Connections for Success



Finding The Right Interior Designer
Jessica Lagrange

If you have made the decision to hire an interior designer for your next project, congratulations! You recognize that the right professional can create a space as beautiful as it is functional, based on your personal style, which you will enjoy for years. And, a professional will do so efficiently and within your budget, with resources – vendors, drafting software (CAD), liability insurance, etc – to which you probably do not have access. The skill and education a designer can contribute is of value, and if you recognize that, you are well on your way to a successful project!

However, notice that I said “the right” professional. There are many excellent designers across the nation (and beyond), and each one is very different. Which one is right for you and your project? That’s a difficult question to answer, but here are some things to consider:

  1. Consider the scope and budget of your project to determine what type of individual or firm you should work with. If you don’t envision yourself doing a large project, a designer who works on his or her own from home (and therefore has little overhead) may be the right fit for you and can help you make small tweaks here and there. If, however, your project is larger – a whole room, a budget of about $50K or more – a designer with more resources may be best. Multiple team members with different specialties can help address different aspects and needs of your project (architectural details, furniture selections, accounting and project management, etc). And, consider that while a firm may have higher rates than a sole proprietor, their business structure and increased efficiency will often save you money in the end.
  2. Identify designers – individuals or firms – who interest you. Look at shelter magazines and see whose projects you like. Look to resources like your local chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (or ASID), or contact a showroom whose style you like at your local design center. The design center may feature online portfolios, much like the Merchandise Mart’s Designer Portfolio in Chicago. Some larger cities even have designer ‘matchmaker’ services for which you pay nothing, like Portfolio – The Design Network. Finally, get referrals from friends and acquaintances. Word-of-mouth really is a good indicator of reputation, which has probably been rightly earned.
  3. Interview at least three different designers. Do they have a signature style, or do they design for your style? If they have a particular ‘look’, is it compatible with yours? And will it stand the test of time? Meet with them and discuss this. Look at their portfolio with them and listen to them talk about the projects. Be up-front and honest about your project and its budget to see if they can meet your needs – I know it’s not always fun to talk numbers, but it is important.
  4. Also, ask for and check, references. They probably won’t give you the names of people who would say anything negative, but you can talk to these clients to get an idea of how the designer likes to work and make sure that it will be good for you. Are you extremely Type A, and therefore want someone extremely organized with lists and schedules and a clear process? Or are you a bit more relaxed and informal, preferring to just casually let the project evolve organically? Also, if you ask the right questions, the client may be able to address specific concerns you may have: if you live in Indiana but have selected a designer in New York and are worried about communication, talk to a client who worked from a distance like yourself.
  5. Finally, is it a good fit in terms of their personality? This will be more of a gut feeling. Do you get along with the designer? Do you like their staff? It is important to meet them, as they may be the ones you work with on a day-to-day basis. They will be in your home, getting to know you on a personal level so that they can help make the right decisions to best meet your needs. If you can communicate well with them throughout the process, it will make all of the difference!

A good fit between designer and client is not to be underestimated. Consider each of the above points carefully, and take very seriously any indication of incompatibility. However, the right interior designer for you can result in a lasting, rewarding relationship, and ensure that the money you spend is spent well. Best wishes for a fabulous project and, above all, have fun!

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