Never worked with an interior designer before? Don’t let first-time jitters get to you. Read our tips for partnering with a designer on your project and ensuring you get the most out of the experience.
Working with an interior designer can seem daunting. If you’ve only seen designers and clients interact on television, you could be a little confused when your not greeted with Grace Adler or a HGTV whirlwind at your own home. How do you balance moodboards and reality? Makeover madness with real-life timelines? We’re here to help. Read our guide to making the most of your and your designer’s time and your experience.
1. START WITH WHERE YOU’D LIKE TO GO
The best place to begin: deciding where you want to end. In your initial meetings (a time often referred to as “the design discovery phase”), work with your designer to articulate your goals, needs, aspirations, priorities, and expected milestones. Take a moment to decide what needs to happen for you to consider your project a success. A better layout? Each item selected and ready for you to purchase? Every project and every person’s definition of finished is different.
Not sure where to begin? Designerrecommends starting with snapshots of your favorite spaces at your initial meeting.
“Having images to talk over and use as visual reference is a great way to kick off the design discussion,” Megan explains. “If my clients don’t have time to scour Pinterest for images, or if they aren’t 100% sure of what their favorite look is, I pull lots of images that I think the client might respond to and then we discuss those images and pare them down to the three to five that will guide us and keep us on track. These selects really are key to creating a space that fits the client’s personality and feels like their home in the end.”
It’s not just about the look, in these initial meetings, your and your designer will also assess how your aesthetic aspirations align with your budget. With your preferred style in mind, your designer will help you prioritize certain tasks and purchases and help you map a longer-term plan. For example, maybe you focus on just one part of your project (renovating your kitchen) and hold on others to best maximize your budget. Together you’ll strategically decide how best to structure your partnership.
2. THEN TELL YOUR DESIGNER…
It’s great to know what you want, but it isn’t very helpful if you don’t tell anyone. Don’t be afraid to outline your needs and your limitations. Be upfront and honest about your budget and expectations. Your designer is there to help you make smart decisions with your space and to spend your money wisely. With a clear idea of your priorities, your designer (and you) can optimize where to spend and where to save. They can guide you to furniture and decor items that have the most impact or make the most sense to splurge on and away from selects that are beyond your budget.
“Budgeting is the least exciting part of the process but one of the most important,” Megan explains. “I don’t want my clients to expect high-end options when their budget does not allow for it, so I am very open about where I will be able to source items based on the budget. I always ask ahead of time where clients would like to splurge and where they would like to save—this is key to creating a space that looks like it has a higher budget than it actually does. From an aesthetic perspective, I help clients understand that to create a beautiful, well-designed space it’s more that just the furniture, paint/wallpaper, and window treatments. It’s also the lighting, art and small decor items that create those beautiful Pinterest-worthy spaces. Setting expectations and saving some of the budget for these smaller key items will truly make a space come alive and feel finished.”
What Megan stresses is an important distinction. The designer’s job is not to spend your money, but to help you spend wisely.
“I find clients often worry that I will come into their home and tell them to get rid of everything and start new,” Megan explains. “Unless my client actually wants to get rid or everything, I always recommend using items they already have in a new way so that the savings can be put towards a few higher quality items that they really love that otherwise might be just out of budget range.”
3. BUDGET YOUR OWN TIME
The most successful spaces are created in a collaboration between designer and client. Sure your designer can create a gorgeous space all on their own—but it’s way better when the result is tailored to your style and your needs. If you’re hiring a designer to create the right space for you, they’ll need access to you.
Be prepared to invest a little bit of your own time and to decide just how involved you want to be. At minimum even the busiest (and most hands-off) of clients need to be available to provide feedback and approval for key milestones and decision points so work can progress.
At Homepolish, we break the process down into four phases: 1) Discovery and Aesthetic Development, which includes sourcing inspiration, design planning, and budgeting 2) Design Development, which involves creating floorplans and mockups with multiple options 3) Purchasing and Project Coordination and 4) Installation and Project Completion. While project timelines may differ, it’s important to give each phase its fair amount of time to progress.
“The biggest misconception is of course the amount of time the process will take,” Megan says. “I always create a detailed timeline for my clients at the very beginning of the project to set expectations and to make sure I am properly prioritizing their project in my schedule. I often find that lead times for upholstered furniture and other custom items delay the project the most, so if there is a deadline like a baby on the way or a holiday party I often suggest that we source only from in-stock options to help us get the project finished as quickly as possible.”
Excited to get involved in all the nitty (pretty) gritty? Spend the time with your designer and “educate your eye”—learn and share what specific details excite you and think about what particular parts of a space you like. Are you reacting to the color? The material? The flow? The more you know about why you like what you do, the easier it is to translate it to your own space.
4. BE OPEN TO NEW IDEAS
Your designer is a professional, who’s on the job as your partner to help you imagine spatial solutions to common design challenges and create design environments you could not come up with yourself. Prepare to challenge yourself to see your space with new eyes.
“Being open to the creative process is essential,” Megan implores. “I want my clients to have complete confidence in me and my ability to collaborate with them to create a space that they absolutely love.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be explicit when you don’t trust them. It’s important to let your designer know upfront if something isn’t to your taste.
“Don’t be afraid to tell your designer what you don’t like,” Megan says. “We want to create a space that you will absolutely love and that will function well for you. If you don’t love something, we want to hear about it and understand why, so we can move on to sourcing a better option for you quickly and efficiently.”
5. HAVE FUN (AND A LOT OF TRUST)
At the end of the day, the goal is to create a space you’re happy with and we want to make the process as enjoyable as possible. Sure there might be hiccups along the way, but if you’ve charted a roadmap with your designer from the start, you know the direction you’re heading. Trust your designer along the way and allow yourself to have fun in the process.
Renovations and remodeling, decor and design, can feel like intimidating decisions, especially if this is your first time making significant investments into them. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Allow yourself to trust the roadmap you’ve built from the get-go, as the end goal lies ahead — your space, even better imagined.
Ready to start the process? Let us set you up with the perfect design team.