How to Work with an Interior Designer

Designer Susan Ferrier of McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors shares tips on working with a professional interior designer.

Do Your Research
Flip through home décor magazines you like. If you spot a designer whose work appeals to you, Google them. They should have a website that depicts the distinct aesthetic of their work. If they don’t have a website, contact them. They should be able to provide you with images of their work.

Convey Your Vision
You can optimize your results by talking openly with your designer about the look you’re striving for. Share your thoughts about color palette, lighting and what you think is beautiful.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind
Every interior needs a design goal in order to keep the project on track. Time and money can be wasted when direction wavers, so make sure both you and your designer always keep your goal in mind.

Know Your Budget
A good designer will design to the budget you give them. The key is to be open and honest about what you can spend, whether it’s $5,000 or $75,000. When the designer gives you an estimate, it should include the cost of purchases, installations, and freight and materials—as well as the designer’s hourly fee. Designers typically charge a markup at net pricing on the goods they source and purchase for their clients. This usually amounts to less than the full retail price of the goods.

Understand the Process
For design of an entire average-sized home’s interiors, you should allow six to nine months for completion, depending on the level of detail and whether the design calls for custom items. This estimate takes into account the typical 12 to 16 week time-frame for furniture ordering and delivery. The interior design process itself basically breaks down into three phases:

  • Programming — the phase in which the designer and the client share as much information as possible in an effort to determine the function of the space, how it will be used, and what it should look like.
  • Design Development — this is when the designer presents to the client the floor plan and recommended furniture pieces, including custom designs, finishes, accessories, art, lighting and fabrics that reflect the client’s tastes. Usually the collective presentation includes a few combinations from which the client can choose.
  • Purchasing and Installation — preparation of purchase orders and arrangement of delivery and installation, all the while consulting with the architect or contractor on the project.

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