with virtual designers. Some virtual design companies that have a range of designers working with them (think crowd-sourcing) will not let their designers contact clients outside of the platform. And sometimes the platform has technical glitches and messages get lost or go unanswered. If the site goes down, there is no way of communicating with your designer and vice versa. (Trust me- I used to work for one!)
You should be able to have flexible communication with your designer: Skype calls, email, phone calls. In a word, communication should be easy!
Hiring an Interior Designer Question #10: Does the Designer Offer Post-Install Support?
Another point that is especially important for virtual interior design- do you get any help with your space after the final design has been delivered? Or are you left to figure it all out on your own?
I provide one to two hours (depending on your package) of post-delivery consultation time. Meaning, after I send you your floor plan, mood board, shopping list, and styling instructions, we’ll schedule time to discuss any questions you have via a video-conferencing call. So if you get stuck with anything, I’ve got you covered!
Don’t forget about your free workbook!
Now you see that, just like dating, you can’t just choose any designer and have a match made in dream home heaven! So download my free hiring guide and work through the ten questions you should ask before hiring an interior designer, and you’ll be on your way to the beginning of a beautiful relationship (with your new designer!)