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How Do I Hire an Interior Designer?

Whether your budget is sky-high or you’re scrimping and saving, there are interior designers to match any style. Word of mouth and recommendations are often the best way to find a designer, but online searches also work.

Many interior designers have contacts and resources that homeowners don’t, like discounted furnishings or materials. They can also take on project management responsibilities, which frees homeowners up to focus on the construction process.

Know Your Scope

In the hiring process, it’s important to have a clear job description for the position you are looking to fill. This will allow you to narrow your search and attract the best talent for the role.

For example, if you are hiring for an entry-level junior interior designer to work under the supervision of senior designers in your firm, your job description could include responsibilities like making 2D and 3D models, sourcing furniture and decor options, creating purchase orders and managing the client relationship. You could also list the salary range and benefits you are willing to offer to the right candidate.

If you are seeking a professional designer for your project, you may need to draft a statement of work (SoW), which is a detailed document that defines the scope of work and sets forth all aspects of a design project. These are typically used when working with external design agencies and contractors on large construction projects. This type of document is also beneficial when negotiating fees with interior designers. Most designers charge by the hour, and each has a unique fee structure that should be explained to you in detail during your initial consultation.

Get Recommendations

If you’re not sure where to start, ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. You may also want to check with your local home builders’ association, as they may have a list of designers.

If possible, take pictures of your rooms to your initial design consultation. This can help the designer better understand your space and its problems. It will also give them an idea of your style and aesthetic preferences.

It’s also a good idea to have a rough estimate of your budget before your meeting. “An interior designer can save you money by helping you select pieces within your budget that fit your taste,” says Nadia Watts of her namesake firm in Denver, Colorado.

Finally, make a list of what you want to accomplish with your project. For example, if you’re an empty-nester moving into a smaller space, you might be interested in creating a more functional layout and keeping heirlooms that are important to you. By having a clear direction, it can help the designer focus their time and energy on the projects that will be most beneficial to you.

Schedule an Initial Consultation

The interior designer you select will have a significant impact on your home project. Each designer has their own style and approach. You want to be sure you are working with someone who shares your vision and will work on your terms. Asking the right questions at the beginning of your process will help you make a well-informed decision.

Review a designer’s portfolio of projects and request examples of their design styles. Look for a combination of before, in-progress and finished photos. This will give you a better sense of the scope and level of detail they provide.

You also want to understand what services they offer and their fee structure. Interior designers often charge hourly or a percentage of the overall project cost. It’s important to find out how they work with their clients and their team of subcontractors and tradespeople. Ask the designer about their communication process and how they handle change orders, schedules, timelines and other unforeseen situations that may arise during construction. It’s also important to understand how long it takes them to complete a typical project.

Ask Questions

If you are unsure about what interior design style you like, don’t be afraid to ask your designer for their professional opinion. Their job is to help you understand what is possible with your space and guide you toward a style that matches your personal aesthetic.

You should also be clear about your budget with the designer. They will probably want to know what your general project cost is upfront so they can provide a quote. They may also be able to offer you alternatives that are within your budget. For example, while you may love the look of hardwood floors, they can likely find other options that will work just as well for a much lower price.

Many designers will apply one of three different fee structures, which are hourly, flat rate or percentage-based. It is important to know these fees ahead of time so you can create a realistic budget for your design project. You should also be aware of line item charges, such as travel, deposits, communication minutes or purchase fees.

Be Clear About Your Budget

An interior designer is a financial investment, but it’s one that can save you money in the long run. A top-notch renovation can increase your home’s resale value, making it worth the initial cost. Plus, a well-appointed space can reduce stress and improve your quality of life.

The key is to find a designer who works within your budget. Designers’ rates are often broken down by the hour and can vary based on location, experience and field of expertise. They also might charge a percentage of the overall project cost or use the “cost-plus” method.

Be proactive about hiring an interior designer by asking for referrals from family and friends and researching online reviews and portfolios. Then, be prepared to discuss your project scope and expectations with a potential candidate before hiring them. And remember: Second guessing and changing your mind can end up costing you more time and money than simply letting the designer get it right the first time. After all, it’s their job to know what will work aesthetically and function functionally.

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