Posts Tagged ‘workingwithaninteriordesigner’

Hiring an Interior Designer

The reasons for people hiring an interior designer are varied. Most of our clients come from different backgrounds, but all have disposable income in common. They are willing to pay a higher price for styles that look fresh for twenty years. They want better quality than what’s available online and in big box stores. And in many cases, they prefer having someone else to manage their project, which can take a lot of time and diligence.



primitive wood table in light filled entry.


But just as many people enjoy the process of “doing it themselves” and that’s important too. There is great satisfaction in knowing you did something yourself.

Start out slowly the first time you work with a designer until 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 how they charge for their time.

When You First Begin Working with an Interior Designer

The potential designer/client collaboration begins with a consultation at the client’s home to see if you’re a good match. The first meeting won’t always tell you everything you need to know but things to watch for initially are arriving at the scheduled time (make allowances if your home is particularly hard to find or is off the GPS grid), making eye contact, professional grooming and attire, open mindedness about your project, overall organization, and knowledge of their own services and products.

First Consultation

Some designers charge for the first consultation. Others have a short, complimentary meeting. Still others ask to meet their clients at a local coffee shop rather than the client’s home to keep at bay any design related questions until compensation begins. In my early business days, I gave a complimentary, thirty-minute in home consultation. Now I prefer to charge one hour. This helps me weed out people who aren’t serious about hiring me. I love helping people but it’s painful answering a dozen or more questions once you have figured out, you’re not going to be compensated.

It helps to have at least some idea of what you like and dislike. Designers can gain a lot of knowledge from some of the simplest visual aids- pictures of things you like; swatches of fabric; or even a painting can act as a catalyst in your project.


white slipcovered, armless dining room chairs



Considering Your Lifestyle, Personal Style and Color Preferences

At the first consultation, the designer will usually ask about your lifestyle. They need to know if you have children or pets or if you will be caring for elderly family members in your home in the near future. It’s also extremely helpful to communicate to your designer in as much detail as possible, your personal style and color preferences. If possible, save magazine clippings for the purpose of helping your designer understand you better. Are you a casual or formal person? What colors do you prefer or dislike? Are you traditional, contemporary or a mix of both? Which of your existing furnishings do you wish to replace, and which do you wish to keep? Is there anything you particularly love that could be used as a catalyst for the design project? These things will be discussed in the early stages of your project. 

The Proposal

After the first consultation, I follow up with a proposal. My proposal itemizes everything I’ll be doing for the client and the amount of money I’ll be compensated. This allows the client to add or delete line items as they see fit before giving me a deposit.

Once the proposal has been approved, I begin work on the presentation. 


white sofa glass cocktail table


The Presentation

Preparing the presentation is very time-consuming. For a typical presentation I’ll source five to six sofas, chairs and ottomans in a variety of styles and price ranges; thirty or so coordinating fabrics; do written estimates of each item I’m presenting; print out tear sheets (large pictures with dimensions); type up written reports and estimates; do CAD or Autodesk renderings; and prepare visual aids like large, labeled fabric swatches on rings and oversized paint chips. The client doesn’t see all these items, mind you. But I do use them to help me make decisions.

The aesthetic quality of the project will be evident in the designer’s presentation. Look for outstanding fabric combinations that are pulled together yet not too matchy-matchy; plans that have a little flexibility; tear sheets of beautiful, high-quality furnishings; well written plans that evolve around your architecture, the things you love and at least some of your existing furniture; and professional, clean looking estimates and budgets with branded logos and signature fonts and colors.

Experienced Workrooms, Craftsman and Fabricators 

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.


Light filled breakfast room.


Other Things to Consider

By this point in the project, a client usually knows if the designer is a good match. Now, the presentation must gain their approval. Is the project within your budget? What, if any changes are needed? Do the design schemes reflect your personal style as well as the home’s architecture? Is it appropriate to your geography? Do the styles and colors jump out at you, in a good way? If so, you are ready to begin the project.

Your designer will most likely be providing you with both products and services. Before writing the check, make certain the products and services are clearly described in writing (my descriptions are on my written quotes and bids). Make certain payment terms and lead times are clear. Most designers require at least a 50% deposit upon order and balance at time of shipment for furniture and accessories. I require payment in full.

For window treatments, an additional deposit may be required because by the time the treatments are installed, most of the materials and labor have long been paid for and the designer will be out of pocket before collecting the full balance. It’s also helpful if the designer gives a ballpark estimate of what shipping costs will be.

Managing the Client’s Expectations

Managing the client’s expectations is an important part of the job. So are foreseeing problems before they occur. I know from past experience which vendors are slow, and I prepare the client by telling them a longer lead time than what I’ve been quoted. Then, if the vendor is on time, the client and I are both pleasantly surprised. Under promising and over delivering is another part of great project management.


white sofa and modern chair


How Designers Charge for their Services

Designers charge for their services and products in a variety of ways such as with retainers against future work; with hourly fees; and with cost-plus percentage mark-ups. Most of us are compensated by a capped amount of hourly fees for services as well as wholesale to retail mark-ups on products. We purchase products at wholesale and receive a commission by selling it at retail. We also charge hourly fees for services that don’t require materials or fabrication.

Budget, Timeline and Scope of Work

To ensure the personal satisfaction of your project, be clear about your budget, timeline and scope of work. Your designer will collaborate with you on this. They are very helpful in prioritizing and doing work in phases. Be proactive in the end result by giving your designer good descriptions of the styles and colors you prefer. Esoteric terms like “cozy” and “classic” have different meanings for different people and are subject to interpretation.


Sheila Bouttier


Sheila Bouttier


Communicate clearly and when possible, provide pictures of your preferences. Use real descriptions like “blue”, “large”, “modern” and “pale”. Clarity is almost an art form itself but like design, practice makes perfect.

The Sum of the Parts

And remember this subtle rule of thumb: it’s not the individual furniture or paint or fabrics your designer chooses that makes a room fabulous. It’s the way in which everything is put together as a whole.

That’s the real art of the interior designer.

If your home isn’t supporting you the way it is, are you ready for a change? Get some help via my complimentary premier design and wellness download, The Wellness Home and learn my 5 simple steps to a beautiful, restful interior for women who value their home and wellness. It’s the prettiest little book and a quick read with super easy design solutions that help you lead a beautiful, healthier lifestyle at home. Get yourself some help post haste!



The Wellness Home


That’s it for today. Thank you for stopping by! Shiree’

For my at-a-glance must have’s for giving your home a wellness makeover, check out my “Design Help, Wellness and a Little Woo Woo”!

The Design Presentation: How Designers Help Clients Visualize their Home

How do interior designers help clients visualize their home, before they commit to buying anything? We call it The Design Presentation.

What type of visual aids do they use so clients can see what is being planned for them? How do they know what style you will like if you don’t know yourself? Is there a reliable way to develop a feasible budget and scope of work? Will your designer know which of your existing furnishings to keep, what to re-purpose, and what to discard? Can they work around the furnishings you already have?



Marie France, above.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a good idea how professionals create design schemes for their clientele, how you can visualize your home’s potential, and how a budget and scope of work drives the project’s viability whatever its size.

Discussing Lifestyle and Function with the Designer

Before discussing aesthetics and budget with a client, we talk about lifestyle and function. What type of lifestyle do you lead? Do you have children, pets or grandchildren? Are there any special physical needs to consider? Do you entertain? Is the lifestyle you lead a formal, casual, or something in between? What do you love about your home? Is there anything about it that really bothers you? Are you working around something special such as a great view, antiques or artwork? Is the home located in the city or country? What is the style of the architecture? The answers to these questions are important because they give us our basic perimeters.





Designing a scheme around a client’s preferences is much more challenging than making choices unilaterally, but better designers work this way. They know the client will be much happier if their preferences have been listened to and respected. If you have something really special to work around, such as an antique settee, a favorite color, or a favorite oil painting, using them as starting points eases some of the decision making. Identifying the client’s preferences comes largely from determining what they currently love about their home, what they dislike about it, and from finding things (like furniture and fabrics) to tie everything together visually.


Eric Ross, above. 

With newly constructed homes, finding the client’s aesthetic is a little more challenging. The best results come from going over shelter magazine images that the client loves and understanding the local culture and geography (such as building a home in the city vs. on a cattle ranch). I like to take an artful approach in blending the client’s style, architecture, and geography into something very personal to the client.

Visual Aids, Concept Boards and Scope of Work

Visual Aids: A designer helps a client visualize a proposed design scheme with drafted floor plans, over size fabric swatches, flooring samples, pictures of furniture and paint chips. Looking at the proposed colors, fabrics and furnishings side by side gives you a strong sense of your home’s potential. If done well, these samples will make a strong and beautiful visual statement.





Concept and Color Boards

Concept and color boards such as the ones used in commercial and hospitality design are helpful too, but they are time consuming to produce and require a client who has a large, financially vested project.

Scope of Work/Budget

No one likes to provide a designer with a budget. We understand your discomfort. We are consumers too. But if you go into a car dealership looking for a Mercedes and a salesman educates you on all the wonderful benefits of a Volkswagen or Rolls Royce, both your time has been wasted. It is best to first determine an overall scope of work and budget. You can always break it up into phases if it’s more financially feasible.





Ask for Two Budgets

I had a recent living room project and was given a smallish budget. The scope of work was window coverings, sofas, and chairs which wouldn’t allow us to purchase any new furniture. My first two plans proposed new window coverings, new throw pillows, and recovering the existing sofa and chairs in new fabrics. The last plan allowed for the same but with recovering chairs and purchasing a new sofa. The first plan came in under budget, the second plan at budget, and the third plan just 2% over budget. These three design schemes couldn’t have been accomplished without a budget and scope of work.

Giving two or three budgetary plans is a win-win situation because it gives the client a lot of control on how the money is spent and gives the designer the options we need to create something really special within the constraints of that budget.



What to Keep, Repurpose or Discard

Making these three decisions may sound difficult but I really enjoy this part of the process. Utilizing furniture from different eras truly makes a project more special, so that everything isn’t being purchased from one place in time. That’s one of the reasons I love including vintage or antique pieces in all of my projects. A home will evolve better (have a timeless appearance) if you furnish it with a blend of eras and styles. It requires an artistic flair to pull it off but if you have the knack for visualizing things, do give this a try.

In choosing furniture to keep, re-purpose and discard you first decide which things you absolutely love. If it has an important appellation or sentimental value, it should be placed so it’s appreciated often. Keep (and place first) all the pieces you love the most. Second, re-purpose the remaining pieces by placing them in less important areas like guest rooms and the den. Third, whatever is leftover (the least favored, least valuable pieces) can be consigned or given to a younger sibling or child at college.





Working with Things You Already Have

Working around the furnishings you already have: You’ve determined your lifestyle, your personal aesthetics, developed a design scheme and budget, and prioritized your existing furnishings. Now is the fun part—taking your scheme to fruition. The proposed floor plans, furniture and fabric combinations should complement your existing furnishings in such a way that they are strikingly beautiful together, yet cozy and livable. They should coordinate with each other but not be predictable and quick to date like a mail order furniture catalog. The overall scheme should resonate with you. It should be appropriate to your architecture and surroundings.

What most bespoke design presentations entail: In addition to two in-home consultations and taking measurements, each custom design scheme takes a full day of shopping for fabrics and furniture—usually at a to-the-trade design center (I love the San Francisco Design Center); drafting floor plans by hand or on a CAD program; creating professional quality, “branded” visual aids; choosing paint and carpet; and many hours of figuring estimates for each of the proposed products. Most designers will provide two design schemes for a set price. The design industry is purportedly changing some of their methods of charging for their time. We are seeing set prices for clearly delineated services (packaged services); less markup on furniture and other product; and more consultation time. 


Glossary of Terms

To-the-Trade- a design industry term meaning products available to designers, decorators, and architects for purchase at special pricing allowing retail mark-up.

CAD- computer aided drafting for producing home plans, kitchens and bathrooms, furniture lay-outs, elevation views and three dimensional renderings.

Design center- There are “design centers” in most major cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. In recent years they’ve opened up to the general public although most showrooms will not sell to anyone without licensing.

Scope of work- the overall plan to rebuild, refurbish, and/or replace components in a project; works hand in hand with a budget to set the project’s perimeters. 

Bespoke- dealing with custom tailored products and services.


The Wellness Home


If your home isn’t supporting you the way it is, are you ready for a change? Get some help via my complimentary premier design and wellness download, The Wellness Home and learn my 5 simple steps to a beautiful, restful interior for women who value their home and wellness. It’s the prettiest little book and a quick read with super easy design solutions that help you lead a beautiful, healthier lifestyle at home. Get yourself some help post haste!


That’s it for today. Thank you for stopping by! Shiree’


For help creating a wellness drive kitchen, click on my post, “Creating a Wellness Designed Kitchen” !