An Interior Designer for You!

An Interior Designer for You!

1.  Do I really need a Professional Designer (and what's a Professional)?
2.  Where /How do I find that person?
3.  How and what do I pay a Designer?
4.  &...What should I expect from a Designer?

Yes, I've written  on this before, but I was inspired by Gail Doby's Design Success University survey on Designers, their businesses and their fees.  Gail (ASID, NCIDQ) questioned over 750 designers nationally.  All of them were from Linked In or other professional networking groups...not an open "casting call".  I found the results intriguing from a professional point of view and hopefully this info. is useful for consumers, too.

The Answers:
1.  Yessssss.... you need a Professional if you want Professional results.  The more complex your project, the more informed and experienced your Designer needs to be.  You may or may not need professional 3D renderings (artwork) to visualize, but you must have "visuals".  You also need to know that the person you hire has those wonderful resources that I feel grateful for each and every time I pick up the phone, write an e-mail, or feel warm and fuzzy at a job site: that specialist is anyone from an upholsterer to a general contractor, architect, AV specialist, custom mirror supplier.....

**Epiphany!  Next blog post will not reveal my sources, but I will enumerate them for my readers' benefit!  Awesome!  I love being ahead on this!

A Professional Designer SHOULD have some form of professional accreditation:  National Boards: NCIDQ, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and International Interior Designers Association (IIDA).  Professional Membership means nationally qualified, Associate (Allied) Membership means no exam, but schooling and work experience.  Both of these organizations require similar qualifications. LOTS of sour grapes from the unqualified and I will not enter that discussion now.

IL has State Certification for Interior Design since 1993.  Some states do, some don't.  If your manicurist need to be licensed, shouldn't your Designer meet some essential qualifications?  If you are just buying new blinds for the bedroom - you don't need a Professional Designer and if you are buying retail, store decorators will know their lines well.  If you are working with their products, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using their services.



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2.  If I were looking for a Professional Designer, I would go online to and look up "Find a Designer".  You can look under specialties, or find someone in your area.  These are qualified Professionals who can be listed as members, but can only post photographs of their work if they pay a fee.   Web sites are listed as well.  This is a no-brainer.
Obviously, you can get referrals from friends, family, neighbors, but look at what they have done before you jump in, although a really good designer should be able to work in more than one style.  I believe that VERY strongly.

Illinois Department of Registration also has a way to look up if a Designer is Registered (or not) on their web site.

Then, there are an abundance of web sites that list Designers and Decorators.  Decorati, Interior Design Pro,  Interior Design Network, Ava Living and HGTV (I guess I have to have them include them even though they don't limit listings to accredited professionals).  Many have some photos as well as contact web sites and phone numbers.  New for me, but I lke them! 

3.  What and how to pay a Design Pro:  This VARIES & it's likely options will include a number of possibilities.  Gail Doby found that hourly is still the predominant way to charge, with or without a commission of items sold.  The hourly rate will vary and you must be careful to check if you are paying an hourly that might seem a bit higher, but travel, phone calls and printing are included.  Perhaps you'd prefer to work with someone who charges varying amounts for specific services included by the firm (bookkeeping, travel, printing, drafting).
Some Designers will charge you a set fee, and some want 100% of that fee before the furniture orders are placed.  That fee can be based on what they think the work will entail,  or by the sq., ft ($3-5.00 is common) or by the room, which is less frequent.  Advantage?  You know what the total will be at the start.
How much is charged to you for items purchased on your behalf will range from Designers' cost (usually about 40%off) to List (suggested Retail), and very rarely: above List..  Discounts can be wholesale plus a percentage or a discount from List.  Usually: lower fee or no fee means a mark-up.  Ask about "incoming freight" and local delivery,  too.  So many possibilities...confusing?  you can ask me more by e-mail; I charge hourly and "cost plus".

I recommend that you have a Contract/Letter of Agreement.  there are too many details to commit to memory.  Oh!  Not part of Gail's study, but ask what happens if the job is ongoing --a bit at a time, maybe over a few years.  Will the fees change?

MOST Designers want/require a Retainer (down payment) that may cover billable Design time or time and materials.  It's likely to be credited back pretty quickly within the course of the work.

4.  IF THE DESIGNER CANNOT READ BLUEPRINTS (also called "Construction Documents") THEY ARE NOT QUALIFIED.  PERIOD!  Then, a Designer should be able to put together a visual presentation for you (drawings with samples is typical) & present photos of previous work if it helps you.  Unless  you are choosing new fabrics or other items for an existing space in pretty much the same place, space planning and/or furniture layouts are imperative. You also might need lighting plans, cabinet designs, tile layouts, etc. 

The survey I have referenced states that nearly all Designers are "solopreneurs".  That's me.  I've had assistants... all but one (who COMPLETELY changed careers) are now ASID Professionals!    But nowadays, staffs are down, and computers have made working alone much easier. The "downside" is the increased "multi-tasking", so a Designer that has a serious list of Vendors  can run a project alone quite efficiently.

***I would want to know if the Designer wants to take care of everything or just the furniture, window and floor coverings (and their colors/materials).   My favorite elements of the project are the early decisions including structural room finishes (tile, lighting, etc) and the finishing touches:  art and accessories including ethnic and antique items that are often purchased from local galleries and artists.  The rest of the scheme seems to fall in place while these items make the most impact and infuse the most personality.

Whew!  C'est tout!.. Up soon: a list of "peeps" - those amazing specialties. Some sources are featured on my Facebook Fan Page, so you can look for them there (& click the box at right)!                                                





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