Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of designing spaces for a variety of clients and along the way we’ve learned a lot about what makes for a successful designer-client relationship. Here are some tips for working with an interior designer, whether it's your first time working with a designer or have an ongoing relationship with a designer.
It's Never Too Early
Many people wait to bring an interior designer on board until they’re partially through their project and almost ready for furniture orders to be placed. We regularly hear things along the line of “I wanted to wait until the home was built before I chose the furniture for the living room.” While we understand the hesitation, it’s actually much more beneficial and cost-effective to involve an interior designer as early in the process as possible, especially if you’re renovating or building from the ground up. Having interior design-minded eyes on your plans will ensure that the team (your designer, architect and builder) are considering not only the form of the home but the way you live in the space. Interior designers are trained to determine not only what will work visually, but how to make your space function for the way you intend to use it, and waiting too long can be costly. Remember it’s much easier and less expensive to make changes on paper (floor plans/elevations/renderings) than it is to change framing in the field.
Compatibility is Important
When you decide to hire an interior designer it makes sense to select someone you like. This may sound obvious, but people tend to overlook that design is a very personal process, especially residential interior design. Trust is important and it’s critical that you feel comfortable with your designer. When you’re vetting candidates, choose someone whose work you not only admire but with whom you also connect on a personal level. You’ll be talking and meeting a lot, so the thought of a conversation with your designer shouldn’t be something you dread. Most designers start their new projects with a discovery call and an in-person consultation which are two great opportunities to test the compatibility between designer and client.
Once you've selected your designer, be sure to share with them all of your goals for your space as well as inspiration photos. Chances are you've thought about what you'd like to see in the space and how you want it to feel, conveying that information to your designer will help them bring your vision to life. Sharing your Pinterest boards, Houzz idea books, or magazine tear-outs will supply your designer with an understanding of what is in your head, at this stage images can convey so much more than words. Think of it as a haircut; your stylist is much better equipped to give you “the Rachel” if she’s holding a picture of Jennifer Anniston.
Define the Team
You'll meet with your designer several times during the design phase of your project. At each meeting, it is paramount to have all decision-makers present - you, your spouse, roommate, etc. With everyone at the meetings, it's easy to keep the group on the same page which will save time and eliminate extra billable hours for needless revisions. Conversely, you will benefit immensely from limiting meetings to decision-makers only. While your next-door neighbor’s cousin may have great taste in lighting, they won't be living in the space and should not be bringing their opinion to the table or influencing your decisions.
Keep an Open Mind
While you certainly have ideas and inspiration aplenty, it’s important to be open to the ideas your designer brings to the table, after all, that's why you hired a professional. You may have envisioned drapery panels in your dining room, but an interior designer might recognize that they aren't the ideal fit for your space and recommend roman shades instead, listen to their reasoning and trust their vision for your space. As designers, we like to push clients just slightly outside their comfort zone to try something new and unexpected. Be willing to trust your designer's skills, especially if you came to that designer because you love their portfolio of work. Absolutely communicate questions and express hesitations but remember that a little risk now and then can lead to a beautifully finished space.
Patience is a Virtue
Lastly, be patient with the design process. HGTV sets up unrealistic timeline expectations when it comes to design and construction (we'll do another blog post on that topic later). Realistically most design projects take 4 - 8+ weeks, for design only, depending upon the scope of work. Then there is construction time as well as the lead time for fixtures and furnishings. Patience has always been an important part of the process but it's especially important in 2020, because of Covid everything is taking longer! It's taking longer to get materials, factories are operating with limited capacity, some factories are still trying to catch up from shutdowns earlier in the year, shipping is taking longer than ever before, etc. We know it's frustrating and we're frustrated too but these aspects are outside of your designer's control, please remember that your designer has your best interest at heart and is working as hard as they can to push your project to the finish line.
We hope you find these tips helpful! Do you have questions about working with an interior designer? Leave us a comment below.