Thinking of Hiring an Interior Designer?

By: Katie Anderson
February 6, 2019


Here’s What You Should Ask!

People often ask me what the number one question is that I get from prospective clients.  Over the last 6 years or so it has been a resounding question of “how much do you charge?”

It is a fair question, everyone needs to know what to expect to pay for anything they purchase be it a service or a tangible item.  However, shopping by price or hourly rate alone is out of context when seeking interior design services.

You need much more information than the price; what are you getting for what they charge, what are they able to provide?

Imagine calling a restaurant and asking how much a dinner for two would cost without having accessed the menu or viewing the restaurant.  They may answer that the average price for dinner for two without “drinks” is $150.00.  There is no information regarding what you get other than what you will not receive for that price.  What are they serving and how about the ambiance or style of service?

Don’t Forget This Important Fact

Often what sounds expensive is in fact a great deal for what you are getting for the price, but you need to know what that is.

A more effective way to find an interior designer to work with is to research what they offer, their expertise and experience.

It comes down to what your need is and most importantly what your values are.

Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

I recommend that you take a bit of time with no distractions to ask yourself three things and write out your answers:

  1. What type of project do you want to do (remodel, new décor, new color scheme, business brand, etc.)?
  2. Why do you want an interior designer to help you with your project (time saving, access to trade-only vendors, project management, permit drawings, etc.)?
  3. What do you hope for or want to achieve as the end result of your project (problem solved, upgraded lifestyle, better/accessible business brand)?

The more clarity you have regarding your needs and expectations the better prepared you will be when it comes time to research and interview potential designers.

How to Qualify an Interior Designer: What’s Best for You and Your Specified Type of Project

Interior design is a rather intimate process so finding a professional that would work best for you is somewhat personal.  However, I do recommend that everyone follow these general guidelines:

Do They Have a Substantial Formal Education in Design?

If a remodel of any kind is what you are seeking help with then make sure the designer has what I call the alphabet soup after their name.

  • NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification)
  • ASID (American Society of Interior Design)
  • IIDA (International Interior Design Association)
  • NKBA Professional, not allied (National Kitchen and Bath Association),
  • A State designated Certification. In California it’s CID from the CCIDC (California Council of Interior Design Certification)

There are many others not listed here but these are some of the more robust testing institutions in the US.  Any one certification or trade organization membership is a guarantee of technical and code knowledge.  You can be certain that you are in the hands of someone who has the training to produce plans and oversee a project with an educated expertise while also being a better fit to communicate with most general contractors.

Degrees, certifications and trade memberships however, do not guarantee talent.

What’s in Their Portfolio?

The second thing to consider is the portfolio review.

When reviewing a designer’s portfolio look for completed projects.  By this I mean that there should be photographs of an entire room, not only vignettes.  An example is the end arm of a sofa next to a side table with a lamp and vase of flowers and variations on the theme.  If the portfolio mainly features vignettes then move on.  This is a sign of someone who has not had enough experience yet or they are primarily a stager.

Pro Tip: Staging is not interior design, interior design is not staging.  Just like badminton is not tennis, tennis is not badminton.  A person is an expert at what they practice all of the time rather than sometimes.

Look through the designer’s work and assess if there are completed projects similar to the size, scope and type of project you are wanting to do.  I also recommend that you view the work with a grain of salt as designers create what their clients want, not necessarily your style or their own style.  A great qualifying question is to ask a designer, are they comfortable and able to work in a contemporary style if most of the work shown is traditional and vise a versa.  It is important to determine this as many designers do niche themselves within a small range of style as a business choice.  You want someone who is capable to work with you and your style.  Most important of all is if you like what you see in their work.

How Do They Communicate?

The third important factor is communication style.  Once you have determined your needs and wants, reviewed portfolios, narrowing it down to a maximum of three designers with proven professional qualification, it’s time for the face to face consultation.

Likely the designer will be taking notes during this consultation and you should too.  What are your impressions?  As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, interior design is a personal process so yes, an immediate like or dis-like is important to pay attention to.  The designer will take note of this regarding you as well.

For your part, pay attention to how you feel about them, do you feel listened to?  Do they answer your questions clearly, giving you a better understanding of what you have asked or are they evasive?  Were they on time for the consultation?  (Unless they somehow got lost with the directions to the job site that were given.  GPS is often wrong).  Do they show a natural ease with the scope of work you are inquiring about or do they only point out problems without a solution?  Do they politely explain that your timeline for what you want is not realistic?  Imagine it’s the end of September when you are interviewing and you want your kitchen remodel finished in time for Thanksgiving….not going to happen, not possible. This is important.  You want a designer that is truthful and honest, not just answering you with what you want to hear in order to get the job.

The consultation is not the time or place to ask them what they charge, this question is still out of context.  They cannot answer this until they assess the scope of work you are asking them to do.  The designer will analyze the information they get from you, your stated wants and needs along with having viewed the existing job site conditions.  Only after they have had time to do that analysis will they be able to compose a formal proposal outlining what they will provide and what the monetary compensation will be for their work and time.  This is when the price will make sense, when it is juxtaposed to the outline of the services and time required to complete the stated project.  Knowing what you are getting for the stated price is much more helpful than asking for their hourly rate out of context of an actual project.

Keep in mind that the design proposal is for design services only, not the cost of the project or any goods/materials or cost of other trades people necessary to complete the project.

In the end what a designer is charging for their time and services won’t matter greatly if they meet your most important criteria.  You always get what you pay for so pay for quality every time!

 Are You Ready to Get Started? 

Interested in making an interior upgrade to your home or business?  Give us a call, we would love to help you realize your goals!