In Part 2 of this article, I will explain about the different factors that play into whether hiring a designer is the right course of action for you. This is particularly applicable to “service based” designers (see part one).
Hiring a designer and expecting perfect results involves 5 main factors:
1. Hiring the RIGHT designer
3. Big picture
The effectiveness of hiring an interior designer for your project will be dependent on how compatible you are with the above conditions. Below, I will elaborate on what each condition entails, and how it impacts the efficiency of a designer.
#1 Hiring the right designer
Unfortunately, the “right” designer will not just fall into your lap. And they usually don't appear first on a Google search. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to make proper effort to find the designer that fits their needs. This means contacting multiple companies, being clear on the designers' approach, checking references, and reviewing portfolios. The portfolio can be particularly critical, in that if a designer has a stream of consistently modern styles in their portfolio, and you prefer more rustic Pottery Barn style décor, they may not be very compatible with your style, and the collaboration process could turn out to be a struggle. Some designers produce a diverse range of design styles, while others tend to stick to their particular niche. Try to select a designer who has a portfolio that demonstrates their ability to accommodate different styles, if not exactly your personal style. This may help with trust later on in the project, which brings me to #2.
*For more details on qualifying designers, see my article What is a qualified designer?
Once you have hired a designer that you feel is qualified, the trust factor is essential. As a rule, an interior designer cannot do their job unless you trust them. It makes sense that one would choose to hire a designer because they do not trust themselves to make the right decision alone. However, if you have trust issues in general, it may prove just as difficult to work with a designer as it would to work alone. If you do not have “trust issues”, but are very analytical, that may prove to be a problem as well. “Trust” may not be the issue per se, but I have found that analytical clients usually take at least 5 times as long to make a decision, drawing out their project and exhausting a designer’s patience. Another trust related issue is micro-managing. If you have difficulty trusting someone else to take the reigns, do not hire a designer to manage your project. With my company, you always have the option to hire me hourly for design advice, rather than managing your project. I have worked with several "analytical" clients personally, and I have yet to find one that I didn't like. I respect their attention to detail and their concern about considering "all the options". But, it CONSISTENTLY and ironically challenges the efficiency of the project. When one is working independently to improve their home, it is good to research "all the options" before purchasing. With an experienced designer, they already have a library of reliable high quality vendors and resources, often for every style, budget, and application. They have insider access that allows a project to go smoothly and more expediently. Trust that they know what they are doing (but see #4), and you will be fine.
Bottom line on this aspect---If you are not prepared to accept the professional help of your designer, whether it be a trust issue, over-analytical tendencies, being a control freak, or all of the above, you will probably not enjoy the designer experience. You can't micro-manage a micro-manager. If you meet the above description, hire a designer strictly as a consultant, or go without.
#3 Big Picture
A major advantage to hiring a designer is that they can visualize the finished result, or see the “big picture”. The “big picture” for me is defined as the mental image of the complete design, which is based on my assessment of my client’s style and their project parameters. For instance, when I recommend a sofa fabric to a client, it is not because I think it’s pretty (although that will factor in). It is because that fabric is compatible with the “big picture”. It will look right, and comply with all the job parameters. I don’t expect all my clients to be able to visualize as easily as I do. But I do appreciate when they can embrace the concept of the "big picture", and trust my ability to make it a reality. I have found that when each piece of the design puzzle is debated, it results in a distorted and mediocre design. This problem is usually consistent with clients with major analytical tendencies (see #2).
Part of a designer’s job is to help people communicate their personal style and needs. But sometimes it can be a bit of a guessing game. If a customer is withdrawn and insecure about expressing their opinions, it can result in a design they are unhappy with. Be as clear as you can on the first consultation about parameters and personal taste. If you are not sure exactly what your “taste” is, look through magazines and online to find pictures of rooms that you love, and rooms that you dislike. Save these and show them to your designer on consultation day. This will help set a firm foundation, and allow the designer to propose solutions that you are happy with, the first time. Like a therapist, the first job of the designer is to listen, so make sure you have something to say. Otherwise, you may be disappointed with the results.
A successful project is a result of thorough planning, which requires patience. Designers are trained to start with the outlining of project parameters, collaborating to develop a design concept and space plan, and THEN select the finishes, fixtures, and equipment/furniture. Customers often like to do the last part first. It is important to take the proper steps in the order that your designer recommends. Even though it may seem like it takes longer, it actually helps to keep things moving efficiently once a project is executed. When things are rushed in the planning phase, it always results in issues and/or delays later on. But the planning phase is not all that requires patience. Designers are trained to recommend items that are higher in quality, which are usually not stocked. So be prepared to wait. If you are in a major hurry and feel more secure handling everything yourself, a designer can always help you develop your space plan and design theme, and even make recommendations on where to go for assistance on execution in as little as 2 hours. But perfection comes at a price, always. If you are hiring a professional designer to coordinate your project and see to every detail, do not be surprised if your room takes several months to complete. Between proper planning (1-2 months), ordering (2-4 months), and accessory delivery/installation (2 months), a re-furnishing project can easily take 6 months, assuming that nothing is backordered and selections are not debated. This is the norm.
Beautiful results CAN be achieved faster, but that requires three things:
Beautiful results CAN be achieved faster, but that requires three things:
A. Being flexible on the quality level of furniture (lesser is easier to get faster)
B. Being flexible with budget (expedited production and delivery may cost more)
C. Giving your designer more authority, which will allow for faster selection time (Selection time can extend for months purely due to a client’s indecision)
Interior designers take on immense loads of stress and utilize years of experience (and education) to help our customers get the best results possible. We work overtime and put thousands of miles on our cars in hopes of exceeding client expectations. We work hard. But before you put all your faith in simply hiring a designer, consider whether your expectations are realistic. Be realistic about whether you CAN work with a designer. If you are not sure, talk with a designer to determine which type of service will be most efficient for your preferences. See my website for details on a variety of service types that I offer.