Advice from Designers:
What Happens After
I Hire an Interior Designer?
By Ellen Cantor
Once you have made the decision to hire an interior designer, the following steps usually take
- Letter of agreement: A contract is signed between the interior designer and the client stating
what is to be completed and the fee schedule.
- In-depth interview by interior designer with the client to determine lifestyle needs.
- Meeting with architect, if using one for this project.
- Room by room list of items to be completed both for furniture and construction. Approval
- Measure and photograph the room (or rooms).
- Design and drawing of floorplans showing new furniture with sizes; design custom pieces.
Approval of plans.
- Design and drawing of new cabinets for kitchen, bathroom, entertainment, closet,
construction plans. Approval of plans.
- Lighting plan showing new lighting with specifications for contractor.
- If construction is a part of the plan, selection of all items that will be neededfloors,
counters, faucets, fixtures, lights, doors, etc.
- Give construction plans to contractors for bids, if needed. (May be done by the architect.)
- Review bids and assist in choosing a contractor. (May be done by the architect.)
- Begin construction.
- Observation of construction. (Depending on the size of the project, this may be done by
- Interior designer shops for nonconstruction itemsfurniture, fabrics, rugs,
wallcoverings, and any other items that need to be purchased.
- Presentation of furniture ideas and fabrics to client.
- Shopping trip to see the furniture.
- Paint selection to go with the flooring and fabrics that have been selected.
- Approval of furniture, fabric, wallpaper, draperies, etc.
- Purchase items agreed upon.
- Completion of work by contractors.
- Carpet, furniture delivery, drapery installation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the interior designer expect from me?
It is helpful to educate yourself when hiring an interior designer. Ask yourself the
following questions: Who will be using this room? What are their ages? How many people will be
eating, watching TV, doing homework, etc. in this space? What do I like to feel when I come into
this room? Be prepared to answer many more questions that the interior designer will bring to the
first meeting. Make a wish list and prioritize it. What are you in immediate need of? What can
wait six months, one year, five years? Be prepared for trade-offs at a later date. Estimate your
investment in this project. Although you may have no idea of the cost of your project, determine
your maximum dollar expenditure. Be honest with the interior designer regarding your budget.
Even if you're not sure what your design preferences are, an interior designer will be able to
help you narrow your choices. Cut out pages from magazines. Buy an expandable file and start
collecting pictures. Label files with pictures that show kitchens, baths, family rooms, color,
space planning, furniture, lighting, etc. Be very specificcreate files for faucets, sinks,
chairs, tables, and lamps. It is also helpful to cut out pictures of things you don't like. If
you like only one item in a picture, circle it. Pictures are very valuable in helping
communicate your needs to the interior designer. They can help the interior designer visualize
the "style" and "feeling" that is right for you and your home. (Editor's note: You can also save
images you find throughout ImproveNet's site into your personal
How involved do you want to be? Some clients want to be in on every decision; others say, "Call me
when it's finished." Be up front with the interior designer. If you want to do some of the work
yourself, tell him or her before the job begins. Be clear about who will make the final decision,
and have those people in on the design process from the beginning. MOST IMPORTANT: HAVE FUN!
ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE! Look at the big picture. Let your interior designer worry about the
detailthat's what we are trained for.
What if I don't like the things the interior designer shows me?
You and your interior designer should work as a team. It is important for the designer to design
for you and your residence. Each home must reflect the lifestyle and feeling of the
people who live there. Don't be afraid to speak up and explain what you like and don't like
to the interior designer. Design is never a straight line. It is always a process and may zig-zag
on its way to the final plan. Be flexible, be open, and enjoy the process.
When working with an interior designer, can I bring in another designer to do the lighting,
accessories, or artwork?
In addition to working with architects and contractors, interior designers often work with
specialized designers such as lighting designers, certified kitchen and bath designers, and art
consultants. If you would like to have a specialized designer as part of the team, inform the
interior designer at the beginning of the job so he or she does not include that part in the
letter of agreement. On large projects, the interior designer will often suggest including a
What are some speciality rooms that professionally trained interior designers are qualified
Professionally trained interior designers are trained to design kitchens, bathrooms, home
offices, and closets, in addition to all other spaces in the house. Additionally, many interior
designers have experience in designing for the elderly, handicapped, and children.
Ellen Cantor: Interior Design is a
full-service interior design firm in Southern California committed to creating individualized and
functional designs to meet the lifestyles of clients' families. Founded by Ellen Cantor, ASID, CID,
in 1982, the firm has a simple client philosophy: an unwavering dedication to open communication,
reliable service, and to building a collaborative design partnership with all its clients. Ellen is
personally involved with every phase of the design process, from needs assessment through
installation. You can visit her website at
More Articles by Ellen Cantor
Back to Main Page
Email this page to a friend