Working with an interior designer involves some give and take. You will share ideas, and the designer will contribute insights and advice based on his or her talents, knowledge and experience. You will have many details to consider and many decisions to make. Your concept may grow and change as you undergo this process.
Communicate and Maintain Records
The key to a successful project outcome is good communication. The more direct and specific you are, the easier it will be for the designer to successfully meet your needs and expectations. Never hesitate to ask questions about any aspect of the project. Keep notes of your discussions with the designer, and confirm any and all instructions, decisions or changes before they are acted on. If you agree to make changes to the contract, always make sure to put them in writing and have them signed and dated by both parties. Maintain a folder with copies of all plans and contracts, receipts, invoices and other documents.
Before authorizing the designer to begin work, take time to discuss fees, as well as other charges or expenses you may incur. Ask for a cost estimate in writing. The cost estimate should specify the scope of work and the type of fee structure the designer uses. (Bear in mind that the designer is not responsible for the costs of other professional services.) If the designer charges extra for other services—such as reviewing plans or attending meetings with an architect or contractor—these should be listed as well, both by type and rate.
Practice Good “Clienthood”
Take your responsibilities as a client seriously. If you are going to be very busy or on travel during this process, consider delaying the project until later or getting someone to manage it for you. Remember, if you delegate the decision-making to the designer, you are agreeing to live with those decisions.
To avoid disappointment or unwelcome surprises, follow these guidelines:
Minimize changes to your plan. Each part of the design will affect the whole. Changes or special requests can require any number of adjustments that will add time and expenses to your project.
Consider carefully and make notes before you call your designer. Repeated calls are inefficient, expensive and can slow down progress.
Stay flexible. Decide beforehand where you are willing to compromise and where not.
Trust your gut. Do not agree to a decision that does not “feel” right to you, no matter how urgent it may seem to be. Take time to request more information, do some research or just reflect.
Avoid open-ended requests. Tell the designer up front what you are willing to pay in total for a particular item or service.
©2009 American Society of Interior Designers