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HIRING AN INTERIOR DESIGNER? 10 QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK

If you’re considering using an interior designer, it’s important you get it right. Here are the key questions to ask before you decide…

Article first published on Houzz
Abigail Owens, Houzz Contributor
Lead image: Gatti House by Barlow & Barlow Design

Appointing an interior designer can be a daunting prospect. It can sometimes be a lengthy process, too, so if you have any worries over how it all works, it’s best to resolve them at the beginning. It’s important to ask the right initial questions to help you decide if the designer is right for you. Here are the key questions – and answers – that will help you make up your mind.

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1 Can you source unusual pieces?

An experienced designer will have a wealth of knowledge and contacts that they’ve built up over their career to enable them to find unusual artworks and accessories. If you have a good relationship with them, you can expect to go on sourcing trips together.

Many companies will let you try a item in your home and return it if you don’t like it, which is a less scary approach when you’re considering investing in a real statement piece. Most designers want their clients to feel fully confident to buy new things for their home.

Keep your designer informed of any large pieces that you’re thinking of buying, so they can incorporate them into the scheme and ensure it all works as one.

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2 Can you make my old furniture work in a new-build property?

When you start a project with your designer, be clear on what you’re taking with you if you’re moving to a new property.

If there are quite a few pieces you want to work into your new scheme, the designer may create an inventory of all the items, along with photos and dimensions, to make sure none of them are left behind. Whether it’s a threadbare armchair or family dining table, your designer should be able to make it work in your new home.

However, you may find, as you progress, that you feel less sentimental about certain pieces of furniture once you see how they’ll look in your new scheme.

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3 I want my dream home, not yours. Is that ok?

Some designers have a definite look or do a certain style really well. This can be a great reason to go with them or a good reason not to hire them.

Take time to look at a designer’s portfolio and you might find there are more strings to their bow than the first few pages on their website suggest. A wider repertoire of styles can indicate the designer welcomes a variety of property styles and projects. This is an encouraging sign if you want something unique to you.

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4 I like bold, some say wacky, designs – is that a problem?

It’s your interior designer’s job to work to the brief you’ve set them; they are appointed by you. A good designer should embrace new challenges and designs that push them to the limit, and do all they can to visualise their client’s dream.

I don’t believe in bad taste – I think it’s putting things together in the wrong order that can make something unpleasing to the eye. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

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5 Do you get involved in the garden landscaping?

With so many design schemes now linking outside and inside spaces, it’s imperative that the two work together. It’s a given that your interior designer and landscape gardener should communicate  and harmonise their designs. You should also expect a lighting designer to collaborate, too.

Your designer may be involved in planning terrace space for outdoor furniture and in sourcing or consulting on garden sculptures and exterior structures.

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Selection
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6 Can you work with the much-loved items I’ve collected over the years?

It’s the things that are personal to us that bring a property alive. Let’s face it, as soon as the designer has left, you’ll take all your loved pieces back out of the cupboards because we need our belongings and home comforts around us. This is not your designer’s dream home, it’s yours.

If you don’t feel the relationship with your designer is right from the beginning, it never will be. Make sure you’re comfortable that they understand the brief and your vision.

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7 Do you take an interest in the architectural finishes?

Architects on the whole welcome the appointment of an interior designer. A good designer should take an interest in the architect’s vision for the building and respond to it. Choosing floor finishes and other important materials in a property is a crucial part of the integrity of the building.

The best projects occur when the architect and interior designer work together and move in the same direction. Your interior design should sympathise with the building itself.

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8 Do you get involved in the lighting?

Normally, an interior designer works alongside a lighting designer, with the interior designer presenting the decorative lighting, and the lighting designer working on the architectural fittings. However, a good interior designer will also have a decent understanding of lighting layouts and how to highlight areas of a room to their full potential.

If you’re working with a new build or a property that’s listed or of special importance, hire a specialist lighting designer as well if possible. From the position of the floor sockets to smart lighting systems, a combined lighting and interior designer team will guide you through the whole process.

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9 Will you design other buildings within the project, such as a summerhouse?

Often projects go beyond just the home, and your designer can assist you with the look of any outbuildings or offices.

Some designers prefer to keep this arrangement casual, but it’s best to include it in the Scope of Work from the very beginning. That way, you avoid causing any ill feelings with your designer by suddenly adding something to the brief that wasn’t taken into consideration when they put their fee proposal together.

A good brief and a full and open discussion about what the job entails is the best way for your designer to work out a fair fee.

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10 Can you make my home family friendly?

Making a home practical and family friendly doesn’t mean having to cut back on style or character. There’s a great range of fabrics and materials around that will protect your home from children’s sticky fingers and other little accidents.

Creating environments for children is a great opportunity for you and your designer to come up with something unusual. However, creating something unusual may mean going bespoke, so be prepared to invest a little more if you want something unique for your home.

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