Every new project either large or small begins with a consultation. This is where you get to know your designer, and they, likewise get to know about you. The vision and the dreams build from there, and it is your designer’s job to get to know you quite well so they can go about the task of designing and bringing your dreams to life.
But it shouldn’t be a one-way street. You are entrusting them with some pretty big shoes to fill. They will need to know about your family, your lifestyle, and enough about your likes and desires to be able to carry out the design for your home with you in mind. It will be as though you designed it. Only better! For some homeowners, we will be working together for months – some even years. It is an important relationship we are forging. It is one of deep understanding, and of trust.
Knowing what to ask in those early meetings is crucial. You can be sure we have honed our list of questions over and over to gain a deep understanding of what will ultimately make you very happy. You should be asking a few key questions too. Much like on a first date, we are assessing each other to determine whether we think we will be able to manage the highs and lows of a design project as partners.
Knowing what to ask is key, because, as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know! If you are thinking of hiring a designer, then keep reading.
1. How would you describe your style?
This one’s easy (okay not so easy). Designers work one of two ways. Many designers have what is known as a “signature look”. A look that is unmistakable. Just from scrolling through their website or Instagram feed, you will get a quick impression for whether their work is formal or informal, colourful or neutral, edgy, romantic, classic, modern etc. This can offer real comfort in letting you get a sense of what your outcome might look like (or be similar).
Others, like myself offer more diverse style options. We pride ourselves on getting to know you and having a talent to interpret your personal style. Each space is personal and we believe that yours should reflect you.
As you can probably already see, there are trade-offs and advantages to each approach. Hiring someone for their signature style will give you a great deal of comfort in knowing the result will be within a certain style and colour range. That’s a win! On the other hand, if what you want is a more custom, personal result that reflects your unique quirkiness or colour sensibilities for example, then a designer who offers a range of style may be a better fit.
This homeowner loved vibrant colour. That might not be you but it was love at first sight when she saw this rug.
2. What services do you offer?
You really should understand what services the designer you are considering might provide. Some will only do full-service design. What this entails is the design, fulfilment, project management and complete execution of the design start-to photo perfect finish just like you see in the magazines!
Others will provide a range of services and packages to meet your needs with respect to budget and degree of preferred involvement. We, for example, provide a complete range from one-time consultations where we give you many ideas in one meeting for you to implement, to sourcing packages, again for you to execute with complete instructions to ensure a great outcome, to full-service design. A little or a lot, it’s up to you!
3. Can you work with my budget?
A designer should be very sensitive to your financial realities and how much you are hoping to invest in your home project. Some will only perform high-end luxury design, but most have access to sourcing at a range of price-points and will happily work to make the most of your space within your budget.
Sometimes what you need is more space – for them to put the toys away! That is exactly what we designed for this homeowner.
4. How do you charge for your services?
There are several different ways to price a project. Some designers quantify their work in hourly increments, others will work to a fixed price quote. There are pros and cons of each approach but your designer will be able to talk to you about what will be the best way to approach this once they know more about how much help you will require.
We offer a full range of services, from one-time consultation to small packages for homeowners who want to do it themselves but with a bit of professional direction, to full-service design for homeowners who want us to handle all the worry. Each of these are priced differently.
Just be sure you are having a comfortable conversation about money with the designer you consider working with.
5. How will I understand what the result will look like before signing off?
The answer here really reflects back to question one. If you have hired a designer for their signature look then you should have a good sense of where it is going. On the other hand, if you hire a firm like ours where each client gets their unique look then the result can be conveyed through looking at inspirations photos, material samples, mood boards, and for larger renovations, 3-d drawings can really help to show what the overall result will look like before you begin breaking walls.
This is a good question to ask right up front so you know who will be working on your project. If it is important to you to have the name designer at the firm taking the lead on the project then you should have that conversation with the designer you are considering.
Here’s a mock-up we did for a living room plan recently. The client has an extensive collection of artwork they want to feature.
6. Will you be the one designing my home or room?
In our firm, I may assign your project to a designer working for me but rest assured, my name is on the business and your result. I will be overseeing it and weighing in on the style direction and all the major decisions. There are many tasks within any project and the workload can be shared without compromising the overall result.
7. How long will it take?
Timelines are important to discuss up front. If it is your dream to host the family Christmas party after your kitchen renovation then that needs to be stated right up front. Timelines are important but it is also prudent to be flexible. Things come up!
We always tell our clients “I know you want it to be beautiful for Christmas, but we want you to love it for much longer than that”. Hasty decisions don’t make for great results. Design is a thoughtful and iterative practice and we don’t want to hurry through or skip important steps that could be costly to recover from.
8. How much will it cost?
A thoughtful conversation with your designer to explore costs will be covered in the preliminary phase of the project. Working to prepare a budget will help you to save for your goals. You can start this on your own and then approach a designer for their input to highlight some of the hidden costs.
What else should I consider?
Communication is the most important part of the designer/client relationship. Don’t worry if it begins to feel like a job interview. It is a job interview! You want to make sure that you feel understood and that you can talk openly with this person. Here are a few additional questions you might want to ask:
- What has been your favorite project so far? Why?
- What designers do you like personally?
- Where do you find your inspiration?
- What if I have to put my project on hold?
- What builders/architects/contractors do you work with?
Hiring an interior designer is a commitment, but it’s also a really fun process. You will find the right person who ‘gets’ you.
I welcome you to contact me and the Judith Taylor Designs team if you have any questions about your next project. We love to talk about new homes!