How to Hire an Interior Designer

Liz ODonnell
Interior Designer

Learn how to hire an interior designer that fits your budget, understands your style and can best represent your needs.

How to Hire an Interior Designer

Before you even think about hiring an interior designer, understand that the process does not need to be intimidating. Nor does working with a designer need to be exorbitantly expensive. When you find the right interior designer, the process is pleasant and affordable. Here's where to begin:

  • Understand your lifestyle needs. The most important part of design is understanding how it fits into your life. If you have a big home, plenty of funds and like to entertain formally, then you can afford to create showpiece rooms like the ones you see in interior design magazines. However, if your budget is tight and your life is centered around your children, then you may want to focus on creating a comfortable and functional interior.
  • Know your budget. The next thing to think about is your budget. If budget is no object, you may want to work with a designer to create a complete look from floor to ceiling. If your budget is tight, then you need to set your priorities. Do you need help choosing paint colors that work with your existing furnishings? Do you have the basics but need someone to accessorize your home? Perhaps you can't afford to buy any new items for your home but you can hire a consultant to help you maximize what you have.
  • Study magazines. Flip through interior design and architectural magazines to help you define what you like and don't like. Cut out pictures of colors, rooms and items that you like and keep them in a file. Bring the file to your in-person consultation. It will help a designer understand your tastes.
  • Conduct an in-person consultation. Meet with prospective designers in person. You want to get a feel for their decorating style and their interpersonal style. Choose a designer who listens to your wants. Are you looking for someone to tell you what to do or do you want a designer who can fulfill your already defined vision? Does the designer understand your budget requirements and timetable? Do you feel comfortable with this person?
  • Review their portfolio. Once you've narrowed down one or two designer, ask to see their portfolio. Do you like what you see? Ask the designer to tell you about some of the projects in their portfolio. What was the client's request? How did the designer meet the objectives? By listening carefully, you can get a feel for how well the designer listened to their client. Look to see if the designer works with a variety of styles or tends to only work with certain styles. If the designer's specialty is cottage chic and you prefer modern design, you should probably hire someone else.
  • Ask for referrals. Before you finalize your decision, ask a designer for referrals. Talk to previous clients and find out how they have found the process. Did the designer listen to their concerns? Did he or she finish the project on time and on budget?
  • Understand the contract. Finally, you want to understand how the designer bills for services. Do they charge for consultations? Do they charge a flat fee per project or will they bill by the hour?

Where to Find an Interior Designer

Once you know how to hire an interior designer, you need to know where to look for one.

  • Ask for referrals. Ask friends and family whose homes you admire, if they worked with a designer.
  • Visit design centers. Most major cities have design centers that refer designers to clients.
  • Ask at home furnishing stores. Inquire at your favorite home furnishing store. Many retailers offer free design services for their purchasing customers.
  • Look in magazines. Notice the names of designers in local lifestyle and design magazines.
  • Designer show houses. Attend designer show houses and contact the designers from the rooms you admire.
How to Hire an Interior Designer