Whether you’re working on a commercial project, a whole house or just a single room, the right interior designer will make sure you get the absolute best from the space you want transformed. Working with an interior designer is usually a very positive experience, but if you haven’t done it before it can feel like an intimidating process. As the space is one you that you will be living or working in, it’s crucial that you have as much input as you want, without creating conflict or stepping on your designer’s toes. Here are some tips and advice on working effectively and successfully with your interior designer.
How to choose the right Interior Designer
A great interior designer isn’t just someone who is able to select the best materials, colours, furniture and layout, but is also an expert in technical knowledge, budgeting and project management.
Make sure you ask plenty of questions about how much experience your potential interior designer has, and check whether they have received proper training and accreditation. The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) is the leading organisation for interior designers in the UK, and members have to meet entry standards and undertake continuing professional development in design process, practice and regulation.
Even if you choose someone based on their portfolio rather than qualifications, ask what they do to keep themselves up to date with the latest trends in interior design. For example, what are the latest technologies in lighting design? Do they know their tadelakt from their stucco? Asking questions now will save potential hassle later due to lack of knowledge and experience.
Make sure you have Realistic Expectations
As a nation brought up on Changing Rooms and DIY SOS, we’re used to seeing houses completely transformed on a shoestring budget and a very tight schedule. The reality is somewhat different, as TV shows have large teams of labourers and suppliers willing to offer cheap deals for publicity.
It’s important to understand that your interior designer isn’t a magician and they need to be paid fairly and fully for their time and expertise. The best way to keep your expectations realistic and achievable is to be upfront with your designer from the beginning of the process about how big or small your budget is. From this information they will be able to give you a reasonable idea of what can be achieved. Ask several interior designers for quotes so that you are confident you’re getting the best deal.
Understand Interior Design Fees
Billing structures will vary between interior designers, as most will be self-employed and free to choose how they wish to be paid. It’s important to find a designer who is transparent about how they will bill you and to ensure that this is worked into your budget before the project commences.
In this model, the designer charges you per hour that they work. They should be able to give you a rough idea of how long they think the work will take, but it won’t be a fixed amount. The rate will vary depending on the qualifications, skills and experience of the designer.
Fixed cost means accepting a quote from the designer for a fixed fee. This gives you certainty about how much you will pay, allowing you greater control over your budget. The fee is based on an estimate by the designer, which means you could end up paying for more hours than necessary if the job takes less time than they think, but you have the peace of mind of knowing the cost upfront.
This method involves giving the client an estimate of the cost of the project including furnishings, fixtures, finishes, installation, contractors and more and then adding the percentage that you establish with the designer as their fee on top. Typical designer fees are usually between 30-45%, but again this depends on skills and experience. This is the most transparent method of billing as the client knows exactly how much everything costs as they go along, rather than receiving a lump sum bill at the end of the process.
Create the perfect brief
When you initially meet your interior designer you should bring with you a list of your requirements and priorities. Even if your ideas are slightly vague, it will give you a jumping-off point to begin creating your project. The designer will help you to create a formal brief from your notes, taking into account everything from your dreams and desires for the finished project to your budget. At this stage the designer should be asking lots of questions; either to pin down precisely what you want if you have a clear vision or to help you make some decisions if you don’t.
Once the designer has all of the information they will be able to turn your thoughts and ideas into a workable plan for the project, which will include any deadlines you may have and how much money is available. The brief will include drawings, plans and elevations to help you visualise how the finished space will look, and information about whether architects or engineers are needed, and if you need planning permission. At this stage, your interior designer will give you estimates of how long a project should take and how much it should cost, so you have a firm idea of the outcome before the process begins.
In conclusion, the real key to working with your interior designer for the best results comes down to one thing: communication. Be clear with them about how much input you want, be honest about what your budget is, and be decisive about deadlines and timetables. When your designer asks for feedback make sure you provide it, or, if you’re happy for them to take control of the project and its outcomes, make sure this is clear to them.
If both you and your designer know where you stand and aren’t afraid to ask each other questions, you’ll develop a happy and fruitful working relationship.