The Client's Guide to Working with Interior Designers
When working with an interior designer or decorator for the first time can seem intimidating, but following some key tips will lead to a smooth and successful collaboration.
- Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations
- Have reasonable expectations around timeline and budget
- Understand that last-minute changes can incur costs and delays
- Be flexible and open to tweaks to your original vision
- Recognize that perfect replications of Pinterest images are unlikely
- Set achievable goals for the function and feel of the finished space
- Don’t Rush the Process
- Understand that quality design and execution takes time
- Quick renovations often lead to mistakes and inferior work
- Be patient if your project involves construction delays
- Allow adequate time for sourcing furnishings and materials
- Good design requires careful thought and precision
This beginner’s guide covers the top do’s and don’ts for clients to maximize their designer partnership.
Do Share Examples of Your Style
Bringing visual inspiration to initial meetings gives your designer crucial insight into your aesthetic taste.
- Compile inspirational photos – Create a Pinterest board, Houzz ideabook, or printouts of spaces and styles you love. This context helps the designer understand and incorporate your style preferences.
- Prevents mismatch – Guiding your designer with specific examples avoids a hodgepodge of clashing elements in the final design.
- Establishes an open dialogue – Discussing the details you’re drawn to in your inspiration photos kickstarts an collaborative, transparent conversation.
Tips for Showcasing Your Style
- Pull together 10-20 visual examples that resonate with you
- Look for full room shots rather than individual pieces
- Note any reoccurring themes across your selections
- Articulate the details that appeal to you in each photo
Don't Be Afraid to Give Feedback
Your designer needs your honest thoughts and reactions throughout the process.
- Voice concerns immediately – If an initial suggestion makes you hesitate, speak up right away instead of waiting. Changes come easier early on.
- Request must-haves – Are there items or styles you definitely want to see incorporated? Articulate those clearly.
- Specify dislikes – If certain colors, layouts, etc. are completely off the table, make that known from the outset.
“I shared my Pinterest boards full of boho and eclectic spaces with my designer. It really captured my style and gave her direction.” – Sara, design client
Do Embrace the Designer's Expert Perspective
While you know your tastes best, trust your designer’s seasoned expertise and knowledge of the full space.
- Consider all ideas – Even if a suggestion falls outside your comfort zone initially, hear them out. Their experience may open surprising new directions.
- See the big picture – You may fixate on singular pieces you love, but designers compose a holistic space. Keep an open mind to how elements tie together.
- Leverage their skills – Take advantage of your designer’s talents and training. Provide feedback, but avoid micromanaging decisions.
Don't Make Big Purchases Prematurely
It’s tempting to buy key furniture right away when starting a project. Hold off for a coordinated effort.
- Wait for layout guidance – Your designer will strategically map out furniture placement. Any premature purchases could conflict.
- Access designer discounts – Designers have trade accounts that yield far better pricing than retail. Be patient and utilize this perk.
- Ensure cohesion – Standout pieces you love may not fit the overall vision. Let your designer guide the comprehensive look.
Do Communicate Your Budget Thoroughly
Be totally transparent from the outset about your budget for the project. This prevents issues down the line.
- Map out all costs – Account for furnishings, decor, lighting, trades, labor, etc. Build in contingency buffer room.
- Avoid undefined “creep” – Clearly articulate your budget upfront instead of trickling in added costs later without consulting designer.
- Adjust expectations if needed – If budget is very tight, flag that early so designer can modify plans accordingly.
Don't Overdo Trends
- While current trends can inspire, avoid rigid adherence
- Consider classic elements that will endure over time
- Balance trendy accent pieces with flexible neutrals
- Discuss long-term vs short-term pieces with your designer
- Faddish choices may look instantly dated later on
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Don't Obsess Over Minor Details Early On
It’s easy to hyperfocus on singular decorative elements before the overall vision is complete. Avoid this temptation.
- Prioritize major pieces first – Finalize large furnishings, lighting, layout, surfaces, architecture before sweating small stuff.
- Hold off on accessories – Table decor, pillows, art can come later. Focus spending on foundational items.
- Trust the process – If designer suggests leaving some details open-ended for now, have faith in the vision developing.
Interior design basics
Do Share Examples of Your Style
Bringing visual examples of your aesthetic to initial consultations gives your designer crucial insight into the look you love.
- Inspirational photos – Pull together a Pinterest board, Houzz ideabook, or printouts of room shots that appeal to you. This context allows the designer to incorporate your tastes.
- Establishes cohesion – Guiding your designer with specific examples prevents a mismatch of disparate styles in the final design.
- Opens communication – Discuss why certain examples resonate with you. This collaborative exchange gets you both on the same page.
“Sharing my inspiration images and favorite spaces allowed my designer to understand and deliver my aesthetic.” – Anne, design client
Tips for Showcasing Your Interior Design Styles
- Curate 10-20 visual examples that appeal to you
- Look for full room shots rather than singular furniture pieces
- Identify any reoccurring themes across your selections
- Articulate details you’re drawn to in each image
Showcasing visual examples of styles you’re attracted to helps designers gain invaluable insight into your taste preferences and aesthetic vision.
This facilitates an collaborative, insightful discussion and ensures the end result aligns with the look and feel you’re drawn to.
Read more: Should You Hire A Pro Or DIY for interior design?
Don't Be Afraid to Give Input
Your designer needs honest feedback and thoughts throughout the process.
- Voice concerns early – If something gives you pause, speak up right away rather than waiting until final execution. Changes are much easier to make in early planning stages.
- Request inclusions – Are there must-have items or styles you want incorporated? Articulate those clearly so they aren’t overlooked.
- Specify exclusions – If you adamantly want to avoid certain colors, layouts, etc., make that known upfront.
Designer Feedback Checklist
- Share initial reactions to proposed plans
- Outline must-have elements
- Note any strongly disliked options
- Request to see material/finish samples
- Ask questions on anything unclear
- Provide open communication throughout
Giving candid, proactive feedback to your designer is key for an optimal outcome. Voice your thoughts early and often to have concerns addressed, preferences incorporated, and questions answered.
Maintaining an open dialogue ensures the end result fulfils your vision.
Do Be Open to the Designer's Expertise and interior design principles
While you know your own taste best, have faith in your designer’s seasoned knowledge and experience.
- Consider all suggestions – Even if initially outside your envisioned comfort zone, hear out the designer’s proposed ideas. Their expertise might reveal surprising new directions you’ll love.
- Trust the big picture – You may fixate on individual pieces, but designers compose a cohesive full space. Keep an open mind.
- Lean on their skills – Take advantage of your designer’s abilities – don’t micromanage every decision. Offer feedback but let them do what they do best.
“My designer nudged me outside my all-white comfort zone with unexpected navy built-ins. Now it’s my favorite room!” – Jess, design client
While you understand your own personal taste preferences, designers have the benefit of experience and knowledge of the comprehensive space.
Be open-minded to their expertise revealing new possibilities you may grow to love.
Don't Make Big Purchases Beforehand
When eager to get started, it can be tempting to buy key furniture and decor items right away. Resist the urge in favor of a coordinated effort.
- Wait for the layout – Your designer will strategically map out furniture placement and flow. Any pieces you buy prematurely may conflict with the ideal layout.
- Seek designer discounts – Designers have access to wholesale trade accounts you don’t. Going through them yields much better pricing.
- Ensure cohesion – That standout sofa you love could clash with the designer’s overall vision for a cohesive look. Be patient and let them guide the full design.
Making significant purchases before consulting your designer can throw off the best furniture layout and clashing with the overall aesthetic vision.
Be strategic and patient – your designer has your back!
Read more: Tips For Finding Best Interior Designer
Do Clearly Communicate Your Budget
Be totally upfront from day one about the budget you have available to work with. Honesty here prevents headaches down the road.
- Outline a realistic budget – Make sure to allocate for all aspects of the project – furnishing, decor, lighting, flooring, trades, labor, etc. Leave some buffer room.
- Avoid undefined “creep” – Clearly define your total budget upfront instead of trickling in added costs piecemeal later without consulting your designer.
- Be ready to adjust if needed – If your budget is very tight, communicate that openly so the designer can modify plans and expectations accordingly.
Being transparent about your budget from the very beginning allows your designer to tailor the plans to your financial situation.
This prevents frustration and ensures you get the most value within your available resources.
Don't Micromanage Small Details
It’s easy to hyperfocus on singular decorative elements before the big picture vision is complete. Avoid this temptation.
- Prioritize major pieces first – Finalize major furnishings, lighting, layout, surfaces, architecture before sweating the small stuff.
- Hold off on accessories – Table decor, throw pillows, wall art can come later. Focus spending on foundational items first.
- Trust the process – If your designer suggests leaving some details flexible for now, have faith in the vision coming together.
Getting tunnel vision on singular accessories too early can detract from the overall space.
Prioritize major structural and functional elements first, and trust your designer to tie in finishing touches later.
Working successfully with an interior designer comes down to a few key practices:
- Do provide visual inspiration – Show examples of styles you love to align on an aesthetic direction.
- Don’t withhold feedback – Voice questions and concerns openly throughout the process.
- Do embrace designer suggestions – Consider ideas outside your comfort zone with an open mind.
- Don’t buy big prematurely – Wait for guidance on layout and discounts from your designer.
- Do set budget expectations – Articulate your budget honestly and adjust plans if needed.
- Don’t obsess over details too soon – Focus on overall bones and structure before accessories.
Following these do’s and don’ts leads to a smooth collaboration with your interior designer resulting in a space tailored specially for you.
Need an interior designer? We know how to do interior design effectively >