Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Interior Decorator



I have discovered that a cloud of mystery seems to surround the interior design business and often deters people from seeking professional help. So, rather than staying stuck in a space that you're not quite happy with - here's a few insider tips I recommend you ask when searching for an interior designer or decorator.

What types of projects do you specialize in or prefer to work? A good designer will use the elements of design and therefore will be able to create beautiful designs in contemporary, traditional, transitional or ecclectic styles. Many times, geographic region will dictate the prevalent design style in a decorator's portfolio. However, some decorators prefer to only do a certain style for various reasons, so let them tell you what they like to do. What is more important is the chemistry between you and the designer plus the quality of work and experience in the field. A good designer will listen to your needs and translate that into YOUR custom design, not their style.

How many clients do you have right now and do you have time for another project of the scope that we are considering? You may like a designer's work but if they are too busy, they may not have time to devote to your project. If you are willing to wait, then it is less important.

What is a reasonable time-frame for completion for a project such as mine? Expectation setting is critical. Custom design takes a long time - anyone that tells you differently is misrepresenting the industry and is likely just telling you what you want to hear. When working with a designer it is most likely that the products are being made just for you based on your specifications. So, unlike walking into a big store that has 10,000 sofas sitting in a warehouse, you will have to wait 8-16 weeks for custom pieces. However, it is well worth it as the quality is inherently better and you will have a one-of-a kind piece. So, plan ahead - if you want a job done by the holidays, you need to have your custom pieces ordered by the end of July.

How much should I budget for my project? This is a critical question and will depend on the scope of work and your selections. Fabric price is a huge influencer on overall cost of goods. You can cover a sofa or do a window treatment in $30 a yard fabric or $300 a yard fabric. It is your choice and a good designer will tell you what you get for the money. A good rule of thumb for window treatments is 10% of the home's value. A quality custom sofa will range anywhere from $2,0000 on up depending on the fabric you choose. The decorator should walk you through your space, discuss priorities and give you good, better, best price options to meet your budget requirements.

How do you work? Another great question. All designers charge differently. Most charge by the hour and a mark-up from wholesale on the furnishings. I do not charge by the hour when clients purchase products from me and product pricing is all inclusive. Meaning, if I quote you $1000 for your window treatments, that will cover the design, fabric, labor, delivery, hardware and installation of your draperies. I find that it's much easier on me and the client than tracking hours. If someone only wants to "pick my brain", say a color consult or floor plan assistance that is when I do charge by the hour. Typical hourly rates in the midwest are $75 - $200 per hour.

Do you carry professional lilability and Business Owner's Policy insurance? Are you certified in the profession? This is very important. You want a professional designer that carries these insurances for your protection. If they do not carry this insurance, proceed at your own risk.

How large is your portfolio of vendors? This is the available furniture, flooring, fabric, and other trade items that are available for your optimal selection. This will insure that you will have a unique end result and not one just like your neighbor down the street.

Do you come to my home, do I come to your studio and/or do we go shopping elsewhere? If you are strapped for time, you will want a decorator that always comes to you - even if that means evenings and weekends. Most of my clients are busy professionals and their time is valuable. So they appreciate that I will meet with them outside of business hours and that we won't be wasting their valuable free time shopping from store-to-store.

May I speak to a past client or two? Qualified decorators will have loads of happy clients - just ask them for references and testimonials. Also, ask your friends, neighbors, professionals such as Realtors, and other specialists that you trust for recommendations. If you visit someone's home and see work that you admire, ask for a referral.

Will you personally be on site for all deliveries and installations? If anything happens on the job this is important. You want them present and they should want to be on hand to see the fruits of their labor come to life.

What form of payment do you accept and what are the payment terms required to place an order? If you know you want to use your American Express card to earn those bonus points you had better ask rather than assume that the designer accepts it. Some only work with cash or checks. I accept everything but Discover. Also, expect a deposit of 50-75% to place a custom order - some may require the full 100% at time of your order. That is because the designer is paying for your items up front. And, custom goods are of course non-returnable. However, a good designer will stand behind the quality of the items they sell.

I hope this list has provided some guidance as you consider your home decorating projects. If you have additional questions, please feel free to post them. Happy Decorating! D├ęcor & You was voted “Best Interior Design Firm” by Columbus CEO Magazine for 2008-2009. An award winning decorator, Colleen's studio is located in New Albany, Ohio.

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