Hiring a residential Interior Designer is a very important decision. This person will help you design a home to match your lifestyle so they must understand you, your budget, and your vision. On top of that, they need to be reputable, honest, hardworking, and reliable. Interior Designers come a dime a dozen, but not all are equal or a good match for your needs and personality. Here are my top 5 tips for hiring the perfect residential Interior Designer.
Do Your Homework
Assess the area to receive professional interior design guidance. List all of the issues that need to be addressed on paper, on your smart phone, or in a Word document. Now take that list and prioritize it into two (2) columns. The items that are absolutely necessary (NEEDS) go on the left and the wish list items (WANTS) go on the right, in descending order of importance.
Make sure you are including the input of all family members in these lists; even items that seem out of reach or unrealistic should be included. These are important in the planning strategy even for an item that may not be implemented until later.
Establish a budget by checking out the items you NEED to include, whether online or in the store, to understand what things cost. Keep in mind that the source for pricing things out determines the level you are seeking. A sink at Home Depot is a different level than a sink through the Chicago Merchandise Mart. You decide the level of product that your home deserves without exceeding the value of your home.
Research Several Interior Designers Before Hiring
Contact your local interior design council for interior design certification or contact N.C.I.D.Q. to find a certified Interior Designer in your area at www.ncidq.org that design with the style of interior design that you’re looking to have in your home. The Designer MUST have a degree in interior design to even qualify for the N.C.I.D.Q. exam.
Check with friends or family who have used Interior Designers before to learn about the process. Ask the Designer what their design process is; be sure to check their work and ask for references to help understand how long the process took and was the experience of working with the Designer a favorable one.
Get a Letter of Agreement or an Interior Design Contract
There is a lot of money involved in this process, so it is imperative to have both parties sign a Letter of Agreement or an Interior Design contract. It is very important that the duties of the Interior Designer are spelled out completely, in addition to the fees and when the fees are due. All Agreements/Contracts need to have a dispute resolution clause in case of a disagreement between you and the Interior Designer. Insurance coverage needs to be included in the Designer’s Agreement/Contract as well.
Work Within Your Budget
Be open and upfront about your budget from the start of the project, so that the Designer knows your financial boundaries. The Designer needs to provide multiple bids for the construction portion from construction firms that provide a valid state Contractor’s license along with a certificate of insurance.
It’s important that the budget and bids include the design fee, taxes, shipping/expediting and delivery in addition to all of the labor and material costs prior to the start of the project, so that all costs are accounted for before ordering product and labor.
A remodel project can and typically will encounter unexpected surprises as a result of demolishing the interior and opening up walls, as a result it’s important to set aside a contingency fund of 10%-20% of the project total, for the unexpected.
Delays on a project can increase the cost due to the additional time for the Contractor and the Designer. The key is to order as much of the product prior to starting the construction portion to avoid delays. Another way to avoid delays and additional costs is to be flexible and willing to give up something along the way.
The Design professional is there to guide you along the way, so ask questions and allow them to do their job to help the project run as efficiently as possible. The Designer should provide a Statement of Proposed Purchases that details every product and/or labor that is being proposed and what is included with that product and/or labor.
Surviving the Remodel Project
If you have the opportunity to move out temporarily, you should or if you don’t have to move in right away, take advantage of having the work done while you’re not there. If you can’t move out, then prepare to live with dirt, dust, noise and a lot of people in your home.
Request the project to be done in phases to section off areas for living in while other areas are being worked on. Adding onto the scope of the project is a very common occurrence as the construction company begins to make progress on the project, it builds confidence in the homeowner and the add-ons begin to occur. The Designer and/or Contractor need to provide the addendum or change orders to the contract as the add-ons occur.
Keep the goals in site and request a timeline at the start of the project to help with charting the progress. The punch list provides the end of the project To Do list; the end is near.