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How to Find a Great Interior Designer

Interior Design & Decorating
By on Oct 21, 2013
How to Find a Great Interior Designer

There are several ways to find an interior designer:

  • Personal reference is always an excellent method. You may have admired an interior designer's work at a friend's home.

  • Seeing the interior designer's work in a magazine or showcase house.

  • Referral services: The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) offers toll-free referral services at 1-800-775-ASID for residential design projects and 1-800-610-ASID for commercial design projects. Many design centers around the country also offer referral services.

  • Your local phone book. Be sure to ask for references.

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Once you have a few names, call each design professional to set up an interview. Some interior designers charge for this; most do not. Some like to meet you at your home; others like to conduct interviews in their own offices. An interview is an opportunity for you to get to know the interior designer and for him or her to get a feel for your design project.

Ask to see the designer's portfolio.

The following are a few of the most frequently asked questions:

How much will an interior designer's services cost me?

Different designers have different methods of charging clients for services. Some of the most common methods include the following:

  • Hourly plus a percentage markup on cost of purchases: This fee structure charges an hourly fee in addition to a cost-plus on purchases.

  • Hourly and per diem: The designer is paid for all of his or her time. This may include, but is not limited to, consultations, conceptual design, space planning, preparation of drawings, cabinet designs, budget, observing contractors, shopping, and travel.

  • Flat fee: One fee is decided upon for the entire project. This fee structure requires a thorough and detailed understanding of the services to be rendered and the specific areas involved. The written contract should state that no additional services are to be added.

  • Retail: The designer charges a retail price for all items that are purchased. This fee structure generally is used when the designer works for a retail furniture store.

Many interior designers use a combination of the methods mentioned above. Do not be afraid to question the interior designer regarding exactly how he or she charges for services.

The interior designer will ask you about your budget and the type of investment you want to make. Furniture and good design are investments. Good-quality pieces will be with you for a very long time. Be prepared to give a ballpark figure. Even if you don't know what furniture and design services cost today, you should still have some idea of what you are comfortable spending. Your designer can help you clarify exactly how far your money will go.

How do I choose which interior designer is right for me?

Working with an interior designer is similar to a marriage or a business partnership. It requires open communication and trust. This person will be spending many hours in your home, and it is important that you feel comfortable with and trust him or her. You are buying a service and paying for the expertise of your interior designer just as you pay for your attorney and accountant. Ask yourself these three questions: How's our rapport? It is important that your interior designer listen to you as well as having great ideas. Can I speak frankly? If you feel intimidated saying, "I hate pink," or, "This table costs twice what I can spend," you may need a different interior designer. Am I being asked enough questions? Remember that the interior designer is interviewing you as much as you're interviewing him or her. In order to get an interior that is customized to your needs, the designer must ask you a lot of questions.

Do I have to do the whole house at once?

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Do not feel that you can only call an interior designer to do a complete house. Your interior designer will help you prioritize your design needs and make suggestions as to what can be accomplished with your present budget. It is not uncommon for a designer to work with a client for one to three years in order to complete a project. Most interior designers would rather do each area right on its own than do a whole house in a very short time. But at the same time, it is important to design for the entire house, so that each room flows into the next and there is a relationship between one area and the next.

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

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