You may be nervous about hiring an interior decorator. Most folks aren’t sure what to expect the first time they call me. Relax. It’s not so hard, but you should clarify your expectations BEFORE you sign on for a project.
So what do you need to know when Hiring an Interior Decorator?
Take a proper business approach. Know who you are working with. Ask for references. Read testimonials. Even a personal reference about a new decorator will help you gauge whether it is someone you would like to hire. Think of the beginning phase as a job interview, because we Decorators feel that it is.
Be clear about your expectations. What are you trying to achieve? Is there a certain look you’re after? Have you collected photos or created an ideabook on Houzz or Pinterest? Ask your decorator or designer if they feel this is a project that fits their talents and niche market. They should be honest from the beginning as to whether this is a job they can handle. Ask yourself what exactly you are struggling with. If you feel that your furnishings are fine but need help with specifics such as lighting, color selection, art selection, or custom draperies, be clear with him/her as to exactly why you’ve called. Can you afford the time and money it will take to do the project?
Do you need a Designer, or a Decorator?
Check their qualifications and portfolio. Do you know the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?
A designer earns a 4+ year college degree and passes INTENSE state exams. Their education is on par with architects and engineers. They have the training and licensing by the State to make structural changes, etc.. With that education, they have earned the right to charge a higher premium for their services. If you are doing a complete build or remodel, then this is the person you need. If you’re looking to change the overall look of your decor, then an Interior Decorator can do the job for you.
An interior decorator, like myself, has talent and skill in pulling the aesthetics of a room together. We focus on the look and feel of a room. Colors, patterns, textures, layout of furnishings, art, and lighting. In my case, I chose to take a course of study for both Interior Decorating and Home Staging, earning my IDDP and ISRP designations. I do work with licensed contractors who have the proper type of training and licensing. My fees are in line with my level of education. Think about the scope of work you want done and decide whether you need a Designer or a Decorator. View their work and decide if you feel they have the talent, skill, and creativity to handle this job for you.
Before accepting any job, I always require a phone chat. It takes about 15 minutes and I have questions to help you (and me) define the project you’d like to complete. We will know at that time if you’re ready to move forward with your project.
Start with a Consultation
Hire them for a Consultation. Most decorators I know charge for the initial consultation. I do, and here’s why: I’m not spilling my secrets without being hired. When we meet, I’m going to tell you all sorts of actual ideas for the space as we walk through together. If I did this consultation for free, I would look at your room and not tell you one single thing about what I think until we have a signed contract. Most designers/decorators who do a free consultation are only doing a free home visit. Don’t expect them to give you free advice. As my Momma always says, “Nobody buys the cow when they get the milk for free”. Our ideas and inspirations are how we decorators feed our families. So I shorten the process – I give you the ideas at that meeting, and you are free to walk away and do it all on your own without ever hiring me to do the job, or we sign a contract (LOA) together and you hire me as your decorator because you like where I would go with your project, and you feel we can work well together.
Contracts protect you. Contracts protect me.
Get a Letter of Agreement (LOA). The Letter of Agreement is standard in the industry, although what it specifically encompasses varies by designer/decorator. I have my own that spells out the scope of the work I will perform, or what I will not be handling. It covers the fees that I charge for my services and when/how they are to be paid. It explains all about contractors, shopping, shipment, special orders, etc. Not all of those may apply for every client, so it is custom tailored. After our initial consultation, if you decide you would like to hire me for the project, I will have a copy with me and we can spend some time reviewing it together. Any changes that may come up later must be initialed by both of us. We are both protected by this contract.
Have a Budget in Mind
Establish Your Budget. NEVER EVER EVER start a project without establishing a budget first. Be sure your budget includes all design fees, taxes, delivery charges, change orders, and other costs so you don’t overspend. Only you know what you’re comfortable with spending. I make design decisions based on the budget you establish – not the other way around. And when you’re using me as your Interior Decorator, you’ll find savings throughout the project – I share my trade discounts with my clients, often getting them better pricing than they could have gotten on their own.
Expecting the Unexpected
Things come up. It’s Murphy’s Law. Items you may wish to purchase may no longer be available or on an 12 week backorder when we think the job will take 8 weeks. Finding out your electricity isn’t up to code when we bring in the electrician to install lighting or outlets. While I always set aside part of the budget you establish for contingencies, sometimes things are just beyond your control or mine. I’m here to guide you, and all I ask is that you be prepared to compromise and breathe deeply when problems arise.
Don’t micromanage, please
You’ve hired a decorator for a reason. Please allow us to do our jobs. I charge a hefty fee for change orders for exactly this reason. If I’ve selected lamps that I feel are perfect, there is a method to my madness. I want and need your input during the design process, but once we are clear on what you like/dislike, please let me be the professional you hired.
It’s a process that takes time.
HGTV has spoiled homeowners into thinking they can remodel a room overnight. It’s not possible. Please don’t expect it. But I do know what it is like to live in the middle of a construction zone, and I do understand that once we actually start working on the room(s) that you want life to return to normal as quickly as possible. I do my best to schedule installations to disrupt your life as little as possible. There will be dust, mess, noise, boxes, bags, etc. that you’ll have to temporarily live with. If you feel you need to temporarily move out, then that is your choice. Remember to budget for it!
Happy Clients are my End Goal. I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to hate those lamps I mentioned in above. I want to establish your dreams for the room early and at every possible opportunity exceed your expectations. I am here to help you achieve your goals for your home and your lifestyle. I want the process to be as painless as possible. That’s why my Signature Design Process was implemented – so that you know what to expect and when it’s going to happen.
I want you so happy you’re hiring me again, and you’re telling your friends and family why hiring a decorator was the best decision you ever made. I want to save you money by not making mistakes. I want what you want – your dream home.
If you’ve been considering hiring a decorator, whether in an advisory capacity or to complete a room or rooms for you, now is the time to take action and get that Consultation scheduled. Call today for your phone pre-qualification and let’s start answering your decorating dilemmas.
Click Here to visit my Services Page.
Until next time…