10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Interior Designer
There are a lot of factors that go into selecting an interior designer. Do you values, communication expectations, and design styles align? Are their service fees and typical project budgets in line with your budget or desired spend? Can they work within your timeline or can they clearly define a timeline for your scope? Most importantly, do you feel you can get along from a personality standpoint? After all, hiring a designer is like starting a 6-18 month relationship (depending on the project scale).
It can be hard to hone in on what to look for in a designer. Some of it is gut instinct and some of it will depend on their answers to your questions. Your initial conversation or consultation should be just as much about you getting to know the designer as it is the designer getting to understand your project.
Here are 10 questions that I, as a designer, recommend asking prospective designers before you make your final decision:
1. What type of services do you offer?
If you are building a home from the ground up it’s important to hire a designer that offers full service design so they can interact with architects, builders, and contractors regularly to communicate your vision properly. In other instances, you may only need a singular room furnished and you’ll want to ensure they offer one room services and adjust their fees accordingly.
2. What is included in your services?
Is procurement or project management an extra service? Is accessorizing and styling included? Some designers charge additional fees for ordering, order tracking and project management. Additionally, storing product until its time for install day can come with hefty monthly storage fees. It’s important to note potential additional fees up front so you can be prepared.
3. How much do you charge and how are your fees structured?
Don’t expect an answer on the spot to the question “how much is this going to cost?” but it is important to know whether a designer charges are hourly fee or flat fee charged monthly. They may also charge a percentage for profit on furnishings, accessories, or materials. Lastly, you’ll want to know how and how often they bill and what their payment terms are.
4. Can you work within my budget?
Some designers may have a minimum budget amount and this is important to know to ensure they are willing to work within your desired project budget.
5. How often are presentations, how many times do we meet, and how do you present your designs?
In a post covid world many people have become comfortable presenting and designing full projects virtually but some clients and designers prefer to meet in person- especially if the presentation includes fabrics or hard materials. You’ll want to make sure you and your designer are on the same page with how and when you are going to meet.
6. Who will be working on my project and for what duration?
The designer themselves may be the only person you interact with, or you might be working with a team of people throughout the process. A designer might have a design team, purchasing department, project coordinator, billing department, and installation team so it's important to know who you should expect what type of correspondence from.
7. Have you worked on similar projects to mine before?
Be sure to ask for a website, portfolio, and/or references. Also if a project scope is comparable confirm the budget is aligned to yours so you are comparing an apple to an apple. It’s deceiving to compare a $30,000 Kitchen renovation to a $200,000 Kitchen renovation.
8. Can you recommend builders/architects/contractors you work with regularly and trust?
This is an interesting question because you may need recommendations for these trades, or you may be listening to see if the designer seems like they will be willing to work with a team you have already established.
9. How do you determine if a project if a good fit for you?
Like I mentioned before, you are getting into a relationship with your designer whether you view it that way or not. It’s important to make sure your personalities fit and that you are going to be building a strong relationship and partnership over the coming months.
10. Do you have any design certifications?
This may not be necessary or important to you but knowing if your designer went to design school, has a degree or holds certifications, or continues their education may give you peace of mind you are working with someone who doesn’t just talk the talk. To be clear, there are many great designers without formal design education but it’s important to determine if this is an important factor for you.
Other things to consider before hiring a designer:
-Do you design styles align? While some designers may not put a title or type to their design style (like traditional, contemporary, modern, etc.) it’s important to understand how they would describe their style and make sure it resonates with you.
-How do they handle revisions, objections, or items in the design you may not like or find less than desirable.
-Does the designer welcome client involvement or do they prefer the client to be hands off? If you want to be involved in every decision and step it’s important to be up front with that expectation. If you want little involvement and expect a final HGTV type reveal moment it’s important to express that as well.
-Does the designer offer a complimentary consultation/initial meeting or is there a fee? If there is a fee is it then applied to your contract if you decide to proceed with this designer?
-During your conversations do they seem like they are a good listener? Do they communicate clearly and confidently?
-Do they correspond outside of 9-5 “business” hours? Do they prefer email, phone calls or texting? How is correspondence documented?
-Will the designer incorporate your existing pieces into the new design? Or do they prefer a clean, blank slate?