10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an Interior Designer


Hiring an Interior Designer is equivalent to buying jeans; one size doesn't fit all so you try on pair after pair until you find the perfect one. Likewise, all designers are not created equal so its important to know what your goals are and to write down those questions that matter the most before you make a selection.

Sometimes its hard as a client to know exactly what your needs are when you're not good at decorating. Otherwise...you wouldn't need help in the first place! So I've tried to narrow it down to 10 questions you should ask when hiring an interior designer to set you on the right path!

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #1: What's Your Design Style?

Or better yet what's the designer's style? Although most designers can deliver your aesthetic wishes when asked, its important to find one who isn't "a jack of all trades". Think about it; would you want to go to a doctor that claimed to treat any and every ailment? No!

Find a designer that specializes in a certain niche or design style that is your favorite. Take a look at their portfolio and see examples of their work. However; before you do this, its best to understand and know what your style is. That way you're able to communicate the look and expectations to a designer that is familiar with this aesthetic.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #2: What's Your Budget?

Let's face it: no one likes to talk about money. However; the sooner you get over the uncomfortable feeling that the topic brings, the sooner you can get down to business with establishing priorities within your budget. It's important to set realistic expectations with what you are willing to pay and the quality of the pieces that are a result of that budget.

It's also a good idea to establish a budget beforehand because there are some designers who will only work with clients that meet a minimum design budget. Knowing your budget ahead of time will help steer the conversation in the right direction with a designer who is comfortable working within your means.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #3: What's the Designer's Fee?

Every designer's business model is different. This includes the designer's fee. Similar to the budget question, there are some designers that may require a minimum design fee to work with you. Some may charge a fee per room, or it could just be a minimum dollar amount based on the scope of work. You need to ensure that you take this into account when establishing your budget.

Because I love alliteration and fashion, let's go with an example. Banana Republic and Bergdorf Goodman are both clothing stores. You could go into Banana Republic and find a cute dress for $50. Or you could go to Bergdorf's and find a fabulous one for $2,500. The latter dress doesn't automatically equate to great customer service and quality materials. Likewise, the Banana Republic dress doesn't automatically mean subpar service and materials.

What does this mean for you? That you also need to be mindful of what you are receiving for this fee; regardless of whether it's a $99 design fee versus $9,999. Is the designer reputable? How often do they provide updates on the progress of the project? Do they offer after-install support? Do your homework like you would with any other purchase. Find a fee that you are comfortable paying and provides a level of quality service you deserve.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #4: Does the Designer Have Testimonials?

Testimonials speak to experience. A portfolio will give you a glimpse into a designer's style and taste however; its important to look for those tried and true testimonials. They will provide the answers to what it's like to work with a designer and whether they really mean what they advertise on their website.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #5: Does the Designer Source Retail or Trade Only?

This question may not have been on your radar but it's important nonetheless. Designers usually source trade only items. Trade furniture is expensive however; this is what allows you to have those one of a kind, unique pieces that speak to your personality and make your home stand out.

However; if your budget and goals dictate otherwise you will need to find a designer that will purchase retail items. Sourcing retail items generally dictate lower profit margins for a designer so be sure to discuss this upfront.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #6: Are You Ready to Buy Everything Now?

If your plan is to buy everything through trade only vendors, the expectation of the designer is that you plan to purchase all items now. However; if you wish to purchase items as your budget and time allows, you will need to make sure your designer is on board with this. Why? Because the latter route will usually mean smaller profit margins for the designer and the possibility of items being out of stock when you are ready to buy.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #7: What's the Timeline?

Are you in a rush to get a project completed because of a big event coming up? If so, then trade only and custom pieces are out of the question. Ready made items from retail stores would be your best option.

Or are you just moving into a new home and want to start with the basics now and complete finishing touches later? Trade only sources would be a great option however; be mindful that your pieces will take a while. Lead times vary greatly, ranging from 6 weeks and beyond. Knowing your timeline is something to discuss with your designer so that you can realistically know what to expect with lead times.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #8: What's the Designer's Communication Process?

What is the designer's communication methods? Do they allow you to text? Or is it email or phone calls only? Do they respond on weekends? Find a designer who has a flexible communication process that you are comfortable with so that you never feel as if you're being ignored.

Its also important to work with a designer that offers a communication style that suits your personality. Do you desire to know the project status on a weekly basis? Or are you a little more laid back and only want to get updates when necessary? All of this needs to be discussed before hiring a designer.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #9: Does the Designer Offer Full-Services Only?

Actually you should first determine whether you think need someone to provide support through the entire process. If the answer is yes then you will need full service. With full service, a designer will normally provide all of the following:

  • In-home consultations

  • floor plans

  • Handling all of the purchases and delivery

  • Storing all furniture until installation day

  • Overseeing of final installation

  • Styling of rooms with finishing touches (i.e., accessories)

However; if your your goal is to only have someone provide guidance or direction in getting you started on your design project, you will want to find a designer that offers something other than full service. These other services are generally a less expensive option while still providing the opportunity of working one-on-one with a designer.

I offer design only consultations to individuals who would like the help of a designer but aren't interested in full service. Click the link above to find out more and see if they are the right fit for you.

Hiring an Interior Designer Question #10: Does the Designer Offer Post-Install Support?

If you desire to work with a designer who provides e-design or design only consultations, will you need help after the final design has been delivered? Or are you fine implementing the design on your own?

If help is needed, then you will want to work with a designer that provides post install support. This means they provide a set amount of time after the design has been delivered to assist with any questions you may have.

So now you see there are a number of questions to ask before hiring an interior designer. Working through the answers will provide you with the clarity you need to find the perfect designer for you.

If you think I might be the one, be sure to contact me below to get started!