How to hire the right designer

Phantom Screens / August 4, 2016

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Hiring the right designer or decorator to help you devise and implement indoor and outdoor design ideas can be just as important as choosing the right home. Turning your house into a home is about finding the right mix of styles, amenities, features and technologies that will make it as comforting and, well, homey, as possible. That’s why finding an interior designer who meshes with your tastes, or is at least in tune with what you want, is one of the most crucial steps you can take toward realizing your ideal living space.

Finding the right designer

One of the first things you need to do once you decide you would like professional design help is to overcome any fears you might have. Some people might feel a little intimidated by the idea of hiring a designer, afraid they’ll lose control of the project. But if you’ve decided to go the designer route, it’s important to immerse yourself in the process and be willing to listen to their advice.
At the same time, remember it’s your home, and they are working for you. You have to find a balance between taking direction and ensuring that the end result is something with which you’ll be happy.
As you begin the search for the right interior designer, keep in mind that you’re unlikely to find the perfect match right away. Research, both on the web and via personal contacts, can help you build a database of places to look. Think of homes you’ve been in that you found particularly appealing, and ask those people who helped them with their design. You might even find that a friend or neighbor is just the person you’re looking for.

Knowing what you want

A common mistake people make when designing their home, whether it’s on their own or with a professional, is not having a clear idea of how they want the final outcome to look and feel. That indecision is one of the biggest reasons home design projects go wrong. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be open to new ideas, but they should always fit within a framework you’ve established.
If you want to do something in particular with your picture windows or outdoor living spaces, make those thoughts and ideas clear to your designer. If you’ve seen certain features in other people’s homes you want to emulate, like retractable screens or natural ventilation, be sure to articulate your desires.

Things to keep in mind

Even for people with a lot of resources, budgeting is always a concern, if, for no other reason than you need to establish ground rules so the project doesn’t get out of control. As you’re going through the planning and research phase, come up with a realistic budget, including room for extras you might not be aware that you want or need. It’s always likely unexpected expenses will pop up in any undertaking this large.

You’ll also want to keep your expectations in check. Just because you saw something on HGTV doesn’t mean every designer can pull it off, especially at the price they quoted on your favorite DIY show.

Questions to ask

Here are a few basic questions you’re going to want to ask any designer before you hire them:

  • How much will the project cost?
    This will probably be a hard one for them to answer, especially early in the process, but it’s worth it to get some sort of upfront estimate.
  • How long will the project take?
    Again, this may be difficult for them to answer, but at least you will be able to set some sort of loose timetable.
  • What type of design do you specialize in?
    Some designers claim to do any style, but you’ll want to know where their strengths lie, and decide whether they match up with what you want.
  • Are they bonded/insured?
  • What kind of experience do they have?
  • Do they have a portfolio of previous work and testimonials to show you?