By Kitty Golding
This week we are breaking from the local interviews we’ve been sharing to talk about what to look for in hiring a designer. If you have never hired an interior designer, how do you select one? Obviously, this takes effort and you want to get the right fit.
The rapport between an interior designer and their client is filled with intricate details and nuances. Developing and maintaining a healthy relationship is key to the success of the interior project in all ways from the design to the budget. Both client and designer have a part in this.
When searching for a designer, there are four key items on which to concentrate – personality, portfolio, price and personalization.
Personality: Like any good relationship, there needs to be chemistry. Most clients are aware that they will be investing a significant amount of time and, more importantly, a fair share of faith and trust into their designer. Therefore, it’s important that clients find someone with whom they relate well. There should be an initial in-person meeting to see how well you interact together and how your personalities mesh. A good designer will not shy away from giving professional advice and will potentially challenge you to take leaps of faith here and there. Sometimes clients just need that small push from their designer to go out of their comfort zones.
Questions to ask: How do you work with someone when they have a different idea than you? What happens at our first meeting? You may want to ask a bit about their personal background, such as, do they have children or pets? Why did they become a designer? What do they enjoy about the design process? Asking questions that draw out the more personal side of the designer during your initial meeting is a good thing, especially if it is not coming out naturally.
Portfolio: By reviewing portfolios and historical work, you are able to see what sense of style a designer offers. Hopefully their website, or social media page will offer you enough photos and information to visualize their work in your own space. Some designers have a signature look on which they focus. Others enjoy designing in a variety of styles. As you spend time looking at their sites and talking with them about their design philosophy, it will most likely be obvious as to how they approach their designs…casually, formally, etc.
Questions to ask and look for: Do you work with one or various types of styles and settings? Do you take on new construction and remodeling? (if not obvious). What is your design background and education? Do you have a favorite type of project or, what do you enjoy most about designing?
Price: We all have an idea of what we would want to pay for a professional service and interior design is no different. Every client wants a designer in their price range, and every designer wants their client to be vocal about their budget. To minimize the headache in the budgeting process it is good, even in an initial conversation to talk about the costs of the project and get an idea of their design fees. Being clear with everything budget-wise on both ends of the client/designer equation can directly lead to better client relationships and makes for an easy transition from talking logistics to actually designing.
Questions to ask? How do you set your design fees? Do you bill hourly, or do you invoice a flat rate or percentage of square footage? As a side note, most designers invoice an hourly fee and base their proposals on that fee structure. At Kitty & Company, we talk about these rates during the initial phone call. Most clients want to know what it will cost them to do their project, and even though that cannot be known exactly on the first phone call, after gleaning some information a rough idea can at times be given. We write our proposals to our clients after meeting them in person and walking through the job site and additional discussion.
Personalization: The final piece of the designer/client equation is personalization. This is when a designer becomes a student of their client in order to truly understand the client’s needs and lifestyle, and how they can best tailor the space to suit them. By going into a client’s home and learning about their life, passions, and future goals, designers can redefine the project in terms of the needs and wants of the client. No two clients are identical, and no two projects should be either. To surpass this test, a designer must be adept to seek out the desires of the client and bringing them to fruition. It may look different in how each designer uncovers the mysteries of their clients, but the end result should be that the client feels they are in their own home, not someone else’s.
Questions to ask: How do you like to communicate? How do you approach your discovery process? Once you start our project, what can I expect in communication and visits? Will there be “check points” or just a final presentation?
You may come up with other questions as well, but the point is, by keeping each of these elements in mind when interviewing for an interior designer, it will help you to steer clear of any major disasters in acquiring the right fit. As in any relationship, there could be a few bumps along the way once you have secured a good connection. The most important item to keep in mind, is open and honest communication. Your interior designer will not be a mind reader, so keep them informed if there is something you are not agreeing with. If effort is spent on the front side of securing the right designer for your project, the process does work better for everyone involved.