Why Should I Work with an Interior Designer?

It's difficult to give up certain degrees of control and allow a relative stranger to come into your home and make key design decisions for you. After all, this is your sanctuary, your turf. It's daunting for many homeowners to think of entrusting others to the design and decorating task and, in some cases, creating a construction and remodeling chaos in the process. We've spoken with many homeowners who have decorated with a professional firm, and they all talk about the moments of insecurity, the difficulty in trusting others with key decisions that impact their home, and the worry of seeing chaos before all the pieces finally come together.

Designer Judy Sheridan helps to take the mystery out of home design and remodeling with her helpful book How to Work with an Interior Designer. She covers everything from how to find the right designer for you (and how you'll be charged) to preparing a final Punch List to go over the final aspects of the project before it's all signed off on. You'll also find a sample proposal, contract, design sketch, and some great resources to check out.

Let's say you have a large family and are looking for a designer to help you design the ideal family room. The photo above, one of many beautiful and inspiring photos in this book, shows a Jamie Drake family room that features materials ideal for a family. Leather ottomans, a stone-top table, and print upholstery fabric are user-friendly and will stand up to much wear and tear.

Judy says that it's difficult to fully understand the design process. "I suspect this is so because so much of what a designer does is cerebral. If you can't see the process, if it's not quantifiable, then somehow it is hard to define or to understand." But know that designers are trained to see space "not as it is, but as it can be." Expect your designer to provide balance, proportion, and scale to bringing your interiors to full life. Here are some of the reasons Judy sites for why you should call an interior designer:

  • Awkward floor plan
  • Out-of-date kitchen and/or bathroom
  • Problem windows
  • Lack of space and storage
  • Inadequate electricity and electrical conveniences
  • Low light and poor views
  • Lack of or poor architectural details


Look at the exciting way The Baltimore Design Center (above photo) added clever accessories into an architecturally interesting room to create something startling and fresh. Judy's book points out how an interior designer can cultivate and develop your personal lifestyle and inject it into your interiors. Designers will guide you in acquiring fine art and antiques. They'll help you with an architect, homebuilder, or contractor. They can even help you spruce up your home for resale.

A designer will help you take an inventory of what you've got. Some of your furnishings and accessories may be reused - or restyled and refreshed - in the new spaces, while some may not make the cut and be replaced by new items. You'll make a Wish List of to-do items and objects, ranging from painting schedules, tile elevations, and construction projects to new furniture. Your furniture and rooms will all be measured to ensure the new spaces will be in good scale and proportion. You'll receive costs and other estimates which you'll need to approve in order to agree on an overall project budget.

Your project may have many different facets, and it may involve also working with an architect - your interior designer and architect will work together so that your space is balanced, there is good flow and movement through the home, and the architect's plan accommodates the furniture and all lighting and decorative elements.

Judy's book goes into the details of how an interior designer can help you realize your dreams for a beautiful and functional home. A designer can help you with elements of your project you may never want to get involved with, such as

  • Accessorizing (note the accessories in one of Sheridan Interiors' projects in the photo above)
  • Bed treatments
  • Cabinetry and built-ins
  • Closet interiors
  • Color schemes and finishes
  • Custom furniture
  • Custom bedding and linens
  • Drafting, drawing, creating elevations, and measuring
  • Electrical work and improvements or upgrades
  • Fabric schemes
  • Floor plans
  • Floor refinishing
  • Furniture layouts
  • Furniture repair and refurbishing
  • Historical renovation and restoration
  • Home staging
  • Kitchen renovation
  • Lighting plans
  • Mouldings and ornamental details
  • Painting and wallpapering
  • Upholstery work
  • Wall arrangements
  • Wall treatments
  • Window treatments

We thought How to Work with an Interior Designer was particularly brilliant in the troubleshooting department. Much can go wrong when you're designing and decorating. Judy prepares you for how to handle delays, how to keep your cool, and how to get your project back on track. One tip:

"As the client, you have every right to be upset, but telling someone off, threatening a lawsuit, or throwing someone off the job is not a cool way to handle things. What's more, you will always regret it later. If the situation has reached a level where it is really out of control, advise your point person immediately and address the issue with your designer."

The commonsense, informative way Judy Sheridan approaches the design process is refreshing, and we can recommend her book to anyone who is thinking about tackling a home design project and working with a professional.