October 2010

Working With An Interior Designer

Author: Gregory Vaughan

Are you planning on building a new house here in the Lowcountry or remodeling your existing home? Might you be considering an addition, or do you just want to freshen the outdated décor in a room or two? No matter the scope or scale of your endeavor, chances are your project will go more smoothly with the help of a professional interior designer.

Working with an interior designer is probably every homeowner’s dream. Surprisingly, many have the misconception that hiring a specialist is an indulgence only for the rich and famous. Visions of some flamboyant, larger-than-life character who comes into your home and takes over your sense of style while depleting your bank account are simply not true. A professional designer can be an invaluable part of the process and ensure that you get the most bang for the buck.

An interior designer can help you avoid costly mistakes. Maybe it is as simple as helping you avoid ordering a custom sofa that is too large and cannot be returned. Maybe it is more complex whereby that extra set of eyes can scrutinize plans and catch design glitches before it’s too late. From door swings that are awkward to missing or misplaced electrical outlets, the interior designer can alert clients to potential problems. In addition, an experienced designer will know which items you may want to splurge on and offer economical solutions for others.

If you watch HGTV, thumb through shelter magazines, or have visited a home improvement store lately, you already know the endless options of styles and products available to embellish your home. Having a professional on hand to help you navigate this vast sea of possibilities is crucial in establishing a direction for the décor of your interiors. Unlike design shows on television, design schemes are not pulled together in five minutes or entire projects completed in an hour. A designer will spend time asking you questions about your lifestyle, personal tastes, likes and dislikes, and special considerations to better understand your needs and desires to determine the best solutions.

Designers are trained to address awkward spaces or difficult rooms. They will solve problems of poor traffic flow and awkward furniture arrangement. They can create excitement in featureless rooms, suggest storage solutions or help determine what to do with a problematic window. The designer brings to the table an understanding of how color, scale, and light will affect a space and may present options the homeowner had not previously considered, offering a fresh eye and perspective.

Interior designers have experience coordinating contractors, subcontractors and artisans in a timely fashion. This ensures the project progresses in a logical manner. Designers will know to schedule the painters in advance of the carpet installers and to make sure all contractors are finished on time before any new upholstery pieces or furniture arrive. This is an invaluable service for absentee owners who are working on vacation homes and need work completed in time for scheduled renters as well as permanent residents who want to minimize remodeling headaches.

Most designers can offer one-stop shopping for clients with their vast resource libraries offering a variety of fabric swatches, furniture catalogs, window covering samples, wallpaper books, paint chips, and Rolodexes full of talented and reliable tradesmen at their fingertips. It is one thing to research items online when decorating, but it pales in comparison to having actual physical samples on hand along with some professional advice and feedback when compiling a design scheme. Also, many designers have access to items and products that are not found in stores.

Interior designers can offer several options for their services ranging from one-time consultation fees to hourly charges or flat-fees. All you have to do is ask. For example, if you just wish to have someone come into your home and assess a particular room and provide some suggestions, they may charge a flat fee. If you are building and want help with cabinetry design, granite and tile, paint colors and carpeting, they are most likely to charge you an hourly fee for these selections. Designers are also happy to work with your architect on space planning during the design phase for an hourly fee. If furnishing a whole house (existing or new) most designers will agree upon a percentage of the cost of furnishings and provide a full service installation of these items.

Once you have determined your need for an interior designer, selecting one is the next step. Ask your architect, builder, or realtor for a recommendation. If you have a friend who has used a designer in the past, ask him or her about the experience. Don’t worry if your friend’s tastes differ from yours; a talented designer can work with many different styles and tastes. Look through local home magazines or visit sales models in new developments and ask who did the interiors.

After you have compiled a list of potential designers, conduct interviews to see whom you would like to work with on the project. Visit their design studios. Be honest about your expectations, desires and, most importantly, your budget. Ask to see their portfolios, get a list of references and make a few calls. Consider a visit to a recent project—most designers will be able to make these arrangements.

It is one thing to see a pretty picture, but to actually be able to walk into the finished product is truly telling. Communication is key. By doing a little homework you can select the right professional to help make your dream home come together.

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