If you’re reading this it likely means one of two things: You’re looking at areas in your home that you want to change and improve, or you really like us (Hi, Mom). Either way, keep reading, and hopefully, by the end, you have a clearer direction in which you want to go.
Before we dive into whether or not you should hire an interior designer, let’s talk about the differences between an interior designer and an interior decorator. I wrote about this several months ago, but it’s certainly a topic worth chatting about again as the question continues to come up.
What’s the Difference Between an Interior Decorator and an Interior Designer?
While the terms “interior decorator” and “interior designer” are often used interchangeably, there are differences between the two.
An interior decorator typically focuses on the aesthetics of a space. They work with clients to choose colors, fabrics, and furnishings that will create a certain look or atmosphere. They may also select accessories and artwork to enhance the overall design. Generally, they do not solve functionality issues by making structural changes.
On the other hand, an interior designer not only focuses on the aesthetics of a space but also the functionality which might mean moving walls or plumbing, adding windows, and updating electrical, so working with someone who understands the ins and outs of those types of decisions is important. Interior designers work closely with clients to solve problems and improve functionality in a space that fulfills their clients’ needs and complements their lifestyles.
While interior decorators and interior designers may have different areas of expertise, there is some overlap between the two professions. Many interior designers also offer interior decorating services, and some interior decorators may have a background in interior design. Ultimately, deciding with which one to work comes down to the scope of your project and your specific needs.
Benefits of Hiring an Interior Design Firm
If you determine an interior design is the best fit for your needs, but still are on the fence about hiring someone to guide you through your renovation, consider these benefits:
Expertise: Interior design firms have the expertise and experience to create a cohesive design that reflects your personal style, while also considering the practical aspects of your space.
Time and Convenience: Hiring an interior design firm can save you time and hassle, as they will handle all aspects of the project, from planning and design to specification and some, like us, will even manage the construction.
Access to Resources: Interior design firms have access to a wide range of resources, such as materials, furnishings, and décor, that you might not have access to on your own. Plus, they have established relationships with trusted contractors.
Budget Management: An interior design firm can help you manage your budget, by suggesting cost-effective options and ensuring that your project stays within your budget. They should also be upfront with you about what you can and cannot get for your budget.
Increased Property Value: A well-designed space can increase the value of your home, making it a smart investment in the long run.
Why Hiring an Interior Design Firm Might Not Be a Good Decision
There are pros and cons to any decision and there are certainly situations in which working with an interior designer isn’t your best option. Whether or not you should hire an interior design firm depends on several factors including your budget, the complexity of your project, and your personal preferences.
If you have an especially tight budget or have a clear vision of what you want, you might choose to do the project yourself. If you’re a DIYer or if HGTV is your Holy Grail, then hiring an interior designer may not be the right fit for you. Television budgets and real-world budgets are often very different and if you have a clear vision of what you want, then you may be able to work directly with a general contractor to fulfill your concept. Whether or not you hire professional help really depends on your specific needs and circumstances.
What Should I Look for When Hiring an Interior Designer?
When hiring an interior designer, there are several things to consider to ensure you find the right fit for you and your project. For instance, consider their:
Experience: Look for an interior designer with a proven track record. You can check their portfolio and online reviews to see if they have experience in the type of project you are planning. Also, ask for references.
Communication Skills: A good interior designer should be a good communicator, able to listen to your needs and ideas, and communicate their own ideas clearly. Look for someone who is responsive and easy to talk to.
Design Style: Look for an interior designer whose design style aligns with your own aesthetic preferences. You can check their portfolio or website to get a sense of their style.
Budget Management: Look for an interior designer who has experience managing budgets for similar projects.
Project Management Skills: An interior designer should be able to manage all aspects of your project, from planning and design to construction (though not all interior designers manage the build phase). Look for someone who is well-organized and detail-oriented and has a process and the tools in place to run the project smoothly.
Professionalism: Look for an interior designer who is professional and has a strong work ethic. They should be reliable, punctual, and transparent about their process and fees.
Compatibility: Finally, it’s important to find an interior designer with whom you feel comfortable working. This is a collaborative process, so it’s important to choose someone who you trust and who understands your vision for the project.
How Do I Choose an Interior Designer?
Choosing an interior designer is a big decision as they will have a significant impact on the look and feel of your space. Before you start looking for an interior designer, determine your needs and goals for the project. This includes your budget, timeline, and style preferences. A clear understanding of what you want will help you choose an interior designer who is the right fit for your project.
Once you know what your needs and wants are, look for interior designers in your area and gather information about their services, portfolios, experience, and process. (Pro Tip: You’re already here. It’s a good place to begin.) Look at their portfolios to see which designers’ styles align with your own. You can also ask for references from previous clients to get a sense of their work and professionalism.
After you narrow your list of potential firms, schedule a consultation to discuss your project and get a sense of their communication skills, creativity, and vision. Ask about their experience and how they approach projects. Conveniently, we have a list of questions with which you can start.
Look for an interior designer who takes a collaborative approach to their work and is willing to listen to your needs and ideas. Don’t expect ideas to be offered during the consultation though. The designer will be able to tell you if what you want to do is structurally feasible and doable within your budget, but the consultation isn’t the time to start talking about specific design ideas. You should be able to get a good sense of how they work and how it would be to work with them. That’s what you want to take away from the consultation.
Finally, after you have gathered all the necessary information, take some time to evaluate each interior designer and make your decision based on who you feel is the best fit for your project. Remember to trust your instincts and choose someone you feel comfortable working with. Interior design is a profession built on trust that runs both ways. Whoever you hire is going to be in your personal space for many months. In the end, they often feel like family, so it’s not a decision to take lightly.
So, Should I Hire an Interior Design Firm?
From knowing the differences between an interior decorator and an interior designer to why hiring design help may or may not be beneficial to what to look for when considering interior design firms to questions to ask, you have all the details in your arsenal for making an informed decision.
Your comfort level, vision, timeline, and budget all come into play, and you are your own expert in those areas. If just one doesn’t align with a firm you’re considering, then it’s likely not a good fit. And the firm with whom you’re meeting should be upfront about that, too. They want to ensure a successful project as much as you do.
Finally, keep in mind, that you’re hiring an interior designer to help you make the most of your space. Listening goes both ways and they will likely have ideas that you haven’t considered. Be open to their ideas and suggestions. It’s their job to push you out of your comfort zone a bit (and sometimes a lot). Embrace the process and be willing to consider options you might not have thought about otherwise. Often, the best projects are those in which the homeowner takes a deep breath and allows their designer to really stretch their imagination.