questions to ask yourself before interior design consultations

Preparing to meet a designer in person for interior design consultation can be overwhelming if you are not prepared.

What is my main goal for this project?
Consider what you intend to achieve with this project. Is it merely sprucing up your space, or do you need a complete makeover?

What is my decorating style?
Take time to identify your style and the mood you want in your space. Having this clarity can speed up the interior design process and give your interior designer a clear direction on your expectations.

What is my budget?
Decide upfront how much you’re willing to spend on this project. This can help you and your designer work within your means, eliminating the chances of any financial surprises down the road.

What is my timeline?
Express any important deadlines to your designer during your interior designer consultation. This ensures everyone is on the same page from the outset, planning and executing accordingly.

What are the functionalities of my space?
Ensure you are clear on how you intend to use your space. Communicate these practical aspects with your designer. This makes the styling not only beautiful but also suitable for your lifestyle.

Do I have an ‘ask an interior designer’ list of questions?
Prepare a list of questions or points to discuss with your designer. This could include questions about the design, decor, budget, timeline, and any concerns you may have about the project.

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Picture of George Nicola
George Nicola

George is a seasoned interior designer and property marketing strategist with over 13 years of experience. He specializes in transforming properties into visually stunning spaces, helping clients recognize the potential and beauty in each property. With an impressive international client base of exciting projects throughout Europe and America.

So much goes into establishing your design style, finding the right designer, and ensuring you’re prepared for the meeting – it is an entire process.

If you follow exactly this interior design process below, and if you do prepare in advance, your first meeting before hiring a professional interior design consultant is worth every effort.

This blog post will guide readers through “how to prepare for the perfect (paid and free) interior design consultation and we’ll cover key topics:

  • how to find the right interior designer
  • how to use the advice from interior designers
  • how and what to ask an interior designer or decorator
  • the process for entire home and room design consultation
  • how to prepare the list of questions before prior meeting the designer
  • must-haves and nice-to-haves regarding lifestyle and habits
  • vetting potential designers during initial consultation

Reviewing portfolios, references, preparing yourself before the big day – all necessary steps on your journey towards creating your dream home or workspace with help from a qualified expert. 

And even how to get interior design consultation for free.

How do interior design consolations help?

Clients benefit when meeting an interior design consultant because they leave with expert advice, specific suggestions, and a well-defined plan for the area.

They also aid in establishing a budget, schedule, and design objectives, all of which improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the design process.

Questions to ask yourself: Establishing Your Design Style

how to do an interior design consultation
How to do an interior design consultation by TALLBOX

Research and Inspiration: Importance of having a clear vision for your space

When it comes to establishing your house design style, research is critical. Start by looking through magazines, websites, and blogs for ideas that appeal to you for your dream space. Then, take note of colors, patterns, textures, furniture styles, and layouts you like or dislike.

Consider the overall feeling each space evokes – do you feel relaxed?



Please list elements from these spaces that resonate with you so that when discussing your project with a designer, they know what direction to take with their design advice.

Identifying Your Must-Haves and Nice-To-Haves: Tips for discovering and defining your design style

Before meeting with a designer, consider what must be included in the design plan and any nice-to-haves if there is room in the budget.

For example, if entertaining guests is essential, having enough seating should be considered a must. Adding built-in bookshelves may be more of a nice-to-have depending on available space and budget constraints.

If you need help figuring out where to start, feel free to e-mail us, we offer free complimentary consultation over a video chat.

We can help you establish if you need full service design or just advice. Free interior design consultant >

How Your Goals for the Space Will Shape the Initial design consultations

Knowing how you live daily will help inform decisions made during the design process for your new space.

For example, think about how much natural light enters the room throughout the day; whether or not pets are present; if children use this space often; how many people typically occupy this area at once; etc.

All these factors can affect which materials are chosen for flooring or wall coverings and other details such as furniture size/placement or window treatments needed for privacy and light control.

As a common practice, it’s essential to communicate your goals to the designer, so they can help you create a space that reflects your style and meets your functional needs.

Choosing the Right Interior Designer for Your Project: How to Vet and Compare Candidates

Vetting Potential Designers

Before you start your search for the right designer, it is important to vet potential designers.

Look into their experience and qualifications, ask for past clients’ references, and ensure they have a portfolio of work that aligns with your style.

Additionally, consider if the designer has any certifications or awards that may benefit your project.

Reviewing Portfolios and References

A design consultation can only go with references and looking at their design work.

Once you have narrowed down your list of potential designers, review their portfolios and references to get an idea of what kind of projects they have worked on.

Consider how closely these projects match what you are looking for in terms of design style and quality.

Ask yourself if this is someone who could bring your vision to life. But also remember that some interior designers have different projects than focused on any design style, but rather on doing good design.

Interior design initial consultation by TALLBOX

After reviewing portfolios and references, it is time to set up meetings with prospective designers so that you can discuss details about the project as well as expectations going forward.

Make sure to provide them with a detailed brief outlining all aspects of the project, including budget constraints, before the meeting so they can come prepared with questions or ideas specific to your needs.

Side note: The interior design industry has three main directions. Multidisciplinary, Specialist, and Niche designers.

Interior design consultation fees

Be aware that geographic areas with a higher cost of living typically command elevated interior design consultation rates. 

And the extent of services required will also sway price. Below are the typical interior designer’s fees on pay as you go basis. Before you decide to hire an interior designer fully, provide clear expectations upfront regarding what’s included.

First Meeting – The Initial Consultation Expect to invest $150-$500 for this crucial kick-off meeting, typically lasting 1-3 hours, that sets the vision and direction for your interior design project.

In-person is ideal, but virtual meetings can also effectively facilitate discussions surrounding your aspirations, preferred aesthetics, budget parameters, and projected timeline.

Concept Critique – Evaluating Initial Ideas – As initial concepts are presented, plan for a Design Concept Consultation ranging from $250-$1,500.

This is an opportunity to collaboratively assess proposed layouts, provide candid feedback on early material and finish selections, ensure lighting plans align with your functional needs and decorative vision, and reaffirm that your interior designer has fully captured the look and feel you’re striving for.

Finalizing Details – The Finish Selection Meeting – Invest $100-$250 per hour for intensive Finish Selection Consultations where you comb through every last material choice to customize your space and pull together a cohesive design direction.

This is your chance to handpick paint colors, finishes, textiles, furnishings and decide what takes priority given budget realities

Ongoing Progress Checks and Tweaks – Depending on the scale of your project, expect occasional follow up meetings billed between $100-$250 per hour. Your interior designer may suggest making revisions, run new ideas by you or schedule walkthroughs to examine progress. This is also the time to surface any execution issues for prompt resolution.

How do I know what type of interior designers I need for my 2000 sq. ft contemporary project?

To determine what type of interior designer you need for your 2,000 sq. ft. contemporary condo (as an example), you can consider the following factors even before doing a discovery call:

Generalist Interior Designers

Most designers can be considered “generalists” to some degree. They have a broad scope of expertise in the field, including space planning, paint colors theory, lighting design, and furniture arrangement.

From homes to businesses, they have what it takes to take on any interior design job and deliver a complete finished product that exceeds expectations.

The difference is that specialist designers offer complete design services tailored specifically to a part of the home or a particular aspect.

Specialist Interior Designers

These designers are experts in particular home décor, such as kitchen, living room, bath design, lighting design, or sustainable design.

They bring extensive experience to their assignments and frequently collaborate with generalist interior designers to give a well-rounded design solution. You can expect ultimate answers from such a design team.

Niche Home designers

As for niche designers, these interior designers focus on specific design styles, such as traditional, modern, japandi, minimalist, bohemian, industrial, etc.

Their service is catered to clients looking for a particular look or aesthetic in their space.

They have extensive knowledge of their chosen niche’s materials, textures, and colors and can help clients achieve their desired style.

Some examples of niche designers include coastal design specialists, mid-century modern designers, and rustic design experts.

Determining the Right Interior Designer for Your Project: Factors to Consider

Consider the following four questions while deciding on the type of interior designer.

Are you renovating multiple rooms or just a specific area like the kitchen or bathroom?

Think about how extensive your project will be and your design requirements. For example, a kitchen or bathroom makeover may better suit a professional interior designer than a generalist. At the same time, a whole-house redesign might benefit from the expertise of both.

Do you have a specific look and feel in mind for your space, such as contemporary or modern?

Consider the mood and atmosphere you wish to create in the room. A generalist interior designer who has worked with modern design may be the best person to assist you in realizing your concept for a space with a modern aesthetic.

How much money do you have available for your interior design project?

Think about how much money you can devote to the task.

Professional interior designers specializing in a particular area will typically have higher consultation fees than generalists because of the extra value they add.

However, a generalist interior designer could better fit those on a tighter budget. Some offer hourly rate services to help those with below-average budgets.

Interior design consultation - think deadlines

Do you have a tight deadline for your project, or is there more flexibility in terms of timing?

This one is tough. Estimation deadlines when you have never done projects or renovations is hard.

However, here is some initial advice on how you can help yourself.

This one is tough. Estimation deadlines when you have never done projects or renovations is hard. However, here is some initial advice on how you can help yourself.

  • Find out the average duration of projects like yours: Take a look at interior designers’ case studies and portfolio pieces to get an idea of how long it takes to finish a project like yours.

  • Please consider the project size; it will take more time to complete a significant makeover than a minor one.

  • The design process should be considered: Conceptualizing, designing, and specifying materials, as well as purchasing and installing furniture and accessories, are all part of the design process.

  • Provide enough time for the arrival of the materials, furniture, and accessories you will need.

  • Seek the advice of an expert: Get in touch with an interior designer for a discovery interior design consultation; if you need help estimating how long your project will take, they usually have questionnaires to help a potential client with precisely these things.

Take a look of how a client presentations work below in the video.
We also have a blog post on what tools designers use in an interior presentation.

Overall think about how long your project will take. When time is of the essence, hiring a generalist interior designer rather than a specialist who will take longer to complete the project may be advisable.

The answer to these questions can help you create and narrow your search for an interior designer by revealing what you need and want in a solution.

You should consult multiple interior designers to get a better feel for their skill level and full service if you have any doubts about the above.

Ask them for an initial phone consultation; most consultations are free.

Preparing for the First Meeting with an Interior Designer firm: A Checklist for Success

Creating an Agenda for the Meeting

Before meeting with your designer, creating an agenda that outlines what you want to discuss is essential. This will help keep the conversation on track and ensure all your questions are answered.

Consider topics such as budget, timeline, design style preferences, materials selection, and any other items that need to be discussed.

It can also be helpful to provide a list of questions beforehand so that both parties have ample time to prepare their answers.

Gathering Samples, Photos, and Ideas to Share With Your Designer

Once you have established an agenda for the meeting with your designer, it is time to start gathering samples and photos of ideas you like or dislike to give them a better understanding of your vision. 

You may also want to bring paint swatches or fabric samples if you already know which colors or textures you want to be included in the design plan.

Having these visuals ready before the meeting will make it easier for both parties to discuss design elements during the consultation process.

The importance of having a budget in mind for the project

Establishing a realistic budget before meeting with your interior design consultant is essential for them to understand how much they can work within specific parameters while creating something beautiful and functional within those limits.

When setting up a budget, consider factors such as labor costs (if applicable), material costs, furniture pieces needed, etc., then add 10-20% extra onto this number just in case unexpected expenses arise during the construction/installation.

Getting a Free Interior Design Initial Consultation : Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t miss out on free consultations with interior designers by not taking advantage of the many that offer their services at trade exhibits and events.
  • Free consultations from reputable firms in the interior design business are sometimes offered in exchange for participation in online market research surveys.
  • Follow interior design firms on social media to learn about deals and free consultations.
  • Get recommendations from those you know who have recently finished a similar interior design job.
  • Get in touch with the local educational institutions; some of the design programs at nearby universities and colleges may give free initial consultations with a professional interior designer.
  • Make use of internet design resources; some of these platforms even provide complimentary consultations with in-house design teams.
  • Check our TALLBOX’s free design consultations in the link below

We can help you establish if you need full service design or just advice. Free interior design consultant >

These pointers can help you get the advice of an interior design expert without spending a dime. Keep in mind that a free consultation could not cover as much ground or come with as much personal attention as a paid one.


Hiring an interior designer can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

By taking the time to establish your design style, find the right designer for you, and prepare for the meeting with your designer ahead of time, you can ensure that you have a successful experience.

With these tips in mind, you will be well on your way to finding the perfect interior designer who understands your needs and expectations and can create a space that reflects your style and budget.