How To Work With An Interior Designer

10 Secrets for Planning a Successful Project

Spring is here and many wonder – what happened to my house? The space you used to love seems dull and dated, and you just have to do something about it. With so much else on your mind you might not have time to run around searching for a new couch or rug, or a vase, or color gesture to bring new life into your kitchen. Do not fear – help is out there. The question is, how do you take advantage of it? With a little preparation, you can choose exactly the right decorating help for you – and put yourself on a course that will produce the desired results. Here are 10 secrets for making sure that happens.

1. Have an idea of how much you want to spend. It is always good to have a budget, and for project work it is especially important to know what your parameters are and to spell out that information to all concerned.

2. Ask your friends for referrals. There is nothing better than a friendly referral (or warning). Look at designers’ websites. Many will have their portfolios posted. From the comfort of your home you can examine their work and read about their approach. Then, call and make sure all of your questions get answered.

3. Collect ideas. Buy as many decorating magazines as you can carry home and start looking for what you like, and what you do not like – just as important!

4. Determine how much disruption your family can take. Do not turn your entire house upside down if you have to live in it during the project. Renovating is painful even if you have the best designers and builders. It is messy and nerve-racking, and you should always have a safe haven where your family can hide and recover. Or perhaps your project doesn’t have to be so big in the first place. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh coat of paint in a new exciting color or new window treatments.

5. Discuss your ideas for the project with your family. Everybody is going to live with the changes, so you might as well seek buy-in early. Besides, good ideas come from all quarters. To maximize your family’s input, ask your designer for weekend appointments.

6. Maintain your sense of fun and adventure. You can have your entire house refreshed with new accessories after just one day of browsing in shops and antiques stores – and it can all be installed the same day. A friendly decorator will take you on a shopping trip where you will be able to take advantage of trade-only showrooms and still pay prices way below retail. Some of us will do one-day consultations that can truly change a space in the blink of an eye.

7. Identify your problem areas. If you have a particular design dilemma, don’t be shy to call on a decorator with just that question in mind. My clients often tell me that they have a problem with choosing rugs and carpeting, and paint colors. This is because a room’s appearance is most strongly influenced by the largest splashes of color. It’s easy to make a mistake with color, and with floor coverings the consequences can be expensive. A professional can improve your odds dramatically by previewing thousands of rugs and carpets before showing you some that could look terrific in your home. This kind of help is truly worth paying for.

8. Do not hire more than one designer at a time – including friends and neighbors who think they have an eye for design. I hear too many sad stories about customers who were working happily with a designer only to get bamboozled in mid-project by a well-intentioned (let’s give them that) friend. Of course, this friend adds that she knows just what you need and can help you. Soon, she literally takes over, and the outcome is neither this nor that – in other words, a disaster. You are the homeowner, and you are the one who lives in your home. I strongly advise against changing design horses in midstream, unless of course the original project has completely broken down for some reason.

9. Be wary of “free” services. As in other aspects of life, you get what you pay for. Furniture stores sometimes talk about providing free design, but in fact the costs are calculated into the prices. One way or the other, the costs are in there.

10. Finally, make use of the enormous range of resources that a designer can offer. She may have access to an unlimited number of dealers, brands and showrooms, which gives you countless options and great flexibility to use any source you want. This helps guard against an overly uniform look. You don’t want your house to look like you walked into a store and bought the whole display. There are few things worse that somebody coming to your house and saying “I swear that I have seen this room somewhere else…” It is mixing and matching objects from many different sources that makes decorating fun and a room look elegant, stylish and sophisticated. You deserve nothing less.

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