Working with an interior designer is a great way to transform your space. They can work magic turning a boring room into a bold reflection of your style and personality. A good interior designer knows how to create a space that’s just as beautiful as it is functional. It’s an investment that many people will say is well worth it. But while an interior designer provides a service, many forget that it is also a collaborative effort.
From the process of designing the space itself, to what looks best and all the details in between, here are the secrets designers wish their clients would understand. It’s a relationship and communication is key. Luckily these top interior designers were willing to openly share the biggest pain points they experience with clients.
Your Designer Needs Time To Do Their Job
Interior designer Lisa Gilmore wishes her clients understand that every designer needs time to do their job properly. “Can we whip out a design in three days? Of course. Is it really thought out, creative and curated especially for you? Probably not.”
Design is a creative process. “Give your designer time to digest your design goals, hear what your dreams are for your space, allow them to dive into their headspace and let the creative juices flow, then put the design on paper,” says Gilmore.
How much time is needed? According to Gilmore, four to six weeks on average is a healthy amount of time from signing a contract to presentation. “By allowing your designer (and building team) a little breathing room and not watching over their neck with a ticking watch, you are allowing your project to be its best potential. When things are rushed, often mistakes are made; which can, in the end cost you more money.”
Allow For Proper Lead Time
When there are multiple vendors involved in a project, it can require a bit of patience. “Stressing out all the subcontractors to get it done quick, leaves room for cutting corners and not the best quality work,” says Gilmore.
Then there are issues that are truly beyond your designer’s control especially when it comes to availability of products and supplies. “Yes there are options that are in stock and ready to go, but you would be amazed at the possibilities that open up when you allow for longer lead time products. This goes for all things, lighting, wall covering, tile, furniture and fabrics.”
You Need More Than One Point Of Light In A Room And Dimmer Switches
Lighting is one of the most important elements of a space, says Aurore Martial of Domus Venus, “Very often, my clients look at me with funny eyes when I make proposals with five or six lights in a room. They tend to think of the functionality of lighting uniquely rather than light as a mood creator.”
In addition to the main light source in a room, Martial also suggests using lighting for specific tasks such as a reading chair and to highlight a specific object or areas of a room such as art or a library.
She also believes dimmer switches are a must. “The best way to go about it is to have a wall switch that controls the different lights so that you don’t have to go to each individual light and have a dimmer to create moods in the evening.”
Paint Is The Cheapest Way To Transform A Room
While every designer has their own style, most are unanimous about the power of paint. But clients don’t always believe them, “Strangely, paint is the thing that makes most people cringe and creates most fear, especially when we talk about darker and moodier schemes,” says Martial.
Of all the things to debate with a designer, paint should not be one of them. “It will often be the cheapest thing we buy in a project, but also the one that has most impact. And the beauty of it is that if you really don’t love it, you can buy another pot the next day and change it over.”
Don’t Complain About The Cost Of Fabric
Martial reveals her clients often cringe when they see the cost of fabric for window treatments especially because they require two and a half times the width of the window in fabric. But she thinks it’s worth every penny. “Especially when the fabric is expensive… But in that case, it’s even more important to have beautiful full and luxurious looking curtains rather than skinny ones with a nice fabric. So keep that ratio in mind, and have them lined or even interlined if it’s a very thin fabric. I promise, it will be worth it in the end.”
The Little Things Can Be Just As Important As The Big Things
“Although most of my work is to find the big pieces, the smaller ones and accessories are not to be underestimated, or even worse, forgotten,” says Martial.
Details are very important, she explains, “Very often, people think that once the sofa, table and chairs are bought, a huge pressure is gone and they start to relax. That’s how I end up seeing places half done that lack warmth.”
Accessories such as cushions, rugs, mirrors and vases are important. Framing art properly is another consideration, as well as how everything is styled. “All of that has to be thought of as well to get the best results, they have to be interesting and blend well with the rest of the house. And your designer can totally help you with it too.”
Have A Reasonable Budget
While furniture and accessories are available in a range of prices, having a proper budget is essential. Fernando Wong of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design suggests being upfront about your budget from the beginning, “It helps us when we design and makes the process shorter and much easier.”
It’s easy to forget that design fees do not include the cost of furniture. Donna Hoffman has seen many of her clients underestimate the price of designing and furnishing a home. “Furnishing a home, from new design-builds, to downsizes to up sizes always cost more than you thought it would, wish it did, or think it should. The stats to furnishing a new or whole home is a percentage of your purchase price, from 12% to 30%,” she says.
She suggests considering furnishing costs even before falling in love with a home. “Maybe opting for less square footage so you can truly furnish it will make you happier than living in an empty echo-chamber.”
Snafus Can Happen
Clients often have unrealistic expectations when it comes to problems that can be outside of their designer’s or even the manufacturer’s control. “Almost a third of the furniture that ships today needs to be retouched and repaired once it is received at a receiver or final destination; often due to freight damage,” says Hoffman.
But at the same time, she says your designer should be able to take care of these problems. “Part of the high-touch service your designer provides is flagging furniture issues, rejecting items beyond repair and approving repairs prior to delivery to your home. Catalogers and retailers don’t and can’t provide this kind of safety net. I design it; I order it, I inspect it, and I oversee its final delivery in perfect condition. I do not build it, ship it or deliver it. Those snafus are beyond any designer’s control, but, a good designer is the steward of your project and I won’t rest until all is corrected for you.”
Don't Buy Everything From One Store
Pam Mamourian, designer at Home With Alexis believes it takes time and life experience to decorate a home. “Choosing everything straight from a design showroom leads to a home lacking in energy. Clients should travel. Period. And when they do, they should keep a curated eye out for pieces they love. Bringing bits of their travel experiences into their homes reflect an energy that is unique to them.”
But that doesn't mean spending every penny, she says. “Pieces don’t have to be expensive: a spalted maple hand carved bowl from Vermont, soapstone candlesticks from a flea market in Manhattan, a block printed tablecloth from India, a hand thrown ceramic figurine from Copenhagen.”