How to select a top Interior Designer
There are so many interior designers to choose from, how do you know you have got the perfect person for you?
Step 1 – Decide on your needs
Designers typically are highly trained, technical and artistic. It's their job to take your wants and needs and turn them into a tangible product. They understand space and its function and can produce a variety of options for you to review on paper first. But before meeting them please establish what you desire and then create a brief or Request for Proposal (RFP) that sets out:
- Your Budget Range: put down 50-75% of what you are willing to spend so you have some backup cash for any delays or additional work. Be wary of designers that quote exactly the upper end of your budget. Also setting the parameters of the project will enable you to cull those designers who will feel the project is too small when you do get to money.
- Project Details: include as many details as possible. What do you need and what do you have to work with- work within current décor or a blank canvas? The more information applicants have about your project, the better their ideas will be and the more accurate their quote will be.
- Time Frame: have an absolute deadline and a preferred deadline. Your ideal designer may be busy for a few weeks. By letting prospects know you have a flexible time frame, you will get higher quality applications.
- Visual Examples: rather than just describing your vision with words, use visual examples to convey your thoughts. Cut and paste designs that you like so applicants have a better idea of what you want. Don't forget to say what you like about the designs.
Step 2 – Short list potential designers
You may wish to approach a company, but in the end all great designs are the work of a single individual so ask friends, or industry colleagues who they have used in the past and trust. What about the places you like the look of, ask the owners who designed their place. Having established a short list send them a copy of your brief and ask to discuss this initially over the phone to elicit their interest level / excitement over the project, and whether they have the time available for you given the budget you have. Ask , now, about individual experience and training and maybe ask about projects they have done you may know or can point to on the internet…. Does their style match your expectations because its difficult for them to change their personal style for your business? After the call you should be able to identify a couple of designers to visit personally.
Step 3 – Meet the final candidates in person
The perfect designer will: complete the job on time and under-budget, project manage the complete process with no delays or disputes, deliver a very high standard design, and improve the value of your property above market.
So in the personal meeting ask the candidates to go through the design and implementation process and detail how they add value at each stage.
In addition, and as important as these concrete measures there must be some empathy between the designer and yourself and the interview stage should clearly establish this.
You may then ask the designers to present their ideas on how they intend to address your proposal- then look at their other designs to see if you are getting an “off-the-shelf” design or something that is unique to you. As the budget and their fee could be quite substantial, this step is recommended. Don’t expect final plans but you should get a good idea of what the designer is offering, especially if you have not committed to an individual designer.
I don’t believe asking a couple of designers to come up with final drawings, budget and samples before you select will get better quality work. You can tell almost exactly what a designer will give to you by seeing their previous work- don’t expect anything better than they have done in the past; and if you don’t like it, don’t use them.
It would be best to ensure they visit the site or building and walk the project with you both before and after they have their design plans so you can see and understand their ideas. Another tip is to ask them to work with 75% of the budget 100% and 125%, to see what they would do differently if they had less money or more money- to ensure you have the right items for your project… not too much and not too little.
Step 4 – Finalize the contract
Once you have selected your designer, you need to formalize the relationship and set down what exactly their role is. This should mirror the description in step 3. It should also include quality and performance standards plus a detailed budget for the project. You should also be clear on who buys major purchases- do they manage this or do you buy and supply, and how they manage savings, discounts or commissions they may receive and whether these are passed to you. Please be explicit about this early so you don’t ruin the relationship through misunderstandings. Also ensure you set out when and how much deposits are, and whether you pay up-front for major appliances etc, or wait until the project is completed. A deposit of 10-20% should be sufficient before commissioning the final drawings, and then agree who will fund the purchase of material. Always hold a proportion back (15-20%- their profit margin) until the project is complete and you are happy with the design work and implementation. Also require a guarantee of workmanship; this should be at least a year, in addition to any guarantees from manufacturers.
Step 5 – Finalize the plans
It's much easier and less expensive to change your mind, or discover and solve a problem, in the design phase than during construction. A good designer will walk you through your planned environment, tell you if your taste exceeds your budget and suggests alternates to save money and/or meet your schedule. Your designer should produce construction/plan documents, put them out to bid, obtain insurance and get proposals from qualified contractors, review the proposals with you, negotiate prices and fees and determine the best suppliers and contractors, then answer contractor's questions, keep a close eye on your schedule and budget, see that chosen materials are used and that changes are fairly priced. They will listen to all parties, act as your mediator and problem solver and secure the best possible solution when conflicts arise. Despite this ensure you go through the house in detail before you accept the project as being complete.
Finally, good luck with your design program.picture credit