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The REAL Questions You Should Ask An Interior Designer: Part 1

January 21, 2024

I serve clients coast-to-coast with services ranging from virtual interior design, paint color consultations, 3D renderings... I also do a little bit of blogging.

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You may be thinking about hiring a professional interior designer. After all, a pro can create a beautiful, functional space in much less time and with less stress and heartache than most people could do on their own. 

Sure, you can scour Pinterest and daydream about the fabulous rooms you see. But creating something similar in your own home? It feels impossible, especially when you consider the millions of options available and the fact that just because something looks beautiful doesn’t mean it will work in your house with your existing pieces and elements. 

But don’t feel bad! Designing a space that meets your functional and aesthetic goals, all while staying on budget AND feeling confident that your choices are, in fact, ones you will love forever, is not an easy feat for most people. 

Interior designers, on the other hand, have access to a multitude of resources and can put together a cohesive vision that meets all of your goals AND will withstand the test of time. Simply put, when you hire a designer, you are hiring an expert to solve your problem.

There are many benefits of working with a professional interior designer. We have extensive expertise and knowledge that allow us to hone in on solving unique design challenges. We have access to a vast range of products not available to homeowners, and we have connections to reliable contractors and skilled tradespeople. 

When it comes to hiring an interior designer, you will likely have a myriad of ideas about how the whole process will unfold. So you can be an informed consumer — and to ensure an effective working relationship with your chosen interior designer — it’s important to ask the right questions.

While your interior designer should know and be upfront about the project costs, billing and payment terms, and project timelines, there are a few key questions I think are the most important to ask your interior designer to better understand what the collaborative process will really be like.

1. “What’s your design process? How much time does each part of the process take?

This question is critical to understand what to expect as you move forward working with an interior designer. Although most designers follow a similar process, it is important for you to understand your designer’s particular progression from initial ideas through completed space.

Here’s what you can expect when you work with APD:

    1. Discovery Call, you discuss your project & I’ll share how I can help, 15 minutes
    2. Preparation of Scope of Work & Contract, you review the scope of work, contract and project pricing in your private client portal
    1. New Client Onboarding, Welcome Kit including photo and measuring guide emailed to you upon receipt of signed contract + design fee deposit
    2. Design Phase, you submit inspiration images, design questionnaire and photos of your space, I work on your floor plan, design specifications and 3D renderings, approximately 14 days after we officially kick off your project I’ll be ready to present your design
    3. Support Phase, trade-only items will be ordered and managed by APD, retail orders will be handled by you, once you’ve approved the design, the support phase will last a week and include email follow up to ensure your space comes together beautifully

2. “Have you done a project like mine before?

Make sure your type of project and end goals are in alignment with the services your interior designer offers. Some designers specialize in kitchen and bath remodels, others concentrate on furnishings-only projects. Some may only do new construction projects, but not remodels. 

At Ashley Poe Design, we specialize in full-service interior design & color consulting and my favorite projects to design are kitchen/bathroom remodels, new builds, and full furnishing projects.

3. “What will you need from me, and when will you need it? When will you need me to be available?

You’ll want to know what your time commitment will need to be throughout the interior design process. Every interior designer offers different services with varying levels of support and access so you’ll want to make sure you fully understand whether you’ll need to be hands on or hands off, or if there are certain parts where you’ll be more involved than others. Yes, you are handing the bulk of the work off to a professional — that’s the whole idea, so the design process will be easier on you and your family. But to ensure your interior designer has everything they need to design the perfect space for you, your involvement in providing key information about your needs and your vision is critical.

And, at other times you will need to make your home available so that the designer can take measurements, tradespeople can do the work, and all of the finishing elements can be brought in and installed. You will want to have a thorough understanding of when you will need to devote time toward getting your project completed.

At APD, our clients are the most involved at these key phases:

  1. Onboarding. I want to know all the details about your lifestyle, design style, and functional needs. This is what will allow me to fully understand your style and goals to ensure I design a space you love. Typically, during the onboarding phase, my clients will set aside roughly 30-60 minutes to answer the design questionnaire, take photos of their space and send in room measurements.
  2. Design Phase. During the design phase, you’ll want to set aside time for a review of your design presentation, then provide feedback and any change requests to me within 2 days of your presentation.

4. “How will we communicate throughout the project? How frequently will I hear from you?

You don’t want to feel left in the dark at any time during your project: why isn’t my interior designer calling me? Is anything happening? Are they even working on my project? 

These thoughts can be very anxiety-provoking and in my experience with my clients, it’s more often that “no news is good news”. But, you’ll want to make sure you understand the interior designer’s process and key milestones so you aren’t worried if you don’t hear from them during a certain phase. Once you know their process, you’ll have a full understanding of all the things they’re doing behind the scenes to keep your project on track.

Another important thing to be aware of is your preferred communication style and your designer’s. If you prefer phone calls but email is how your interior designer and their team communicate best, you may need to adjust your expectations OR find a designer who is readily available via phone.

You’ll also want to know who you’ll be in contact with throughout your project. Is the interior designer the main person you’ll reach out to if you have questions? Or, is there a designated support person at their office who will handle a majority of communication so nothing gets missed?

At Ashley Poe Design, I pride myself on my proactive communication. By providing weekly email updates and online access to spec books my clients always know what to expect and we are able to minimize surprises and delays.

I hope these questions have been helpful for preparing you to hire an interior designer. The relationship between designer and client is a special one. I work closely with my clients for months or years on a single project and they become like family. And, the privilege of designing someone’s most sacred space, their home, is an honor I don’t take lightly.

Before I finish this post, I want to share a few questions I don’t think are as important to ask your designer because they don’t really delve into the actual design process over the months or years it takes to complete a complex project. Here are a few of them.

What’s your style?

This may not be a pertinent question. It is likely you reached out to a particular designer because the photos on their website resonated with you. You loved the spaces and rooms in their portfolio of work (you may not even know why!)

Designers always design with their clients’ personal style, needs, and desires in mind. But each designer does have his or her own aesthetic preferences and personal vibe. If you liked what you saw on their website, there is already a match, and that designer can create a signature space just for you.

At Ashley Poe Design, my signature style is timeless, transitional design with the use of approachable color.

Where did you go to school?

This may not be an important question to ask, as there are many avenues available to designers to become a qualified interior designer, including various educational pathways, apprenticeships, internships, and on-the-job training. If the images on a designer’s website resonate with you, you have a comfortable rapport, and you’re impressed with the designer’s process and working style, those factors are likely far more important than their educational background. 

For details on how APD came to be, head over to my about page to learn about my background and experience in the industry.

If you are considering hiring an interior designer and have enjoyed learning about my design process, I’d love to hear from you. The first step in my process is to submit a Project Inquiry here. Then, I’ll be in touch with more information.

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