Hiring an interior designer should be an exciting time for you. However, if you've never used their services before, you may feel a little anxious or intimidated by the prospect of having a total stranger come into your home (and your life) and start analyzing everything you own. While most designers understand the dynamics of what they are walking into, I've found that most homeowners have a lot of questions and concerns about how it works. To help those of you who haven't had the pleasure of working with a designer, here is a list of some of the most common questions that your designer will likely ask you.
1. How would you describe the overall look that you want to give your home? This could range from casual to contemporary or traditional to transitional. Some clients have certain keywords that they may have in mind such as coastal, cottage, vintage, Mediterranean, eclectic, minimalist, etc. Generally the designer is looking for a mental picture to begin the design strategy.
2. How is the space going to be used? There's nothing typical about how people live. Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong. I've had people convert complete bedrooms into closets, dining rooms into billiard rooms, and so on. Maybe you want the room to have multiple uses such as a great room for entertaining, gaming, media center and family gatherings. Maybe the home office needs to accommodate overnight guests. Maybe the dining room needs to be able to serve as card tables on game night. This is where you need to be honest in the way you live so the designer can create something that will satisfy your requests.
3. How do you feel about structural changes? This could include adding windows, moving doorways, enlarging rooms, raising ceilings, etc. Sometimes these changes can make the difference between a nice home and an outstanding home.
4. How many people do you typically entertain? This can have an effect on the size of the dining room, the amount of seating in the living areas, the traffic pattern and layout of the furniture and also the types of surfaces selected. Heavy traffic areas need surfaces that will take abuse and are easy to clean. The same holds true for fabrics used on upholstery.
5. Do you have any pet peeves or things you don't like? Let you designer know if you have certain colors that you favor or ones that you don't like. If you have preferences beyond that, such as types of patterns (florals, stripes, plaids, etc.), speak your mind.
6. Are there any special personal needs? Special needs include family or close friends that might have certain handicaps, pets, size of extended families during holidays, etc.
7. What is your time frame? Do you have any deadline for having the work completed? Is this date firm or just a desired date? Keep in mind that by shortening the time frame, you may be shortening the selection that your designer can choose from and also limits them on suggesting special treatments such as construction related improvements. Also, if you don't have any specific deadlines, the option of completing the project in phases is a possibility meaning the scope of the work could be increased to fit your financial situation over time. 8. How long do you plan on living here? This is important so the designer can gauge the value of different options. Those planning on moving in 4-5 years should invest less in a project than someone who his planning on spending a great deal of their future years in their home. The only exception to this rule is if you have purchased an older home at a great price and you're hoping to realize a profit on the resale. In that case, construction costs may exceed the cost of furnishings but undoubtedly will need to be done in order to bring the home up to competitive standards.
9. Do you need any specialty services included in the project? Specialty items would include things such as sound systems, media or security systems, special remote controlled devices such as the Lutron Smart House system, or any other specific plumbing or mechanical items that would require the coordination with an outside source to include in the project.
10. What is your budget? This is a bit tricky. Some clients feel they need to low-ball the designer thinking that designers always come in over budget. Some throw out an unrealistic figure with no real intention of spending as much money as they have indicated. The best advice here is to be honest. Let you designer know just how much you are comfortable spending. They can apply it in the best possible way to give you the biggest bang for your buck. If you have no idea what things cost, again be honest. A good designer should be able to give you some idea after discussing the scope of the project based on their previous experience. But before you start handing over any deposits, it's a wise decision to get all the costs lined up first so there are no surprises. This will give you an idea of some of the more popular questions that we, as designers, like to know going into a new project. Of course, you will have questions too and you should ask all of them without reserve. Having no surprises during or at the end of the job will make the process much more fun and hopefully you will have built a lasting relationship that will follow you and your family through the years ahead.