I received an interesting question from a reader a couple weeks ago and thought it would make a fun blog post, “What is it actually like to work with or hire an interior designer?” I haven’t taken on client projects for a few years now and it has been even longer since I’ve worked for an actual design firm, but I wanted to share what the process is typically like, why it’s beneficial to hire a designer for certain projects, and shed some light on how projects unfold when working with a professional. Click through to read about what it’s like to work with an interior designer… if you’ve ever been curious, this post is for you! I think you might be surprised to learn how much interior designers manage during a client project.
First, I want to say this… Emmett and I are known for our DIY projects and design, but we definitely understand the benefits and totally support hiring a professional. As a designer myself (that’s my background & I went to school for design), I often find myself recommending interior designers to readers who message with questions about big remodeling or renovating projects. While I think everyone should learn about and dabble in their preferred aesthetic, design is not enjoyable for everyone. It can be stressful, intimidating, and overwhelming. If you’re one of those people who just aren’t into it, don’t have time, or would love a beautiful home without the work, hiring a designer is an incredible, worry-free option. There is no shame in that whatsoever!
Let’s start with the main benefits of hiring a designer… I’ll itemize and elaborate below!
Benefits of Hiring an Interior Designer
- Project Management From Start to Finish // Did you know designers oversee your ENTIRE project? From design plans and managing contractors to styling at the end of a project, designers are there for their clients every step of the way.
- Access to Skilled and Insured Tradespeople // Designers or design firms have their own team of skilled, vetted, and insured tradespeople (wallpaper hangers, tile installers, general contractors, plumbers, electricians, seamstress, etc). They work with the same people for every project, have a wonderful working relationship, and can often get their contractors on the schedule more quickly than you would be able to on your own.
- Designer Resources With Better Pricing // Designers are able to offer trade-only brands to their clients, which means you can access a full range of designer resources at better prices than you could find online (if you can even find the same product online). This also means you’ll have access to unique furniture, textiles, and finishes.
- The Option for Customization // Given designers have a team of skilled tradespeople, they’re able to offer clients complete customization. From kitchen cabinetry to custom upholstery or drapery, they’re able to offer one-of-a-kind products that fit your home and style exactly.
- Worry-Free Home Builds, Renovations, Decorating, & Styling // No matter the stage in the process, designers manage every aspect… which means less stress for clients! It is their job to ensure things go smoothly and as expected.
- More Accurate Timelines and Budget // While all renovations and construction projects bring the unexpected (more money & more time), designers have a better gage for the budget and timeline. Since they do this on a daily basis and are hands-on for the duration of a project, they’re able to keep the timeline and budget on track more easily.
- Working with One Person From Building to Styling // There is one person (and one person only) the client communicates with during a project, and that is the designer. They never have to speak with contractors or tradespeople, the designer is responsible for managing and communicating everything. This makes the process much easier and it’s nice knowing the client only has to talk to one person throughout their entire project.
- Getting The Home You Envision in a Creative Way // Working with a designer is FUN. You’re presented beautiful samples, mood boards, renderings, and can really envision the space (even if you’re not creative or visual). In a world where so many DIY designed rooms are copied directly from Pinterest, it’s nice to know your designer will provide you with an original plan that fits your family and home.
I also wanted to share the general process (in a nutshell). Designers put in MANY hours sourcing, sketching, rendering, ordering, planning, and managing. This is kind of the condensed version of what the client experiences…
Working With An Interior Designer: The Process:
- Initial Meeting // You begin by telling your designer about your project (the scale of it, your budget, what you’re looking for, etc), then if it’s a good fit, you agree to work together (sometimes the client signs a contract), you’ll discuss the timeline, and get the ball rolling.
- Design Plans & Pitch // Your designer will present you with design plans, samples, mood boards, renderings, and pitch their idea for your home or space. This is the fun part of the process for clients!
- Revisions // After receiving client feedback, the designer will adjust the plan if needed and present revisions.
- Client Sign Off // The client then signs off on final plan, the designer orders everything, inspects items as they arrive, and schedules contractors.
- Project Management & Building Process // As tradespeople begin working on the client’s home, the designer manages all contractors, checks in regularly, and keeps tabs on progress being made… making sure to stick to the schedule, while communicating with the contractors and client.
- Furniture Install // Once the building process is finished, the designer will schedule a “furniture installation” day. This includes larger items like furniture and rugs.
- Styling // Once the furniture is on site and installed, the designer can schedule styling. This involves hanging art and drapery, styling accessories, and putting the finishing touches on a space.
One of my last interior (technically exterior) client projects I tackled was the outdoor patio pictured above. Since then, I’ve really only tackled in-person projects for friends, as projects to share on the blog.
A few tips for choosing a designer that is right for you…
Tips for Selecting An Interior Designer
- Consider Location // While e-design is becoming more prevalent, I’m still a firm believer that hiring a local designer or a designer who can travel to see your space and eventually style it in person will result in the best outcome.
- Check Out Their Portfolio // Comb through a designer’s portfolio- it’s an awesome tool to gage the quality of their work! While it’s wonderful to see your preferred aesthetic repeated in their portfolio, I’m often more impressed if they have a wide range of styles highlighted. A designer that can produce many aesthetics is more impressive, in my opinion.
- Referrals & Reviews // Always check their client reviews. Word-of-mouth referrals are always a safe bet!
- Press // Awesome press is an added bonus when choosing a designer. Perhaps their work was just featured in one of your favorite design publications?
- Communication // Have you tried contacting the designer? Were they easy to get in touch with? Did they respond in a timely, professional manner? Were they easy to talk to? Did they answer all of your initial questions? Does it feel like a good fit? Follow your intuition and trust your gut! This will be a working relationship that could last for months or years to come (depending on if you work in phases) and you want to make sure it feels right.
I also want to say this: it’s ok to not love the design process. It’s also perfectly fine if you’re not super creative and styling a home doesn’t feel FUN to you, but you’d still love to live in a curated, well-designed house. Although, I’m pretty sure 99% of you reading my blog are here because you enjoy all things home, interiors, and the design process (so maybe this isn’t applicable to most). If you are someone who doesn’t have time or do not enjoy the process, this is where interior designers, decorators, and architects come in… which are all different occupations. One last note and another awesome reason to hire a designer…. they’re incredible at what they do! Please don’t ask your designer friends for a “small favor” when it’s something they are normally paid to do (because it seems like a fun job for them). While most designers enjoy their job, it is still work that requires time. I think many assume creative people are willing to spend their hours being creative or giving advice for free because it’s enjoyable, when in reality this is their livelihood- that is indeed work. I know many creatives experience this often, so I just wanted to note that before signing off- especially given our current economy. Not that any of you, in my community do this! It’s also a bit different for design bloggers because our outlets are often educational.
Another question I’m often asked is when I’ll accept client projects again- local and remote e-design projects. While I’ll never say never, at this stage in my career… it’s honestly not my passion anymore, so I don’t envision taking on client projects. I love styling, photographing, renovating our own home, connecting with friends & readers, working with brands, and sharing our house in a more personal way here on the blog. Client projects used to be really fun and exciting to me, but as my time management, interests, and career path has shifted, it’s just not something I truly love anymore… designing spaces for other people. Finding ways to be creative in our own home and cultivating relationships has felt really amazing these past few years, and while that’s just my personal preference these days… I can say without a doubt- if you’re on the fence about hiring a designer, try it! If you’re looking for a stress-free way to build, renovate, or decorate your home, and have it within your budget- hiring a professional always leads to a wonderful outcome. Hopefully this post helped to shed some light on the process if you’ve ever been curious what it’s actually like to work with an interior designer. Happy Tuesday, friends! Have you ever worked with a designer, decorator, stylist, or architect? I’d love to hear about your experience! Did I miss a question you had? I’m happy to answer in the comment section below!