Successful partnerships are successful because the people involved have figured out how to communicate and trust one another. Their work together is productive and they experience positive outcomes. Each person involved understands they have responsibilities to fulfill in order to ensure their goals are met.
The same is true for the relationship (partnership) between interior designers and their clients. Each party must fulfill its responsibilities to ensure a beautiful outcome.
Many people, however, have never worked with an interior designer, and are therefore uncertain of what to expect. Never fear; we’re here to help. Read on to learn what you should expect from your interior designer and what they expect from you.
The Responsibilities of a Good Interior Designer
To ensure your project runs smoothly, every interior designer has responsibilities to ensure your expectations are met and goals are achieved. The best designers will:
Listen. Your designer needs to be someone who listens to you. Every home tells a story and it’s imperative for your designer to learn it. A good designer will take that story and use it to not only make the space beautiful, but also functional and enduring.
Communicate. Designers need to keep you in the loop of what’s happening with your project. They should be available to answer questions and should be receptive to your feedback. Interior design is very personal, so two-way communication is of utmost importance.
Adhere to the budget. The budget should be established at the beginning of the project. Designers need to know this so they don’t design something you can’t afford. Some clients feel withholding their budget is in their best interest, but the opposite is true. Withholding your budget only leads to disappointment when the designer designs something that includes everything on your wish list, but you ultimately can’t afford it. Once the interior designer knows the budget, however, they must design within those parameters. Only if you tell them of a budget increase or the scope of work increases should they present plans far beyond your budget boundaries.
Your Responsibilities as a Good Client
A successful project is a two-way street. Yes, you are hiring someone to work for you, but you have responsibilities as the client that help ensure a successful project as well.
Communicate. Decorators and designers do sometimes feel they need a degree in psychology, but they aren’t mindreaders. Communicate with them. Let them know what you like and don’t like and let them know sooner rather than later. You will not hurt their feelings. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to make changes early.
Be responsive and decisive. Your project will only stay on schedule if you are an active participant. Answer emails and return phone calls in a timely manner. Answer questions and make decisions as quickly as possible. If you’re planning on going out of town for an extended period of time, or will be unreachable for whatever reason, let them know that so they can work around those periods. For us, we provide a schedule for the entire design at the beginning of the project. That schedule includes all the meeting dates so both the designer and the client can address conflicts early and add all pertinent dates to their calendars.
Have an open mind. You’re hiring a professional to help create a beautiful and meaningful space. They can see the big picture and good designers will meld the new space with the old. It’s exciting to see where a good designer can take a space when clients allow them to be their most creative. Personally, the clients who stand back and let the designer do what they do best are my favorite as their projects are often the most unique and creative.
Trust them. The best projects are those in which the client has complete trust in the designer. If you don’t trust your designer to do their best work for you and address the pain points you want to alleviate, don’t hire them. It takes a lot of trust in someone to feel free to have an open mind and to watch them take a project in a direction you may not have envisioned, but if you can trust the person you hired, your end product will be phenomenal.
Begin with a realistic budget. Good designers will let you know right away if your budget is in line with your vision or if you have champagne taste on a beer budget. If the budget is close, they can help you narrow your wish list so the budget works, otherwise, they should be upfront with you and explain that what you want cannot be done within your budget. Often though, the scope of a project grows as the design progresses. For instance, you hire someone to redesign your kitchen but then you realize you want the adjoining entryway updated as well and the other walls look dingy now, so you want to paint the neighboring rooms, too. Unless you’re willing to cut some of your wish list items from the originally contracted kitchen project, you will need to increase your budget for both time and materials because now your designer is spending time on other areas outside the initial scope, and those areas will require additional materials. It may not seem like much, but scope creep is a big deal. Your designer isn’t trying to nickel and dime you or trick you. Increased scope does take more time.
Communication and trust go a long way in building any relationship and when the right fit is found, the relationship built between a client and interior designer can last for years. For us, people may start as clients, but in the end, we call them family. It’s a beautiful business in which to be.