Should you hire an interior designer? Interior designers will tell you that you should absolutely hire them to help you decorate your new house. But ask a barber if you need a haircut and you know what he’ll say.
Whether or not you hire an interior designer is an incredibly personal choice. There’s no right or wrong answer. To help you decide, you’ve got to be honest with yourself about some things. First and foremost, ask yourself if you can afford to hire an interior designer? If your budget is tight, you may have to forgo this service.
Secondly, you need to know your strengths, personality and sense of style. If you’re not into shopping for furniture and accessories and coordinating colors, if you don’t really have a good sense of style, and if you get overwhelmed when you have to make too many decisions, you’ll most likely benefit from hiring an interior designer to help design all or most of your house.
When thinking about interior design, you have to be able to balance aesthetics and function, while also considering how each individual piece will fit together as a whole. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, hiring an interior designer can help you.
Before choosing an interior designer, you may need to interview a few designers before you find someone who’s style and personality you like. Your initial interview can be an in-person meeting or held over the phone. You may have to pay for it or it could be complimentary. During that initial consultation, you should ask to see photos of the designer’s work, learn more about their process and what you can expect if you hire him or her, and you should ask about their preferred methods for communication and how they bill.
How much does an interior designer charge? Individual designers have their own unique fee structures. Since most own their own businesses, they are free to use whatever fee structure they prefer. Some charge a flat fee for their work. More commonly, designers work for an hourly rate ranging from $50 per hour to over $200 per hour. Fees usually vary with the designers’ experience and reputation.
In addition to an hourly rate, many designers charge fees on each purchase they make on your behalf by marking up whatever items you choose for your design. Others take a percentage of the cost of the room as a whole. Just keep in mind that designers whose fees come from markups have no incentive for finding sales items and budget friendly options for you because the more you pay, the more they will get paid. Whatever you decide be sure you’re comfortable with how you’ll be charged before signing any paperwork.
There are several ways you can work with an interior designer. If you have a lot of your own design ideas and pretty well understand your sense of style, you may only need a bit of direction in the form of a design consultation.
You can hire a designer to answer specific questions, such as what paint colors or window treatments you should choose. Color consultations and window treatment consultations are popular. Designers can help you decide which shade of gray is best or whether blinds, plantation shutters, drapes or shades would work well in a space. These specific design consultations can be completed in just one or two appointments.
Design consultations are a great option for those of you who know your style and who want to make most of your own design decisions, but who want a little guidance to make sure you’re on the right track. Typically a consultation will last from one to two hours. But if you decide you need more help beyond one meeting, you can hire the designer on an hourly basis.
If you have a small house, designers can also help you find storage solutions in unexpected places. And they can help you locate unique furniture and accessories or pieces that will coordinate with any heirloom or previously purchased pieces of furniture that you might have.
To make the most of your consultation time, bring a list of specific questions you have. Plus your floor plan and any photos that may help clarify your questions and your style. You’ll also want a notepad since you’ll probably need to take lots of notes.
Hiring a designer for a consultation gives you guidance without taking any design control away from you as homeowner. You’ll get professional help plus the personal satisfaction of knowing you did most of the work yourself. You could even create your own inspirational style boards with photos of colors, furniture and accessories that you think work well together and then hire a designer for an hour or two so they can make suggestions about how to improve your design.
If you’re someone who can go to Pinterest or Houzz or flip through a magazine and identify exactly what styles you like and you’re someone who can decisively make a choice even if you have multiple options, then you may want to save the expense of an interior designer and design the rooms in your house yourself.
There are some advantages to doing the interior design yourself. For example, if you design your own home, yes, you’ll have more decisions to make, but there is no time limit for making those decisions. You can take your time with the design as your budget and schedule allow. If you are running low on cash, you can put your rooms together piece by piece, as you get more discretionary income over time. Occasionally designers give you that option too. But typically, if you work with a designer, you can usually expect to pay them their entire fee all at once, which can be difficult to those with a tighter budget.
Another advantage of being your own designer is that you can purchase items that you are unsure about and try them out in your house. If the piece doesn’t work, you can often return it or change up your design plan without incurring the restock or change fees that are often charged by designers.
Now, sometimes, even if you purchase furniture and accessories on your own, you will have to pay restock fees for returned items. This is especially true for close out or custom made pieces, which are sometimes not returnable at all. So be clear about the return policy whenever you purchase items for your home, whether on your own or through a designer.
If you don’t want to do the design all on your own, or if you need more than just a couple of specific questions answered during a consultation, you can get a designer’s input on an entire room or two, or on the entire house.
When you work with a designer who is doing a full service job for you, typically, he or she will present you with a series of options for each and every aspect of the room. He or she will need your final approval before moving forward. So you’ll still have a few decisions to make, even if you hire a designer. And with a designer, the decisions will have to be made in a timely manner.
Good designers prefer decisive clients. Definitive opinions make their job easier. Come up with a written or photo journal with as many preferences as you can think of. Do you like lots of color or do you prefer neutrals? Or maybe you like mostly neutrals with pops of color. Do you prefer drapes or planation shutters, or no window treatments at all. Is your style more traditional, contemporary or a mix of the two, which we call transitional? Do like industrial, rustic, coastal, farmhouse or whimsical elements? Think about things like that so you can help guide the designer to at least start your room design.
With a full service design job, interior designers can help you with things such as furniture layout, window coverings, paint colors, artwork, lighting, flooring, rugs and accessories. Plus most designers can give you suggestions about where to source, or buy, the items you need or they can make the purchases themselves.
In today’s world of technology, you can also choose to work with interior designers virtually. Through Skype, other video chat options or simply email, you can live in Kansas and work with a designer in New York City. There are also interior design firms who do online interior design as their primary business model. Google "online interior design" and you’ll find lots of options. Many online design firms will give you furniture, paint, and accessory options, then tell you where you can purchase the items you’re interested in. And usually, online interior design is much more affordable than traditional onsite interior design.
Hiring an interior designer is truly a personal decision. While some people love having the design workload taken out of their hands, others don’t want to give up that much control. If you’re on the fence, perhaps the best option is to take the consultation or online approach. It gives you the best of both worlds. You’ll have lots of control and be the final decision maker, but you get a bit of guidance for those aspects of the design that you are unsure of.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
That's it for this week. Thanks for stopping by.