Helping you plan your home improvement project, from start to finish

Hiring an Interior Designer

Interior Design & Decorating
By on May 14, 2014
Hiring an Interior Designer

Once you have made the decision to hire an interior designer, the following steps usually take place:

  • 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 of list.
  • 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 needed—floors, 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 the architect.)
  • Interior designer shops for nonconstruction items—furniture, fabrics, rugs, wall coverings, 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.
  • Accessories.

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 specific—create 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. 

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 detail—that'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 specialized designer. 

What are some speciality rooms that professionally trained interior designers are qualified to design?
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. 

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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