Q: Do I Need Professional Design Help?
Most of our viewers are in a quandary when it comes to "doing it yourself" or having someone better trained and with more experience helping them out with home remodeling, building, and design projects. Bottom line: if you want to do it yourself, knock yourself out! But you may want professional help to keep your sanity and get a better final result. This episode covers Irwin and Nicola's advice and tips on how to go about hiring a professional designer or contractor, the importance of doing advance research, how to get referrals, getting your project specs in writing, managing your expectations of the job, and the importance of being nice to the hired help!
Tips on Hiring an Interior Designer
If you don't have the budget to decorate with a marquee interior design professional, tap into the roster of up-and-coming designers if you're willing to do a little digging, research, and interviewing. If you hire a big name to design your home, chances are you're going to be buying that designer's signature look and skills set. It might be a better fit to hire someone with a blank slate and a willingness to bring fresh design perspectives to your job.
The American Society of Interior Designers or ASID is one place where you cans start to find a good designer. There are both superstar designers and younger "associate" members in the ASID operation. Their training includes a degree from an accredited design or architecture school, two years of experience, and passing a two-day exam (National Council for Interior Design Qualificiation or NCIDQ exam).
Recent studies show the average home design project ran about $35,516 (per ASID), with the average cost to redecorate a living room running around $15,500. Kitchens ran around $12,100, family rooms were $11,725, master bedrooms were $9,900, and bathrooms ran about $5,000. Contrast these averages with what top designers are used to budgeting, easily running over $150,000 per room.
Remember that interior design is not a regulated industry, so buyer beware. The most frequent billing method is Cost Plus, meaning you'll pay for the actual cost of items plus a commission ranging from 15 to 40 percent for the designer. Some designers will charge an upfront deposit to pay for the designer's creative time to put together an initial design proposal. Some designers may charge an hourly rate from $75 to over $200 for their design projects rather than working on a Cost Plus basis, and smaller projects like design help for a specific room may also be better charged on an hourly basis.
So here's the process we recommend in hiring a lesser-than-marquee decorating name:
2. When you find some designers to interview, ask to see their portfolios, show them your project, and discuss what they would charge and how you can work together. Many experts believe that this face-to-face interview process is key to getting the right designer. You really do want to click with your future designer. Ask yourself, "Can I have fun with this person and trust my home to her or him?"
3. If you're looking for a super deal, contact a design school for someone fresh and promising. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Pratt Institute, Moore College of Art & Design, Rhode Island School of Design, California College of Arts and Crafts, New York School of Interior Design, and others have referral services and may be able to provide you with the names and contact information for great recent graduates. Remember that it's risky to hire someone without experience. You'll need to grit your teeth and be patient, but remember that if your project is small, most experienced designers will not take you on.
4. Has someone you know gotten a great design look from a decorator? That would be a great way to have a personal introduction to a good designer, and give you the real 411 on the designer's strengths and weaknesses.
5. Look at shelter magazines to find the names of designers who are creating a look you'd like to have in your home. The Resources section in the back of the magazines usually will give out designer contact information and website addresses so you can check out their online portfolio.
6. When you find the right designer for your project, make sure your working relationship is in writing. Put the agreement in letter form or in an official ASID contract. Review all wording to make sure you agree with the terms and conditions.
7. If you are hiring someone young and less experienced, be civil and cordial in your working relationship. You are hiring decorating talent, not slave labor. For that matter, be civil and courteous to all vendors on your project.
8. If you blow your stack easily or demand perfection in everything, decorating with a professional designer or a young novice may not be a good idea. Decorating is a handmade process, not an auto assembly line task where perfection cranks off the conveyor belt without a hitch. Manage your expectations and know that you will be fortunate to have 85% of your hopes and dreams realized in your project, not 100%. Be patient with delays and problems, because they will occur. Things get damaged in shipment, custom fabrics might be discontinued or dye lots may get mixed up, and that means being firm, but polite and work through it with your decorator.
Many do-it-yourself TV decorating shows show two-day projects that create end results that look fine on the tube, but are probably abysmal in daily life and wear out in a week. Professional interior designers or decorators do a lot more than prescribe the right colors for throw pillows and wall colors. They're trained to handle your design job, no matter what its complexity.
Recognize that you may want to keep total control of your decorating and execute your own design wishes in your home. If control is your thing, and if you don't have a budget to spend on a design project, then undertake your own DIY effort. Knock yourself out! But if you are able to budget money for hiring a professional, either a seasoned vet or a promising newcomer, try out some of our tips . . . and good luck to you.