8 Surprising Facts About Interior Designers

8 Surprising Facts About Interior Designers


You have a new home and some extra cash. Or you’ve been living in your house for years and it needs some sprucing up. Whether you’re a design devotee or someone who can’t tell midcentury modern from Pennsylvania Dutch, you can benefit from the trained eye of an interior designer. Here are a few things to learn about them so you know what to expect.

1. You can hire them to tackle one room at a time.

While home decorating reality shows make it seem like you’ve got to get your whole house done at once, plenty of pros are happy to work a single room then come back months later to do another, if that’s what your budget allows. “I ask the client, ‘What area do you want to address first?” says Kathy Alexander, of Alexander Interiors in Cleveland. Doing one room before moving on to another “limits their focus so they’re not overwhelmed and don’t feel like they have the whole house to decorate at once. They end up feeling good about an area they spend a lot of time in.”

2. They want to understand your style rather than impose theirs.

An experienced designer will ask you a lot of questions, starting with “What do you want the house to say about you?” Of course, while you’re doing research, you’ll be more attracted to designers whose websites speak to your style. If someone’s photo gallery shows all industrial-look designs and you’re into French Provincial, you’re probably not a good match.

3. Some will just shop for furniture, if that’s all you need.

They can do as much or as little as you want – from picking out paint colors and fabric samples to drawing up a floor plan that shows where to position the furniture.

4. They can save you time.

“If you work for a living and you need furniture but don’t have time to shop, I’ll be behind the scenes gathering everything,” Alexander says. “When I meet with you for the presentation, I’ll have two or three [photos of] sofas to pick from – it narrows things down. The same with fabrics.” A pro can also help you avoid waste-of-time mistakes. “I can do traditional and modern together because I know how to do it. If somebody without experience tried, it would probably look like a mishmash.” Do over!

5. They can also save you money.

Designers have access to goods that the general public doesn’t. Alexander frequents a design center with private-label vendors who don’t have a traditional showroom. And no showroom means low overhead, which translates into lower prices. “You can get good quality at a pretty good discount,” she says. And when the center needs to make room for new furniture at the end of each season, it discounts floor models drastically.”

And since the furniture is on site, there’s no delivery wait.

6. There are several ways they charge for their services.

Some may charge by the hour. Others charge a flat fee, which is often the case when doing a single-room makeover like a kitchen. Another option is charging a percentage of the project’s cost, a likely scenario for new construction or a major renovation. Some may charge a 20-40 percent markup on goods bought by the designer. Be wary of anyone offering her services for free: She may be a sales rep pushing a particular manufacturer’s goods.

7. They can work within a reasonable budget.

An experienced designer should be able to work within a budget that’s reasonable. If your entire budget is $15,000 and you expect that to cover redoing the living room, master bedroom, and kitchen, you’re being unrealistic. “You have to have an idea of what certain things cost,” Alexander says. But she offers potential clients with smaller budgets an affordable option: “I give them a list of what to buy and they get everything themselves.”

8. They won’t work without a contract.

And neither should you. A contract is a necessity when undertaking a service job and protects both you and the designer, ensuring you’re both getting what you talked about verbally. It should specify what the designer’s responsible are, how long the project will last, and the budget. Both of you should sign it and get copies.

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