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How to Hire (And Work With) a Designer

November 5th, 2009 by Erin Vosti Lal

interior-designer-gIf you’ve ever done your own design project, you know that it can easily become frustrating, leaving you collapsed in a heap of catalogs, fabric swatches and paint samples. Whether you are mired in fabric choices and furniture selection, don’t know any vendors, or can’t stick to your budget, a design project can be a monumental challenge.

Enter the designer. Working with a design professional isn’t as perplexing or out-of-reach as it may seem. A designer will help you get focused and create a beautiful space that not only meets your needs, but works within your budget. From consulting by the hour, to the planning, shopping and finishing touches, a designer will help you make the choices to get the most out of your dream and your dollar.

First, figure out the scope of the job. Do you just need help picking color? Perhaps just one room needs a makeover, or even the whole house.

Some designers will come in to consult by the hour to help you pick paint colors, fabrics or even do a furniture plan or some shopping.

If you need a room or the whole house spruced up, a designer will work with you in creating a design plan. Armed with fabric and paint swatches, furniture plans, sketches, specifications and drawings, the designer will present you with a creative vision – a beautiful, budget-friendly space to meet your needs and match your lifestyle.

After you’ve settled on a design scheme, the designer will work to put all of the pieces together: ordering and tracking fabrics, ordering or designing furniture, arranging vendors, coordinating work schedules, keeping track of the budget, shopping, and pulling together every last detail.

Designers have an intimate knowledge of resources you may not have access to. They coordinate the entire project, saving you time from calling and orchestrating contractors, vendors and the like. They will see it through from start to finish, down to the last piece of art or final accessories.

empathic-designer_id438489_size450Once you’ve figured out the scope of your job, interview designers by having them come over for a consultation. At this point, they will give you a general vision, but not a comprehensive design plan – that comes after they are hired. This step is important to find out if you and the designer are compatible and share the same ideas.

You may be drawn to a designer because they have a certain signature style. But most professionals are trained to work in every genre, from very traditional to super modern. It’s all about delivering the client’s vision in the design business.

Be sure to ask how their payment works. Some designers require a retainer if you have a large, comprehensive project. Others may have an upfront design fee, paid in advance, based on the whole project, or per room. Some designers will charge by the hour, based on the actual time they spend on the project.

Markups are another part of a designer’s charge, and may be combined with the fees mentioned above. It’s a percentage designers charge for buying your fabrics, to-the-trade items or furniture at wholesale. This gives you access to items you wouldn’t discover on your own, especially specialty items. In essence, it’s what you pay for personal shopping; it not only saves you the time, but the designer has the knowledge of materials and access to products that will make your design project unique.

Design budgets can go over, like a construction job, so be forthright with yourself and what you want to spend. But it’s the designer’s job to make your budget stretch the farthest and get the most for your money.

Once you hire a designer, remember that you’re the boss! Listen to their suggestions, because they are the experienced professional; but in the end, you have to live in the space and feel comfortable. They are there to guide you, but they are also there to give you exactly what you envision.

In the end, working with a designer can be a rewarding experience, taking the pain and frustration out of a design project. You are paying for their creative insight, in-depth knowledge and experience at managing all the work of a project, and it can be worth every penny.

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