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Interior Design & Decorating

How Can an Interior Designer Help Me?

By on May 14, 2014
How Can an Interior Designer Help Me?

Interior designers work on projects as small as a one-hour consultation for paint color to as large as the building of a new home—and everything in between. A professionally trained interior designer can bring order to the project and help you focus your ideas. You will save time and money by eliminating costly mistakes and having access to state-of-the-art products and ideas for your home. It is our job to bring you unique ideas, unusual styles, and alternative sources that you may not know are available or do not know where to locate.

Interior designers no longer just choose furniture, fabrics, and wallpaper. Today's professionally trained interior designers have studied the equivalent of interior architecture. In addition to selection of fabrics, wallcoverings, furniture, flooring, window treatments, and accessories, they are experienced in drafting and drawing and offer services such as space planning, barrier-free design, kitchen and bath design, custom cabinets, furniture design, furniture plans, and lighting plans. Professionally trained interior designers have studied interior design at a FIDER (Foundation for Interior Design Education Research) accredited school and should be licensed or certified by the state in which they work. Additionally, many interior designers are members of a professional society, such as ASID, and have passed the NCIDQ exam. In some states, licensed or certified interior designers are allowed to obtain building permits.

Following are a few frequently asked questions about the interior design process:


The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is the oldest and largest association of professional interior designers in the world. There are 49 chapters with global membership.

The National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) is an independent organization created in the public interest to establish minimum standards for the qualification of professional interior designers. It has qualified over 10,000 interior designers since 1974.

The California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) qualifies applicants as Certified Interior Designers (CID). Applicants must pass certain educational requirements and/or have seven years of related business experience. In addition, the applicant must pass a three-hour exam in building and barrier-free codes administered by the NCIDQ. Other states have similar certification programs.

I am planning a remodel. When should I hire an interior designer?

Hire your interior designer early in the planning stages. From the beginning, your interior designer, architect, and contractor should work with you as a team. Each is professionally trained in his or her own field and complements the others.

The architect designs the building and the contractor builds it. Somewhere in between, the homeowner needs to choose countertops, flooring, wall surfaces, fixtures, faucets, paint colors, and also make sure that the rooms are the correct size for furniture placement. A small adjustment in room size or location of doors and windows before construction begins can prevent many headaches when the homeowner begins to furnish his or her newly remodeled residence.

Hiring an interior designer to work with the architect at the onset of a job can save money in the long run and make the remodeling process go more smoothly. No longer will the contractor say, "We need the tile tomorrow. Have you picked it out?"

I want French doors and crown molding in my living room. Then I would like to add a few pieces to my existing furniture for a new look. How can an interior designer help me?

It's always best to call an interior designer before you do any construction or make any purchases. The interior designer looks at the big picture and can help you see how this part of your home relates to all the other parts. If needed, he or she can suggest a new furniture plan and make a shopping list utilizing the existing pieces of furniture that you would like to keep. Most designs do not start with a blank room, and interior designers are accustomed to working with the client's existing pieces.

I like to make my own decisions regarding my home, but I don't have time to shop around and find unique things. How would an interior designer help me?

Before beginning a project, the designer does an in-depth interview with you to learn as much as possible about you, your family, and your lifestyle. The design should always reflect the people who live in the home, not the personal taste of the interior designer. Choose an interior designer who likes to work as a partner with you—one who will bring you several choices for each design decision. That way, you will be a part of the design solution.

Where do I begin—with the furniture, the floors, the walls?

Before you consider purchasing anything, start by asking yourself these questions: Who will use this space? How will they use it? Will children use it? Pets? Will people eat in the space, sleep, watch TV, read, etc.? Talk with your designer about your home, its good and bad points, and your expectations. Your interior designer calls this discussion a needs assessment. It is similar to a medical history and physical examination in your doctor's office. The needs assessment is where you begin—not with the furniture.

After completing the preplanning stage, the design phase begins. It's still not time to choose furniture, colors, or decide whether to buy the rug or the sofa. It is important to determine whether or not you want structural work. Upon completion of the structural plans, whether they be major or minor, the interior designer is ready to begin the furniture plan. Furniture placement must be determined before beginning any structural work or before making any purchases. There is nothing as frustrating as enlarging a room and finding out after construction that it should have been 2 feet longer to hold the grand piano.

After completing the furniture placement plan, your designer can begin to determine furniture styles and colors. This is where any pictures you have saved of items you like will be helpful. Now the designer is ready to shop. There are no steadfast rules on whether to start with the floor, the walls, or the furniture. But do remember never to make any purchases until you have selected all the fabrics, wallcoverings, flooring, and paint colors.

Author Profile: 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

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