How to Find the Right Designer for Your Interior Design and Decorating Projects

Looking for an interior designer or interior decorator can be overwhelming if you are not sure which designer you need for the scope or your project. Are you building, renovating or moving and need professional advice? Are you planning to sell your property and not sure how to get ready for the first inspection?

This document gives you answers to frequently asked questions in regards to interior design, interior decorating, colour consulting and property styling.

It will help you finding the right designer for your interior design and decorating projects and eventually create your individual style in your home.

What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior stylist?

You may have asked yourself this question already when facing a building or renovation project. Do I need an interior designer, an interior decorator, a colour consultant or an interior stylist?

The answer is that it depends on the scope of the project.

An interior designer is a skilled professional who is designing interior environments according to your briefing. The interior designer either modifies what already exists (renovation) or provides an entirely new design for a space (new build). In this case the interior designer works closely with the architect and comes in at an early stage of the project. Interior designers work either along a team in design firm or on their own.

What is the job of an interior stylist? An interior stylist is a designer or consultant in a field subject to changes in style, especially fashion or interior decoration. An interior stylist cultivates or maintains any particular style and in most cases stylist are finders, keepers and collectors of beautiful objects.

The interior stylist can help you finding your own style, creating beautiful interiors that are unique and meaningful. This can be achieved with the simplest things and does not have to be expensive. The only thing you need to do is keep your eyes open to beautiful things in nature, architecture, design, museums, art, exhibitions, books, textiles and travel. There is only one rule: Only collect or buy things that mean something to you!

How does a colour consultation work?

The colour consultation focuses on creating a colour scheme for a specific room or space or the whole house according to your briefing. A qualified colour consultant can help you with interior and exterior colour schemes.

Prior to designing a colour scheme for you the colour consultant should always talk to you about the mood and atmosphere you would like to achieve in your space. He will explain to you the differences between the paint companies and their products and choose the right product for your needs. After designing the colour scheme you will receive a written recommendation including a specification sheet and brushouts ready for your painter to start.

Why is it important to seek advice from a designer when choosing colours?

Colour is the most powerful tool when it comes to non-verbal communication and the design element that makes a space come alive. Colour brings individuality in a space and it is one of the most useful tools to master when finding your own style.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, says in her book Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color: “Among other uses, color stimulates and works synergistically with all of the senses, symbolizes abstract concepts and thoughts, expresses fantasy or wish fulfillment, recalls another time or place and produces an aesthetic or emotional response.”

When choosing a colour for a room or house it is important to think about the mood and atmosphere you would like to achieve. Is it a dark room or flooded with natural light? In which direction is the room facing? How are the proportions? Do you live in a small apartment or a contemporary newly built house with open plan living areas? All this needs to be considered when choosing colours for a space.

If you are overwhelmed by the choice of colours available – yes, there are thousands on the market – how can you start finding your personal colour scheme?

For some people it is a longer journey, for others it comes more naturally. The most important thing is to take some time, open your eyes, walk around your home and absorb the colour combinations you see. Then start gathering all the pieces you love. This can be anything from old porcelain, travel souvenirs, photographs, artwork, clothes, tear sheets from magazines, fabric swatches, stationary, a collection of stones, feathers or glass objects.

And don’t forget nature as inspiration for a colour scheme (interior or exterior). If you live near the ocean, shades of blues and greens can be used to link your interior with its surroundings. Flowers, butterflies, stones, shells, driftwood are fantastic inspirations for colour schemes.

Once you have gathered all your beloved treasures in one spot, play around with the pieces, group them by colours and you will see a colour palette emerge. This “moodboard” is a great starting point for your interior designer, interior stylist or colour consultant to help you creating an individual and personal space, a home that reflects who you are and a place that you love coming home to.

Stylist’s tip: Before you start painting always buy a test pot and paint a large sheet of paper or cardboard (one square metre) with your colour. Tape it to the walls in your room and study it for a couple of days. Look at it in daylight and artificial light. This is very important as colours change depending on the light, the orientation of the room, other colours in the room and spatial elements like furniture and artwork for example.

What is the difference between a colour and a styling consultation?

The colour consultation focuses on creating a colour scheme for a specific room or space or the whole house according to your briefing. A qualified colour consultant can help you with interior and exterior colour schemes.

The styling consultation focuses on creating a certain (Your) style in your home or simply on answering all your questions about colours, style, furniture sourcing and placement, art sourcing and placement, displays of your collections, accessories, proportions in a space, lighting etc.

Again it is vital that the designer listens to what you would like to achieve (briefing) and makes sure that he understood what you want (debriefing). Don’t let the interior designer or interior stylist talk you into something you don’t like!

How do I maximise the output of my styling consultation?

Are you planning to colour, redecorate or renovate, but don’t know where to start? Do you have lots of questions about colour schemes, furniture placement, how to display your collections, books or other beloved things? Are you not sure whether to redecorate with your old furniture and accessories or to renovate and create a new look? Do you need inspirations where to source furniture and accessories, second hand pieces or antiques?

If you prepare your first consultation with your stylist properly, you will get answers to all the questions you have. Here are my tips how to maximise the output from your styling or colour consultation:

• Be clear what you would like the outcome of the consultation to be.

• Decide which room or space you would like to focus on. Is it only one room or the whole house?

• Prepare yourself with tear sheets from interior design magazines like Real Living, Inside Out, Belle or Vogue Living. There are plenty on the market so choose the one that speaks to you most and start collecting pages of everything you like: colour schemes, furniture, accessories, room layouts, rugs, flooring, wallpaper, decorative items and everything that speaks to you. If you do this for a couple of weeks you will clearly see what you like and find your own personal style.

• Keep your eyes open to the beautiful things around you: nature, architecture, design, museums, art, exhibitions, books, textiles and travel.

• Make sure that your stylist is listening and explain what you want to achieve with your styling project, what you would like a room to do for you and what mood you would like to create in your space.

And finally one of the most important things: Don’t let the stylist talk you into something you don’t like! You have to live in the space and you need to feel comfortable and at home! It is all about creating your home with your personal touch.

How do I find my own style?

The answer is as simple as this: explore the world around you and appreciate the beauty that lies within everything you discover!

Keep your eyes open and your mind excited! Discover and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you every day! Find inspiration in nature, buildings, shops, exhibitions, museums, art, events, markets, magazines and of course books.

One of my favourite books I spotted in a museum shop is called: How to be an explorer of the world by Keri Smith. On the back it says: “At any given moment, no matter where you are, there are hundreds of things around you that are interesting and worth documenting.”

A stylist’s tip: always carry a little notebook and a pen with you in order to be able to sketch, doodle and write down what you discover.

Keep all your findings, notes and pictures in a folder or box and keep searching for at least four to eight weeks. Then start to group things by colour or theme and you will discover what your style is. And there are no rules. It is all about finding what you like!

Books for your inspiration

This is a list of books that I personally own and love! They are all a fantastic source of inspiration and creative ideas for your home.

Sibella Court: Bowerbird

Shannon Fricke: Sense of Style

Megan Morton: Home Love

Holly Becker: Decorate

Susanna Salk: Be Your Own Decorator

Geraldine James: Creative Walls

Hans Blomquist: The Natural Home

Is it necessary to seek advice from a stylist when I want to sell my property?

If you plan to sell your house it is worth investing in a styling consultation. A professional property stylist can help you to achieve maximum impact when presenting your home to potential buyers. A property stylist will help you to get ready for the first inspection by giving you advice on how to style your house with what you have. He will help you with colour schemes that attract potential buyers. He will also advice if you need rental furniture to style each room according to its function and help potential buyers to envisage themselves in the space. Property styling is all about creating a wow factor in key areas of your home and help the buyers to envisage themselves in your space. Once the styling is done don’t forget to book your stylist for the real estate photography shoot to make sure everything looks perfect on this day!

When to Contact and How an Interior Designer Works

During planning of a house an interior designer can guide the architect or the builder on where to place doors and windows, how can they use the maximum input of natural light, where to allocate storage spaces, avoiding demolition of walls, sizing walls, making desired openings, providing specific light points as per the lighting scheme by the designer and also early spotting of desired plumbing points for the exclusively designed bathrooms. This early involvement of interior decorator during planning will help in saving a lot of money which can be later used for re-modification after the completion of the building.

Clients usually feel that they must have a vivid vision of the problem before they consult a decorator, but this actually is not the fact. In a study conducted by an interior decoration agency in India among the designers and clients, most of the designers argued that they preferred to be involved with the project from the very beginning. As an interior decorator, I do agree with the point generally the interior decorators used to make regarding the early consultation of an interior decorator. So meet your designer immediately after you finalize the preliminary design proposal by the architect for your residential as well as buildings built for commercial purpose.

Finding a suitable interior decorator is the most important thing before assigning your interior designing job to anyone, you can realize from the list of qualified, certified and registered designers with the government approved design council in the country. In India, the institute which provides authentic information about interior designer in the country is the Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID). You can browse through the list of interior decorators practising in the country and select a reputed designer from the list and visit their website or approach them to have a look at their successful projects in the similar category. Once you select the designer, discuss your requirements and budget for the interiors and finalize the agreement on the project’s time schedule and professional fees.

Before staring the designing process of your interior first of all the interior decorator have to conduct a series of talks with the customers basically to know the type of designing the person wants. This series of conversations with the client and designer eventually lead to a mutual agreement about the requirements and it will help to know the aspiration and desires of the client with regard to his interior design. About 90% of clients usually have a good idea of their needs and preferences, a professional interior designer must reeducate the client’s attitude about preferences.

The next step is the design of the interior to presented before the client as a soft copy or a hard copy. Designer has to present a proposal which might consists of sketches, 2-dimensional drawings of plan and coloured elevations along with a budget proposal. At the preliminary presentation the specific colours, furnishings, and details are not resolved yet, since the aim at that stage is to obtain the basic approval from the client.

Once the preliminary presentation / proposal has been accepted by the client, the designer will start working on the final stages. Some of the clients used to make changes in their agreed design once the design is already approved, for making these change the client must have separate meeting / meetings with the designer to finalize the design. The next stages of the design may consist of a series of drawings such as plans, elevations, details, sections and specifications are the language of good design offices, and they are prepared with carefully drawn dimensions and notes for the contractors who carry out the actual implementation. Each phase of the job is usually under the supervision of a job captain or chief designer to assure that everything has been considered and the job is moving smoothly to completion.

How To Choose An Interior Designer Or Redecorator

What types of professional interior designers are available?

Have you heard of Interior redecorators? These professional interior decorators transform your home using things you have accumulated over the years. The end result is a balanced, harmonious space that reflects the personality of the people who use it. Many interior designers have added this service to their repertoire. Alternate terms for professional interior designers specializing in interior redecorating are interior redesigners, interior arrangers, interior stylists, one day decorators, visual coordinators or interior refiners.

What is a Certified Interior Designer? (from B&P Code Section 5800,5538)

A Certified interior designer is a competent design professional who is qualified to design, prepare, and submit any type of nonstructural, non-seismic interior construction plans and specifications to local building departments. Certified interior designers have demonstrated through education, experience, and examination their knowledge of the Uniform Building Code as it relates to space planning, life safety, flammability, and disabled access code issues. Most interior designers have a minimum four-year education. Many have Master of Interior Design degrees or other additional education in architecture or interior design. Interior designers who have many years experience may not have a Bachelors in Interior Design, but usually are well educated and have many years of qualified experience. All qualified interior designers will indicate that they have passed the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Certification) examination and/or are registered/ certified/ licensed in their state.

How do Interior Decorators charge for their services?

Flat Design Fee: The client pays a flat fee for the professional interior designer’s services based on the design plan, time required, and scope of services.

Hourly Rate: The interior decorator bills a negotiated rate per hour.

Cost Plus Method: Professional interior designers charge a set percentage on all merchandise purchased and tradesmen’s services rendered.

Mixed Method: The client pays both a set percentage on purchases and a base design fee for hourly rate.

Per square foot: This method is used especially in new construction.

What to ask at the first meeting:

o Ask to see the interior designer’s portfolio, but remember that the designs reflect other people’s tastes,¬ not necessarily the interior decorator’s, and possibly not your own.

o Ask what size projects the interior designer has worked on, where, and what was the budget range.

o Ask how the established budget will be handled, and the kind of payment schedules the interior decorator requires.

o Ask about the types of services the designer can provide.

o Ask for a list of references.

What you may be asked at the first meeting:

It is a good idea to prepare for your first meeting with a professional interior designer by creating your own folder of clippings from magazines, catalogs, and books of design ideas that appeal to you.

You may also be asked some or all of the following questions:

o For whom is the space being designed?

o What activities will take place in the space?

o How long do you plan to occupy the space?

o What is your time frame for completing the project?

o What is your budget?

o Are you relocating or remodeling?

o What image do you want to project?

o What colors, style, and effects do you like?

o What are your objective and lifestyle needs?

o What is the approximate square footage to be designed?

If a professional interior designer, or anyone, for that matter, tells you the process is easy, stress-free, and will be complete in two weeks, they’re either lying or stupid. Don’t hire that person.