fbpx Skip to Content
Get my premier download, The Wellness Home free!

Questions to Ask When Hiring an Interior Designer

“Successful people ask better questions” says life coach, author and consultant Tony Robbins, “and as a result they get better answers”. Whatever you do, whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, accountant or retired teacher much of your success in life relies on the “quality” of your questions. I experience this myself every day.

I was recently looking for a doctor specializing in the holistic care of arthritis. Should I call an allopath or an osteopath? I’ve been working on my marketing plans for 2015 and need a way to organize its many facets. Do I create a “flow chart”, a narrative report or a spreadsheet? In 2007, an accountant suggested to a friend that she invest her life savings in second mortgages for a 10 per cent return. Certain it was too good to be true, she got a second opinion from someone who said that if those homeowners she loaned money to defaulted on the mortgages, she would be stuck with the properties. She declined the first accountant’s suggestion and ten months later, the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Without “quality” questions, questions that are already somewhat informed, you’re like a ship at sea without a compass.   

Occasionally someone will call and say “I’ve worked with a designer before and I’d like you to help me with….chairs and window coverings” or something equally precise. But usually calls come from people who haven’t a clue what they need. They don’t know the right questions and they are relying on me, someone they’ve never met, to essentially tell them which ones to ask.

Questions to Ask Your Designer  

How can I be sure you’ll understand my tastes and lifestyle? How can I be sure you won’t try and sell me something I don’t need? Can we start out slowly, till I gain a comfort level with working with a designer? How do you charge for your time? How will I be able to “envision” the changes you’re suggesting for my home? How do you know I’ll like the changes?

The answers to these questions exist in a transparent, give and take conversation between client and designer. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. If the person you’re entrusting is trustworthy, they will “want” to reassure you. If they’re not, you’re better off without them.

In answer to the above, the designer will ask you questions about what you like and dislike in your home currently, how you live in it now versus how you’d prefer to live in it, and based upon your input, he or she will build a variety of optional design schemes for your approval. In your first consultations with the designer you’ll be able to tell if she is self-serving or client-serving. One clue that she’s serving your best needs is she will ask a lot of questions as opposed to pushing products without getting enough information from you. Visual aids in the form of pictures, 3D floor plans and drawings, and over sized fabric swatches will help ascertain you get the right things for “you”. On presentation day, you’ll be able to envision the plans from these aids. If the schemes are right for you, something usually clicks. The possibilities of the design schemes and visual aids will excite you.

Ask quality questions again on presentation day such as “are the sofa cushions good quality”; “do the curtains allow enough daylight”; “will my napping dog damage the fabric for the chairs”; and “does the dining room table have leaves.”

Questions Your Designer Will Ask You

What do you love about your current home? What do you dislike about it? Do you get a lot of sun in this room? Will you be doing any entertaining? How many children or grandchildren do you have? Any pets? What colors are you drawn to? What’s your budget? Do you have any deadlines? What do you use this room for? Can we work around this antique table or do I have to omit it from the plans? Any rooms you don’t use in the home? Do you like your home to feel formal, casual or a little of both? Do you like pattern and color? Any physical disabilities or challenges? All of these questions may not seem vital but a designer uses many of them as perimeters for myriad decisions from planning furniture layouts to choosing fabrics and window covering styles to lighting plans.

His or her questions and subsequent answers are only as good as your designer’s listening and communication skills. If you don’t understand something, stop the conversation and ask for clarification. If you or the designer are jotting down notes while the other person is speaking, stop writing, and ask the person to repeat themselves. If you or the designer is writing or thinking about what they’re going to say next, they’re not really listening. Take copious notes. Clarify uncertainties. All of these are key in good communication.

Quick Tips

Start out slow the first time you work with a designer till you get comfortable. As your project proceeds from initial consultation to proposals, design schemes, orders, fabrications and installations you will become more familiar with how designers work and charge for their time.

It really helps if a client has at least some idea of what they like and dislike. We can gain a lot of knowledge from some of the simplest visual aids: pictures of things you like; swatches of fabric; or even a framed painting can act as a catalyst in your project.

The aesthetic quality of the project will be evident in the designer’s presentation. Look for outstanding fabric combinations that also have some flexibility; tear sheets of beautiful, high quality furnishings; well written plans that evolve around your existing furnishings and architecture; and professional, clean looking estimates and budgets with branded logos and signature fonts and colors.

Look for designers who have workrooms with at least fifteen years of experience. I have seen many otherwise beautiful projects look amateurish and silly because of poorly crafted upholstery and window treatments.

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree

Click “Pain Free Design and Wellness” for a free chapter of my powerful new book that helps women with arthritis create beautiful, functional homes and take better care of themselves every day because home is where it all begins.