How to Interview an Interior Designer

Have you ever wanted to hire an interior designer, but not sure how they work or if you can afford one?  Hiring an interior designer can be more affordable and actually save you money in the long run.  Fore more information, take a look at my blog post on Why Hire an Interior Designer .  Interior designers have the ability to transform a client's practical and emotional needs into a reality.  Learn how to interview one today and turn your dream into a reality!

The interior design industry can be complicated, in how designers charge for their services.  There are several tiers of pricing, that are most commonly used across the board.   It is common practice for a designer to integrate more than one of these price points in their service portfolio.  Depending on the type of project, will depend on the kind of pricing that you will be quoted.  For example, if you are doing a remodel it behooves the client for the designer to charge a flat fee or charge by the square foot.  A flat fee is usually a percentage of the final project budget in addition to a mark-up on all furniture, fixtures and equipment, that is purchased through the designer.  Price per square foot, is exactly that, your designer will charge you a fixed rate, based on the size of the project.  A mark-up, will generally be added to the purchase of all furniture, fixtures and equipment that is purchased through the designer. 

The mark-up that a designer charges can range from 15% - 40%.  Usually, the mark-up rate and the amount that a designer charges, is based on experience, exclusivity and recognition.  The more a designer charges for a mark-up, the more the designer generally charges for their services.

Many prospect clients, seeking to hire an interior designer, do not understand why a mark-up is applied to purchases.  Mark-ups cover the purchasing management process such as placing orders, tracking and scheduling and delivery.  In addition, there is some margin, for damage, which is common.  In general a customer usually pays retail, to the designer, while the designer purchases it wholesale, charging his/her mark-up. 

When interviewing potential designers, it is important to have a set of guidelines to follow.  A seasoned interior designer will usually take the lead, when meeting a new client.  When the customer also has a personal set of guidelines, it helps them feel they have been heard and have asked all the necessary questions.

Having clear communication from the onset, as well as a contract that explicitly details the services agreed upon and service fees, will not only protect the designer, but also the client.  This contract will serve as point of reference  of what is expected of the designer. The contract will also serve as a map, in which the client will know what services will be rendered.  Expect to pay a retainer and sign a contract, prior to any work commencing.  Should your designer not have a contract, it may be a red-flag and should be addressed.

Interviewing more than one interior designer will provide you an opportunity to see the different styles as well as the different offerings that may be available to you.

Generally the interior  designer is also the project manager and the liaison with all the trades, this enables the client to feel confident that their vision is being understood and created. 

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Before meeting with a designer:
    •    Have a budget and a timeline, even if its not fixed.  It is recommend to start any project with a budget.  This budget will serve as a benchmark, in which a certain amount of work is expected to be completed. The budget will give the client confidence that the expected work, will be completed within an allotted amount of time.  Having a realistic budget and timeline is a crucial part in setting realistic goals for your designer.   A good designer will accommodate both of these requests and offer a realistic opinion, if necessary.  Request their pricing options and understand their different offerings. 

    •    Understand their invoicing options and time management tracking.  A potential designer, should offer real-time time tracking, for both parties to be on the same page and understand where the budget is, at any point.

    •    What is the designer's style and capabilities?  Are they uniquely qualified?  Interviewing a designer that has the capability to execute the vision for your project is imperative.  Not all designers are the same, each may have similar offerings, but they are not all the same.  Be sure to not confuse a decorator with a designer.  Read my blog post on The Difference between a Decorator and a Designer.

Hiring an interior designer may appear to be a daunting task, but in reality, with the amount of information available, it does not have to be. Choosing someone who not only fits your criteria and expertise, but also someone whom you like.  Having a good client-designer relationship is key to project success and seamlessness.