"Interior design is a business of trust."
While all of us have some idea of how we want our homes to look, designing and optimizing the space perfectly can be a challenging task. This is where an interior designer steps in. He/she creates usable and aesthetically pleasing architectural spaces by taking into consideration the home's architectural features and the client's lifestyle.
To hire the best designer, you can check design publications, the Internet, or ask friends, family, and associates. Once you have zeroed in on a few designers, it is important to ask the right questions that will allow you to build your trust and comfort level with the designer.
Background and Portfolio
◆ Are you licensed to work in this state?
Licensing requirements vary from state to state. The typical requirements of licensing are a combination of education and practical experience. It is best to hire a licensed interior designer who has expert knowledge in the accessibility requirements, building and fire codes, ergonomic considerations, and other requirements necessary for the success of the project.
◆ What are your specialties as a designer?
There are designers who have different specialties based on the bulk of their professional experience. For example, some designers are better at designing traditional office spaces, while others are good at designing something eclectic or funky.
◆ Do you have experience in designing rooms in our desirable style and budget?
This is crucial for people who have a set notion of what they want. The designer should be able to translate the client's idea perfectly, and they can do so only when they have had some experience of designing in different styles. The versatility of the designer's work is important as they are then able to adapt the design to suit their client's taste.
If you have a set budget, the designer should be able to work with it. Choosing a designer who has always worked with high-end budgets and who opts for costly products and labor, may create a lot of problems later. Also, these big project designers may be unwilling to put your small project at the top of their priority list.
◆ Do you have a portfolio, and can we look at it?
If you need to get a good idea of the previous work done by the designers, you can ask them for the portfolio. If you find their work impressive and see it meshing with your design idea, you can take the decision to hire him/her.
◆ Can we contact the references that you have provided us?
Testimonials or references from their past clients can illustrate how the designer has worked with clients to produce the best solutions to a client's needs. It also helps in discerning whether the work is completed on time and whether there were any unexpected financial burdens. Ideally, any good designer should be able to solve problems and address each client individually to provide tailored design solutions. It is, thus, important to know if the past clients were happy with the work that the designer had done for them.
◆ What are the services you would offer for the said project?
You need to ask the interior designer if he/she will provide all the services required for your project, and if not, which other consultants will you require. In this case, you can plan and have your team ready in time.
◆ What is the estimated duration of the project, and will you provide a working timetable of the project?
This is a very important question. As a homeowner, you are obviously concerned about how long the property will remain in construction. If you need to get it done in a certain time framework, it is important to hire a designer who has the resources and labor to accomplish the task within the specific time.
In addition to this, the designer can provide a working timetable which allows you to know the time duration for the completion of each part of the project. This also helps you understand if the designer exceeds the time limits that have been set.
◆ What is going to be my extent of involvement in the project?
Even if you choose a designer that is perfect for you, you may still want to get involved in the designing process. While most designers are more than willing to work with this, others may want to take full control of the designing process. If you want to stay involved, hire a designer who is fine with your involvement. Work out your degree of involvement as well. For example, decide whether all plans and blueprints need your approval before they can proceed. Know how far you can suggest changes in plans.
◆ How do you explain the design to me so that I can decide what I want to get?
As a homeowner who is completely involved in the designing process, you may want to see how the end result looks like. Your designer should be able to provide you with accurate details. This can be done by setting models of rooms, or virtual representation.
◆ Do you use preferred contractors?
Most designers work with a set of contractors that they have a good equation with. Ideally, these contractors are not only skilled in the design niche of your designer, but also have a basic idea of how much it will cost when looking at the plans. If you are looking to hire your own contractors, make sure they are able to work in harmony with the designer.
Fees and Charges
◆ How do you charge?
Designers charge their fees in different ways, such as flat fee, hourly basis, or on a percentage. Usually, most designers charge on a percentage or "cost plus." This is the percentage charged over the wholesale. Some designers charge on an hourly basis or have a flat fee. In addition to this, there may be a design fee to start a job.
You also need to be clear about the billing schedule and how the payment should be made. Things like the approval process for purchases and what to do in case you pick items on your own need to be decided beforehand.
◆ What are the initial investment costs and insurance?
Ask about the initial investment costs and liability insurance when you draw the contract. Most people do not know this, but when you invest a lot of money and have significant repairs and remodeling done, you are entitled to Home Warranty Insurance that protects you, in case anything goes wrong in the future with the enhancements you had done to your property.
◆ On what grounds can a contract be severed?
In case things do not work out, you need to decide the grounds on which the contract can be severed. You need to inquire about the conditions and steps for termination.
If you feel the interior designer in question is the best for the job, you also need to check the contract provided by the interior designer. The document assures that all services promised for the specified fees will be carried out in full. Get the document checked and reviewed by a lawyer before signing it. Don't be carried away by empty promises and fake smiles. Ask the right questions to make the right decision for your house.