Building 101: How to Work With an Interior Designer

From defining the scope of work to knowing when to compromise, here's what you need to know about working with an interior designer.
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Ensure the success of your renovation or new build with this guide to working with an interior designer.

1. Find the Right Fit

Finding the right interior designer can make or break your project. Much of the success of your project will stem from clear communication and timing, but if you are starting with a design professional that is not a good fit aesthetically, you will be playing with fire. Most interior designers are stylistically flexible and will look to you for inspiration in their design. Most interior designers also have strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies when it comes to certain styles and design concepts they employ. Make sure you review their past work and feel comfortable that they can execute your vision. It might take few consultations, but it is definitely worth it to hold out for the right fit.

2. Bring Them In Early

You will want to include your interior designer as early as you can on your project. Ideally, they are involved from the start, be it a remodel or a ground-up project. It is best for all of the professionals involved—architect, contractor, and interior designer—to start coordinating as soon as possible to avoid any missed opportunities or design conflicts. Bringing in an interior designer early leverages their talents to the greatest effect. They can influence the flow and layout of a project when it is still malleable, and it is never too soon to start thinking about specific furniture arrangements and materials. It also shows your team you are committed to having the interior designer’s feedback, and that will empower the designer to have an impactful role in the project.

In the renovation of a 1950s building in Royan, France, interior designer Florence Deau selected a fleet of vintage and new furnishings.

In the renovation of a 1950s building in Royan, France, interior designer Florence Deau selected a fleet of vintage and new furnishings.

3. Communicate Clearly

Of all the professional roles on a building project, an interior designer’s can be the most varied. They can be as involved as being your sounding board when evaluating the architect’s design proposals, or they can be tasked with limited touch-and-feel scope towards the end of a project. From the outset, you will want to communicate clearly your expectations of them and have a mutual understanding what that means in terms of billing and fee structure. You will also want to establish early on what you are comfortable with design-wise with their proposals. Provide images of things you like and do not like, and let them know if you have specific pieces of furniture or art you want included in the design. It is best to let a designer explore a concept as freely as possible, but if they seem to be missing the mark, do not be afraid to communicate what you are looking for and set constraints. 

4. Let Them Do Their Thing

This might contradict the previous point a little, but it is also very important to let an interior designer do what they do best. Interior designers have been trained to see spaces in a unique way, and more importantly, they know how to materialize that vision. You may have a specific idea in your head about what you are looking for, but pinning them down to specific images you have seen or pieces of furniture you already own can turn out negatively. Trust your interior designer to read between the lines and match your vision with your context.

Related Reading:

5 Essential Design Tools to Visualize Your Next Project

Building 101: How to Work With a Contractor to Create Your Dream Home

Nick Kunkle
Picking up the mic, so I can drop it!


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