THE TOP 5 QUESTIONS TO ASK AN INTERIOR DESIGNER
The Top 5 Questions To Ask An Interior Designer – When You Are Interviewing Them.
I hope you’ve been enjoying this new series I’ve been writing. For those of you that have shared the first two posts with your friends and colleagues: thank you! Today is the 3rd installment in this series and if you missed the first two, you can click on these links to read them: “Do I Need To Hire An Interior Designer?” and “How Do I Find An Interior Designer?”
Now, I invite you to pull up a chair, relax for a few minutes, and enjoy your sparkling water, wine, coffee or tea, while you read the 3rd post below, “The Top 5 Questions To Ask An Interior Designer” – when you are interviewing them to help design your home.
Here we go:
Scope of Project:
Generally, the interview/meeting begins with you and your prospective interior designer discussing the scope of your project, the aesthetic you love and the quality level you envision for your home. You would provide as detailed a description of your vision and desired outcome as possible by bringing images you’ve saved, sharing information about your collections, antiques and art – anything that will help your prospective interior designer visualize what you have in mind.
You will want to ask your prospective designer if they have completed a project of similar scope and aesthetic and also how many projects similar in scope and aesthetic to yours they have completed, so you can get an idea of their experience, and if they were able to complete those projects on time and on budget. You will definitely want to ask for references, as well, and be sure to ask the reference if they would hire the designer to do another project with them and why.
For example, here are 4 different styles of kitchen projects we’ve designed:
Below is a review of our work on the above kitchen that this client left us on HOUZZ and here’s an article about their kitchen that appeared on the Boston Globe’s site.
You will want to let the interior designer know your ideal time frame regarding when you would like to start and complete your project. Often, if it’s been a long time since you’ve redone a kitchen or bath, a series of rooms or purchased a home, you may not realize how long it takes to complete a particular phase. In our experience, a master bath can take up to 6 months, including design and construction. A luxury kitchen, minimum 9 months.
Many times it IS possible to get a project done quickly. If that’s what you need or must have, let your designer know that up front so they can source from those vendors and subs who are immediately available and can guarantee delivery and shipping. If your expectations are unrealistic, a responsible designer will politely explain to you what a realistic schedule is and why.
3 common factors influencing scheduling include: availability of contractors and their sub-contractors who can execute on the quality of work you desire, current commitments of the interior designer and what materials are available within your time frame and within your budget. The tighter the time frame, fewer choices and options are available.
You will want to ask your interior designer, “Given your other commitments, and given what we’ve told you about the quality level we desire for our project, can you complete this project within our time frame? Have you completed a similar project within this time frame?
If you are are asking the design team you are interviewing to get a project done on a very tight deadline, ask them, “On other projects where you were working on a similarly tight deadline, what were the issues that came up, if any, and how did you solve them?”
In case you are thinking this heading should say “budget” versus “investment”, let’s discuss that for a minute.
When you are hiring a luxury interior designer, you are making an investment in your home, an investment that many times will be instrumental in increasing the value of your home when it comes time to sell it.
We have worked on several homes, where, due to the investment our clients made in the interior architectural renovations we did for them and the overall sense of luxury, quality and comfort that buyers saw and felt when they toured the home, that their home sold for $500,000.00 or more than their original investment in our services.
Here’s an example of one Back Bay home on Commonwealth Avenue that we renovated and designed, where that was the case:
It’s important to have this frame of reference in mind before you begin questioning your interior designer on what they think you will need to invest to achieve the scope of work you’ve requested, given the quality level you desire and the time frame you’ve suggested.
You will want to ask your designer two main questions:
a. “How much of an investment did your recent past completed projects, of similar scope and quality require?”
b. “Given that we are prepared to invest “x”, now, what can we expect to achieve for that – given our desired quality criteria and our timeframe?”
If you don’t yet have an idea of how much you should be prepared to invest, because you don’t have a current frame of reference, ask your designer, “Can you please give us a range of pricing, given our timeframe and desired quality level?”
Designer’s Fee Structure
Ask the designer, “How do you structure your fees?”
Designers charge in one of several different ways.
Some have a dual income stream, charging hourly for their time as well as sharing a portion of their designer discount with you on any product they purchase and install for you.
Some designers charge solely through the product they purchase and install for you. Typically you will be purchasing at full retail price of the product.
Others charge a flat fee that covers both the designer’s time spent on the project, including design time and the purchasing/installing of product. Typically, product is sold to you at the designer’s cost. However, if there is an architectural component to the project, such as a kitchen or bathroom renovation, the designer’s fee could be up to an additional 20%, with the 20% based on the cost of construction the project.
Recognize that designer’s fees are based on: 1. Their creativity and ability to express themselves artistically in three dimensions (this is the intangible component and why a careful review of their portfolio, recommendations and press mentions is a smart idea) 2. Their education. 3. Their years of experience. 4. Their knowledge of niche areas of design, for instance, in our case, we have a deep expertise in historic preservation and the renovation of older homes, as well as kitchen and bath design. 5. Their knowledge of subcontractors, vendors and the customer service levels available from their subs and vendor manufacturers. 6. Their ability to provide you with custom couture designs for your homes: products and details made specifically and only for you. 7. The quality of their communication and business processes. 8. Their ability to get your home published, if that is something you desire. 8. Their expertise in troubleshooting.
Communication can be the difference between a wonderful relationship with a designer and a poor one.
Based on how you prefer to be communicated with, ask your designer if they can accommodate your communication preferences. For instance, do you expect your designer to be available outside of normal 9-5 working hours or on the weekends? Most are not, some are, and some will be able to accommodate that request , for an additional fee, be sure to ask.
Are you the type of client who is completely hands off or who wants to be communicated with about each detail – or are you somewhere in-between? Let your prospective designer know what you prefer.
Are you the type of client who cannot visualize easily and will need to see 3 dimensional drawings or even models? Your visual communication needs, not just verbal ones, are an important discussion you will want to have with any prospective designer.
Most designers are happy to accommodate any special communication needs you have, whether verbal or visual, but given that they are running a business, they will need to insure your project remains profitable for them throughout the lifetime of your project.
If your communication needs increase based on what you agreed to at the beginning of your project, expect a clause in their contract that allows for an upwards adjustment in their pricing.
Lastly you should have a sense after asking and receiving answers to these questions, you will want to ask yourself, ” Do I like this person?” Do I feel I can trust them?” “Would be happy working with them for the duration of the project?”
For those designers you interview where you can answer the above three questions affirmatively, the next step? Ask them for a proposal!
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home in 2017, including kitchens, bathrooms and whole house renovations, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our new website, here:
Or, if you’re not sure if you need to hire an interior designer, please, give me a call. I’d be happy to chat.
We also invite you to connect with us on: