Last month we began a new series of articles, looking at using the services of an interior designer to help create an environment customized for you. In this edition we will explore preparing for interviewing your candidate designers. Once again, two of our pros, Gordon Kessler and Larry Johnson, are assisting by sharing their wisdom about what you can expect when working with an interior designer.
While you are preparing your shortlist, there are a few things you need to consider. From the designer’s perspective a prepared client, that’s the future you by the way, makes the interior design process easy, fun, and above all, successful. To assist in the future design, and the interview sessions, gather images of interiors that you are drawn to. Often it isn’t even about specific items in a photo, just an overall feel of the room can give a designer a feeling for your style. If there is more than one party involved who has an opinion, both should come to the table with their own portfolio of things they love. A designer is key in creating a space loved by everyone who resides there and having each individual come prepared helps with that. Most importantly, once you have done your homework you will have a clear idea of what your home needs, and that makes finding interior design help a lot simpler.
We mentioned in the last article that setting up a proper budget is one of the most important parts of the whole process. Stop and think about how much you can spend, not how much you want to spend. Be realistic and honest with yourself. Your designer is going to ask, not with an intent to spend your maximum budget but more for a reality check. A good designer can tell you right away after talking through your project if your budget is realistic or not and the interviews are a good place to start to figure that out.
What follows are 5 essential questions that we posed to Gordon + Johnson Design. We feel these questions should be answered during the interviews with your potential Interior Designer(s) to make sure you know how they operate and how they feel about your project.
#1 – What interior design services do they offer?
Not all interior designers offer the same services. Knowing what you’ll be getting is important, but you may want to ask if there are any areas that they do not provide service. As a way of forming a checklist, here are a few of the services that we, at Gordon + Johnson Design offer:
- Design consultation.
- Intensive client interviews so that your home not only looks beautiful, but actually functions beautifully for the way you live.
- Site measurement and assessment.
- Interior architecture review.
- Space planning.
- Design concepts.
- Contractor bid meetings once the design documents have been created. This helps establish a level playing field where each contractor knows exactly what they are bidding.
- Project management.
- Purchasing or procurement.
- Receiving of all purchased items.
- White glove delivery and set up.
#2 – How do they charge for their design services?
The question of charges relates directly to your budget and not getting any surprises. Gordon + Johnson Design charges in a number of different ways, as do most designers and it may depend on the scope of the project. For example:
- Some projects are billed at a flat rate which provides a fixed budget for designer costs but will require a very clear picture of the level of engagement up front.
- An hourly rate provides flexibility but should be paired with estimates and strong guardrails to make sure cost overruns are prevented.
- A percentage of the project cost can also be used, but again this should be managed with strong oversight.
Whichever method they recommend, make sure you understand how status and budget will be tracked and the cadence of review meetings. At Gordon + Johnson Design we discuss the different billing options and see what makes the most sense for your individual project and the provide regular status sessions to make sure you are comfortable with progress.
#3 – Have they performed similar projects?
This is an important question. If you are building a new home or doing a major renovation, a designer that does more interior decoration would likely not be as adept as a designer that works doing completely new buildouts or reconstruction jobs. The knowledge and use of tools like AutoCad, and a clear understanding of construction documents is essential in building a new home or doing a major renovation. That doesn’t mean that tools aren’t critical for decorating an interior where no structural changes are necessary. Being able to provide that visualization regardless of the scale can be a game changer in gaining consensus for a design.
At Gordon + Johnson Design we do New Construction projects from inception working with the architect and homeowners, seeing the home through the construction process and ending with completing the interiors down to the smallest detail. We will also occasionally do a decorating job, depending on size and the timing of the project and we have the technology to aid in both.
#4 – What is their design style?
Many designers do have a specific signature style that they bring to the table and it’s important that your style doesn’t get lost in the process. This is where the individual portfolios you put together will help make sure that any work is designed for you. This is one of the areas where you need to feel totally comfortable that your wants and needs are being listened to and incorporated in the future design.
Gordon + Johnson Design performs intensive interviews with our clients that starts with the interview, to discover their personal style. Remember the interview is a two way street and it may be that the designer feels that a project isn’t right for them also. Many people when asked often feel they don’t have a style, however, this really isn’t true and a good designer can incorporate your input and create a space that is perfectly you.
#5 – What were your most recent projects?
This is a great question and allows a designer to talk a little about projects they have performed that are similar in size and scope to your potential project. A designer’s most recent project will give you an idea of whether the designer uses the latest in design trends, technology, and innovation.
In closing with each desiner interview, you will want to gather references that you can follow up on. Using the answers the designer provided in the interview, you should be able to draw up some questions that will allow you to verify that they do indeed work the way they said they do.
So that covers our article for this month. Thanks once again to Gordon and Larry for their insights and advice. We will continue our joureney on how to work effectively with an interior designer in the next edition.
To work with Gordon Kessler and Larry Johnson on your own space, or simply follow their upcoming projects, visit:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/gordonandjohnson