Have you ever thought about employing an interior designer? If so, I guarantee at least some of these questions have gone through your mind. Here I answer the top 10 questions you would really like to ask an interior designer.
- What’s it like to work with an interior designer?
- What happens when you work with an interior designer?
- What exactly does an interior designer DO?
- Will an interior designer make me have wild and wacky things in my house that I won’t like?
- Does an interior designer only work with people who own large houses?
- How much does it cost to hire an interior designer?
- Do you have to be super rich to work with an interior designer?
- What will an interior designer do apart from shop and choose nice colours for me?
- What if I hate what the interior designer does?
- My sister/cousin/niece twice removed has a lovely house and she didn’t use an interior designer, so don’t see why we should. I’ll just ask them.
These are the type of questions and comments that I know people ask and say about the job I do. It’s strange as it’s one of those jobs that is a mystery to most and a lot is assumed about. For example, that I all I really do is stand around choosing wallpaper and paint.
So I thought I’d write a blog post to try to clear up some of the misunderstandings and confusion. Also to hopefully show you just how easy and helpful it is to hire me as your interior designer.
So let’s start with the first question.
1. What’s it like to work with an interior designer?
Much like working with any other trade really. I come in to your home and help you do something you are not able to; maybe because you don’t have the skills, or you don’t have the time or you appreciate the value of getting an expert to help – or all three. I’d expect you to have done some research and know the type of work I do. I’d hope you liked what you saw and are contacting me to find out more.
I would also assume you’ve spoken to, or possibly are going to speak to other designers to see which is the best fit. We then get to know each other and you tell me how I can help you. From then on, just like if you employ someone to cut your hair, plumb in your bath or paper your walls, I work for you to help you get the result you want.
2. What happens when you work with an interior designer?
Okay, this is the big question. I figured the best way is to run through the full design process with you. So here goes…
Most people who contact me have NEVER worked with an interior designer before. In fact, I can’t think of one client who came to me having any idea of the process. So I always begin with a free 20 minute phone call which you will have pre-booked (it often over runs, I don’t set an alarm).
How can I help?
During this chat I ask the potential client what it is they need help with – what room or rooms we are talking about, what they like or don’t like about the space/s at the moment, how they would ideally like to use the room/s. Sometimes people don’t have a clue and literally just say “I need you to give me ideas and I have no idea what style I like or dislike” and that’s fine.
I also ask about budget – what you have to spend on making this room/space/area better? More on this later.
I get a feel for what you need and give you an idea of how I can help. Perhaps all you need is some colour advice, I will tell you. Maybe you need much more help with spatial planning, furniture placement, figuring out how to use the space better or bigger renovations, I’ll give you a list of options.
From this call we will both establish how much help and input you need or want.
If after the discovery call you want to take the idea of working with me further I will arrange to come and visit you at your home or the place the work is to be done. It’s better that I come to see the space rather than you come to me (there’s plenty of time for you to visit my studio after this, I’m always open to visits and the kettle is always on).
This initial visit is chargeable. This is because it takes time and I am not doing the job for free. Just like most jobs I expect to be paid for what I do. It’s a nominal charge and there is no commitment to take it any further after that initial visit.
During the visit I will walk around the space with you (if that’s doable) and discuss how it works – or, more often, doesn’t work for you right now. We will begin a conversation about style and your preferences, but nothing is set in stone. This is an information gathering session for both of us. You get a feel for me and how I work and I find out as much as I can about what your ‘dream home’ may look and feel like.
I may bring some samples with me and show you some ideas on my iPad, just to get a good understanding of what your hopes and expectations are. But again, nothing is final at this point – in fact, far from it.
I will then go away and consider what we spoke about and come up with a design proposal. What I can’t do is give you a plan, design, colour advice right there and then. The design work goes on later and takes time and a lot of work.
Within a few days, I will send you an email with a synopsis of our meeting, detailing what I understood to be your requirements. This email will also include my design proposal, along with a break down of my fees should you wish to proceed.
Sometimes I can see people need a bespoke service and explain what and how this works. Perhaps it’s more of a colour consult with some furniture suggestions that’s needed – again I will make it clear. Even if I feel it’s a whole house demo, I will be honest and tell you what, as a designer I think would be the best way forward – considering your lifestyle, your budget and your ultimate goals.
It is then entirely up to you if you want to carry on working with me or not. If you don’t, I always appreciate a short email to say thanks for your time, we’ve got it from here. It just means I can close that enquiry and won’t contact you again unless asked to. If you are still interested, but are not sure what you want, we can arrange another meeting. If you decide after our first meeting you’d love to get the ball rolling, that’s when the fun begins.
First Design Consult
This is the long one so I ask clients to allow at least two hours – it’s been known to go on much longer, depending on the scope of the project.
You can either choose to come along to my studio (or, I can bring it to you – it is your choice) and have a good look at all the samples, paint charts, inspo I have here.
In this meeting I really want to nail down your likes and dislikes, what styles appeal and what looks you won’t. I’ll ask lots of questions and show you all kinds of images and books for inspiration.
This is essentially my fact finding mission. Don’t worry I supply lots of tea/coffee and biscuits to keep us going!
After this meeting I want to be able to come up with a design so the more I find out the better.
I will also arrange a suitable time to visit you at home/in the space we’re working on to do a whole host of measurements. This is something that can take some time and is one of the most important parts of the job. I often need space to do this alone – with the odd request for a spare pair of hands to hold the end of the tape measure (I do have an electronic one too, but like to go old school).
During this first design consult we also discuss budget in more detail.
This is always a sticky area and please be assured you would not be the first to be cagey/embarrassed/avoiding of this subject. But is SO important to the overall job.
My job is to implement the best design for each client based on their budget so it’s really key to know what that budget is. It can be £500 or £50,000 or more. But it is really important I know what you want to spend.
You can find out more about the budget in questions 6 & 7below.
Once I’ve finished the initial design consult I’ll take everything away and start to plan your design. This can take a couple of weeks, maybe longer, depending on what it is you need. I will again email you a synopsis of our meeting so that we are both clear on what was talked about and how things are looking.
I’ll be in touch a few times, sometimes daily to ask questions, check details and run things by you. You are also welcome to send me your ideas, thoughts or little gems you may find during that time.
I give you time to digest the information and come back to me with your thoughts and any questions you have. This is when you tell me what you do or don’t like about the design and we look at it together to make sure it’s exactly what you want.
Mood Boards and Samples
Once you have agreed to the design I’ll start getting together a mood board and sample board and arrange another in-person meeting. This can be at my studio or at your home (or where the design is for). The sample board is when you get to touch and experience the design. I will have physical samples of fabrics, flooring, wall finishes, hardware, paint colours, even metals or wood that is going to be used.
The mood boards is a visual picture that shows you as close as possible what the overall scheme will look like. I will show you as much of the design as is possible without actually being in the room. If requested, I can also produce a 3d render of the room. (This is an add on service).
After this meeting I ask that you sign off the design. At this stage I send you all the details if that is the service you signed up for. Or, I begin getting trade quotes for work to be carried out and ordering goods if you have gone for a bigger, more bespoke service. Either way, it’s when the actual physical design starts to take shape.
From then on it really is dependent on what service you have signed up for. I can leave you to create the design or be fully hands on. It’s up to you. Some clients come back to me mid design and ask for my help choosing artwork perhaps, or finding a chair that would suit the new room. Some clients simply follow through with the design and are very happy.
Either way I always ask for feedback and always like to come and see the end result. I love to get some snaps of the before and after of each room as people often forget to do this themselves and it’s so important to see the work you have done.
So that’s it. That’s the process.
Now for the other questions.
3. What exactly does an interior designer DO?
See all of the above – and some.
Me personally, I also get to know you and your family so that I can make sure your home reflects who you are and how you live. I listen to your stories and love hearing them and I understand the difficulties of managing family dynamics and space.
Another important factor is that I work hard to ensure your home doesn’t just look lovely for now. I want to help you future proof your home and make it work hard for you for years to come, bearing in mind that dynamics can change.
As well as working closely with my clients I also constantly have to keep up to date with the latest trends and styles. This means attending exhibitions, talks and launches. Which can be fun – but can also be long days of traipsing around (sometimes boring) trade fairs.
I also have to create my own marketing material to promote what I do. Manage my own accounts. Order, sort and store samples. Create social media content. Do lots of admin. Build relationships with suppliers and trades. Keep on top of regulations. Keep up my own CPD. The list goes on.
4. Will an interior designer make me have wild and wacky things in my house that I won’t like?
I will push you to try something new and different to what you’ve done before. After all, that is why you’ve employed me.
If you wanted exactly what you had before, you would be able to do that yourself right?
But I really get to know my clients. I work with people who know my design style and therefore we already have an understanding of what the end results should be. My job is to give you something bespoke to you, something you won’t find in the house down the road, something that reflects your lifestyle. More than anything I alway say your home should tell YOUR story. I’m just helping you with the proofreading.
5. Does an interior designer only work with people who own large houses?
No. Definitely not. In fact, the smaller the space, the harder the job – and I love a challenge. This year I’ve worked on a 2 bed apartment, a 4 bed detached family house, a 3 bed end of terrace, and a commercial unit. Not to mention the other smaller jobs like a home office re-jig and a colour consultation or six.
6. How much does it cost to hire an interior designer? & 7. Do you have to be super rich to work with an interior designer?
I’ll answer both of these questions together as they are really the same thing.
No. Is the basic answer to No 7.
My packages start at £199. Most people spend that on decorating and find they make mistakes. Choosing the wrong paint colour for a north facing room. Buying a whole set of curtains that just don’t look right. Etc etc.
I can save you making those costly mistakes and get you discounts on items you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get.
Let’s clear a few things up first…
IF you tell me what your budget is say, £5,000 That’s not to say I will go ahead and make sure every penny of that budget is spent. I also cannot guarantee you won’t spend more – but this never happens without your full approval and explanation as to why something is over budget.
I do not specify items that give me ‘kick backs’ or only choose suppliers that offer me a percentage of what you buy.
How I run my business is that I find the BEST option for your design. This could be with someone I’ve bought from before, or a brand new supplier/maker/trade. I spend time and effort building relationships with the suppliers to negotiate trade discounts. These discounts are not something you as a regular buyer would be given. I pass this full discount on to you.
I then charge an agreed percentage of the net cost of all the FF&E (furniture, fixtures and fittings) I supply for you. This percentage is essentially covering the time it takes me to research, negotiate and find the perfect items for you and your space. This is time and energy you are not spending.
See how it works now?
So you don’t have to be super rich, just super savvy really.
8. What will an interior designer do apart from shop and choose nice colours for me?
See all of the above.
I do find it patronising when people assume all I do is waft around all day in lovely designer shops looking at fabric. When I do get the chance to spend the day at Chelsea Design Centre I grab it – mostly to source and get inspo for clients I’m working with. But I do not waft…
9. What if I hate what the interior designer does?
Okay, so many of us remember THE purple room that a certain designer inflicted on a trusting member of the public back in the 90’s. That has never happened to me or any designer I know. The process of deciding what to do is so thorough that it is almost impossible to get to a stage where you have a design in your house that you don’t like. If you do, it will only be because you haven’t been honest with me.
I’ve had clients unsure about paint colour mid-painting. I always assure them that if they hate it we will deal with it then. But to trust the process. I’m always right. Ask my brother-in-law who complained to my sister that the paint colour we’d chosen for their sitting room was looking like ‘a safe room’ – I assured him it would look fabulous once it was all finished. I was right, and he and my sister love it.
Sometimes you have to trust the process
10. My sister/cousin/niece twice removed has a lovely house and she didn’t use an interior designer, so don’t see why we should. I’ll just ask them!
That’s great, then feel free to ask for their help and advice. I have no problem with that. But I always liken it to the fact that you wouldn’t consider getting ‘someone that’s quite good at electrics’ to re-wire your house. I have trained in interior design, I’ve been around the interiors business for most of my adult life and I have contacts that I can call on to find just the right shade of blue for your wallpaper. I also have established relationship with trades who I trust and rely on to carry out work when needed.
All of this is why I take my role and business seriously. Being an interior designer is not just about buying lovely fabric and choosing paint colours. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that clients never see. It’s a job I love doing and am proud of.
If employing an interior designer is something you are thinking about, get in touch. The initial 20 minute discovery call costs you nothing but 20 minutes of your time.
You can find all my contact details here.
To see examples of my work, head here.
I look forward to hearing from you.
JoOwner, Crocus Interior Design