Working with an interior designer

I am curious as to the reasons why you would and would not work with an interior designer for a project- new house, building a house, remodeling, etc. Name the three main reasons why you would and why you wouldn't.

  • August 13 2008 - US
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Answers (29)

Profile picture for Kaye Norenberg

The renovator I choose has a designer on staff.  She has saved me money and headaches.  By the way could you please go to Mixed Bag?  Alpine needs some help with his red couches!

  • August 14 2008
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Profile picture for TheGrey

Cost would be mine main reason, along with the idea that it seems like something I could do myself.

  • August 14 2008
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Profile picture for mina36
Cost.
  • August 14 2008
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Profile picture for Mike_oxafloppin

100% cost.    I can buy the same lines that they offer without the markup.

  • August 14 2008
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Profile picture for julia111

The design aspect is the only fun part of home ownership IMO.

I wouldnt want to farm that part out.

  • August 14 2008
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Profile picture for mina36
Plus, designers seem so...stuffy. So what if something doesn't quite fall inside the "designer lines"?
  • August 14 2008
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Profile picture for FlooredAgain

If I know color and texture  and am comfortable with it and can make decisions in a timely manner, I don't need a designer. If I'm undecided and confused and working in an unfamiliar materials, I might hire one. Some designers work by the hour, as you know and on large projects some work with some sort of set fee. I work with designers in my field and to me, the feed back I've gotten from clients of theirs say they tend to project their own feelings and wants in a home and forget somewhat who the end user is.

  • August 14 2008
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Profile picture for la457

I would probably love working with a designer.  It would be an interesting experience.  Here's why I haven't:

1) cost

2) I have to maintain the functionality and comfort of my home.  It can't just look nice.

3) I know myself and I am lazy and busy.  It has to be low maintenance and not require constant updating.

  • August 14 2008
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Thank you all for your thoughts.

 

Im curious- when you all say cost...do you mean the fee for hiring a designer? Or the cost of the products they get for you? If its the later, I think this is a huge misunderstanding. Products that a designer sells are sold at less than retail to the client (hence, the incentive from buying from a designer- aside from the "trade-only" access for a lot of things). Right now, about 30% markup from wholesale is standard. Most designers I know (myself included) are in the 20-25% range. Anyways- just thought I would say that. Im still trying to get my friends to *get it* that I can get them better stuff cheaper! Haha! I know someone who just spent a lot on a piece of, (well- you know what), at Macy's when I could have gotten them something way better quality for about the same price, or even a little bit lower price. Im always shocked that people don't use designers more for purchasing. There is still a lot of stuff that is "to the trade only", and, a lot of it isnt really THAT expensive (although, some of it is astronomical!).

 

If its the fee thats expensive...then yes, I understand that.

 

Again, thanks for the input!

  • August 25 2008
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Profile picture for la457

I think the expensive thing is partly a misconception on my part that a lot of the general public shares.  Part of my brain knows it only makes sense that a designer would be able to get the best stuff for less money than I could.  But another part of my brain is telling me to hold on to my wallet.  I've seen too many of those design shows on TV where they pay 16K for a small end table.

 

Now let's say I buy the 16K end table.  I know as soon as I get it that someone is going to set a glass on it or the dog will knock it over.  Everything has to be reasonable and replaceable.  I try to have a few really nice pieces and design my room around them. 

  • August 26 2008
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Profile picture for Mike_oxafloppin

What I meant by cost  is that I have a friend who is an interior designer. She quoted me pricing on the pieces I wanted snd showed me her cost.  I was able to get the exact same model and brand for less than she paid.

 

I should add that for someone who shops at the partical board outlet is probably going to look at designer prices as extremely high.  But if you are buying furniture with wood backs and roller drawers etc  you will find that their prices arent really that out of line. For me it was more of an issue of knowing exactly what I wanted to see and being able to get a 2500.00 entertainment center for 2000.00 

  • August 26 2008
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I would work with an interior designer if I needed a home staged to sell, to help me in my own home with recommendations only and to work with a client that I thought could afford the full benefit a design firm could offer from design to decor.  I wouldn't work with one because it is difficult to find one that has unique ideas, they charge a ridiculous amount of money for the furnishings because they add quite a bit on top of the price and they sometimes ignore the homeowner's personality and life style when decorating the space.

  • August 26 2008
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Profile picture for blue screen exile

We tend to call them inferior desecrators.

 

Though some are good, most tend to have substantually different tastes than I do; and some are quite outlandish.

 

And if you already have more piecies than you know what to do with, and you don't feel like replacing them; you work with what you have.

 

Or, if you have to make more fit in a limited space; you buy what is going to work to make things fit, even if you have to modify it or custom make it.

 

Sure, a designer may save some time, or may have a better sence of color coordination; But if I am going to review everything anyway, I might as well do it myself.

 

And though many may know lighting color and lighting accents; very few know the state energy requirements nor can fill out the required forms.

 

 

  • August 27 2008
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Are you referring to Title 24 requirements? Most REAL designers know at least a *little* about it. There are codes on the books so strict that you have to have a specialist do any sort of large lighting project, anyways, in order to pass code. Expect more designers to be very energy savvy soon. LEED is coming out with a home edition and there are changes for 2009. Exciting!

 

Everyone's answers have been very insightful. Thanks again.

 

  • August 27 2008
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Profile picture for blue screen exile

They might eventually become savvy, but it doesn't mean they are licenced to sign the title 24 forms.  And the state keeps changing the requirements.

 

Now you even need to calculate outside lighting and provide additional controls for that.  And rumor has it that they want to get rid of incandencent lighting entirely, including quartz and MR-16 low voltage accent lighting.

 

I keep waiting for some good LED lamps and fixtures to come out to replace incandecent.

 

What do you do for a dining room chandelier with full dimmer control if you can't use incandecent?

 

I'm not at all excited about LEED as home designs didn't use to mandate air conditioning but allowed natural heating and cooling.  Even with proposed guidelines, we are not as energy conscience as we were 100 years ago.  And it is OK to use compact flourecent lamps with integral electronic ballast and medium screw socket base the are supposed to last 7 years but in practice last only 8 months due to overheating, when all those hazardous E-wastes end up in the landfill?  And all the manufacturing costs and energy used in the manufacturing are more than the energy costs saved?  Something is wrong with our thinking!

 

 

  • August 27 2008
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I TOTALLY agree with that fact that all the CFL waste (mercury!!!) goes into landfills and trash bins and its very hazardous. I stand in SHOCK when I see tubes sticking out of a dumpster. Its like the unsaid thing about CFL's!!! People need to be warned about it, and there need to be more proper disposal plants.

Oddly enough, there are flourescents that can dim- contrary to popular thought. I, myself, have never used one- but I have heard from many architects and deisgners I know that they are out there. (I should probably take a sec to search them and/or probe for more info next time it comes up in conversation!). It really hasn't concerned me to look for them yet, since I mainly design already built structures that already have incan. lamping requirements. And, a lot of lighting manufacturers are still making incan. sockets since, really, its the warmest quality of light you can get. I do have a list of CFL's that are waaay better than whats out there for the mass market (think, Home Depot)- but its mostly for recessed cans and track lights and exterior lighting. Also, and don't quote me on this since its always changing and I am not a Title 24 expert, that you can still have incan. light sources- its a certain ratio they are looking for (i think!). So the one incan. chandelier typically wont be a problem in new construction/remods.

  • August 28 2008
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And, about Title 24...that's what Im saying! Its becoming so difficult, that even if a designer (or architect for that matter) knew Title 24 like the back of their hand, they still arent able to sign/stamp lighting plans! We STILL have to pay someone else to do it, even if we know it. I, myself, do not know it like the back of my hand- its waaaay too complicated (like you mentioned) and I dont want to spend my time learning it when I would have to pay a special consultant to do it anywyas. Kinda lame! Title 24 is way more strick for commercial, and less so for residential. Although the regulations they have put on residential are becoming more complicated, too.

  • August 28 2008
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Profile picture for blue screen exile

I specify diming flourescent systems all the time, down to 1%, and for some lamps, down to 1/2%.  If you dim too low, they will flicker, even with a high frequency ballast.  You still need to set the trim at the low end of the dimmer to keep from trying to dim too low.  And still at 1%, it is not the same as full range diming; and it might be fine for down-lights, but it is just not going to do it for a chandelier.  Ever tried to design a chandelier with linear flourescents and remote ballasts, and still make it look appealing?

 

And though for residential, it used to mostly be the building envelope and mechanical system, and only one high efficiency (flourescent...) for the bathroom and for the kitchen, it is now going to be every room, and not just one, but most.  You can't build new residential without submitting the forms; and any substantial remodel will also require the forms.  You also cannot use CFL (compact florescents with intrigral ballast and screw base) for new residential construction; they must be of the pin type.

 

Fortunately the State website has all the requirements available to download in PDF format, including the forms.  The forms are also available in AutoCad format now, but they were not last year.

 

So, my point; if I'm going to do the lighting calculations anyway, why should I have an inferior desecrator telling me what the lighting should be?

 

  • August 28 2008
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Profile picture for blue screen exile

The one area where they might be helpful is if wall colors and carpet selection were already done, but one needed draperies that would coordinate, it may be worth while to send someone else looking to make sure they won't clash, that the colors and patterns coordinate well, and to actually find someplaces that fabricate and stock them.

 

But then why not just take the color samples and carpet samples to a custom drapery shop and have them assist?  Besides, if it is going out to bid; the contractors are going to be submitting several different selections that are close, and one would still have to choose; so what's the big deal?  If I select only one in the specification, you know I'm going to get gouged.  And if I go with a designer that has very limited venders, you know I'm not really going to get the selection I want.

 

I've been looking for a two or three tone gray pazely drapery for several years; still have found none of the consumer outlets that carry such fabric. (Pennys, Sears, Montgomry Wards, Home Depot, Lowes, several drapery shops...)  Also tried to match a flural drapery fabric from the late 1950's.  Couldn't find anything close; went with a smaller flural that had additional colors.  Still a challenge as the colors shift so much with various daylighting and interior lighting.

 

  • August 28 2008
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Profile picture for Evalionint

Instead of going to Pennys or Sears you should check any fabric shop,one of thouse where they sell sewing machines and all kinds of fabrics.I'm sure you will find it there,Jo-ann fabrics is one of them.

  • September 25 2008
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Profile picture for rlvarcoe

Me thinks much of it is what you want the designer for.... I have worked with a few and found them to be most valuable.  Instance in case was a remodel for resale and they gutted the first floor, the layout was horrible and came out looking boxy.  After most of the work was done the homeowner brought in a designer and (as should have been done in the first place) they opened up rooms got rid of a small entry and added a bathroom... if this homeowner would have called in a designer from the git go they would have saved thousands and had a great design to boot... not to mention time....

  • October 15 2008
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Yes, rlvarcoe, a lot of clients (mostly in the residential sector) forget that interior designers do just that- they design the interior envelope of a space. This includes volumes, layout, space planning, etc. A lot of the general public think that interior designers are mere decorators (yes, it IS true that a lot of interior designers ALSO decorate)- but interior designers are schooled in and are capable of much, much more than they are usually hired for in the residential sector. With commercial design, everyone expects and knows an inteiror designer does these things because the project requires their attention in many capacities.

 

In residential, a lot of the time, the house is built and people want it filled nicely- or they are building new and they let their GC make interior design decisions that (layout, surfaces, architectural features) any inteiror designer worth their beans can and should be making (and "worth their beans" means properly educated and talented). Interior designers can and should be brought into residential projects WAY sooner than the homeowner thinks.

  • October 20 2008
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I would love to brainstorm on decorating my new home, my fear is that it might cost too much and our tastes might not be in synch.  Also, I would like someone who is easy to work with and very creative and I'm concerned that I may have to interview 10 - 15 designers in order to find the right fit... so I guess I would say "time or lack of" would be my 3rd concern

  • October 30 2008
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Reasons why you would..  First they have good taste. Second they can save you lots of time and money. Third when you go to sell the home it will sell quicker.

 

Reasons not to...    First you just can't afford them. Second you can make up your mind quickly, and know what you want. Third you enjoy doing home projects over 2 and 3 times until you get it right.

 

Most are only $50-100 per hour, and they can get most of the items selected in 1 or 2 days.

 

  • October 31 2008
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Profile picture for cashgarage

It seems that many are worried or concerned about the interior designer's tastes.  I think this is where you have to "interview" several designers just like you would any other service-oriented professional.  Ask questions to gauge how attentive they are.  A good designer will, in turn, interview YOU to understand your wants and needs in order to make the appropriate suggesions.  Ask for referrals.  If you can, take a look at their portfolios or recent work.

 

Also, keep in mind that many states do not require residential interior designers to be licensed professionals.  Essentially, you could slap your name on a business card and call yourself a designer.  I see that J Steinberg Design is a member of ASID -- American Society of Interior Designers.  If you are looking for a true professional, then check the credentials.

  • October 31 2008
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As a designer in MA - these are the most common misconceptions I have seen about using a designer:

 

1) Designers create showrooms that are not practical for my life. We pride ourselves on function and form being first and foremost in the design.

 

2) Designers make me buy expensive things. We assess the client's budget and work from there.

 

3) Designer's taste will not match up to mine and will be "stuffy". We have sacrificed many potentially beautiful portfolio pics to make our clients happy and re-use their things.

 

4) I don't need a designer - I can do it myself. We work with clients to achieve their taste and introduce them to new products they cannot necessarily locate or think of on their own. We also help broaden their own personal aesthetic and save them oodles of time they would have to spend shopping around.

 

5) My GC is a designer. This is the funniest one. GC's have a good idea what's current but they don't invest the time in understanding you or your lifestyle enough to get the small details like color and texture perfect. They'd much rather you tell them what you want done.

 

Top reasons people call me all the time:

 

1) Overwhelmed and helpless with all the choices

2) Don't know what their sense of style is

3) Can't agree with spouse and want a mediator

4) Afraid that they'll spend money on something expensive and regret it

5) Don't have time to shop around - like the convenience

 

Hope that helps - from one pro to another.

  • November 03 2008
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Asima,
          your top 5 reasons people call you "hits the nail on the head ! "
1 thru 5 is exactly true , designers also work with you and your budget .
  • March 01 2010
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We work with some of the most exclusive Architects in the valley.
And they take care of almost every detail .

Designers are for people who don't know how to make a decision.
NO OFFENSE ! !

We always let the client pick out the paint colors, the tile and the granite.

If a client hires a designer, then they have to pay the hourly rate, and the "markup" the designer charges.

So a client would have to settle for 25% less of what they want to pay for the 25% markup the designer charges.

I know all you designers do wonderful work, and I have worked for many and they call every day saying I have a client that needs their house remodeled.

  • March 03 2010
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Profile picture for andreas110
It was never an option in my mind for the simple reason that I don't know how to be sure that I hired one that fits my taste and I always assume that the cost is prohibitive.  

I was recently made aware of a site called avaliving.com where you can get free evaluations of your room from different designers.  It's a great way for me to get to know the designers. I ended up hiring one to help me with the space layout of my living room and it didn't cost me an arm and a leg.  It saves me a lot of time and headache.  I always believe that designers have a lot to offer but they are a bit intimidating and costly.  My recent experience was quite pleasant and would consider using a designer again.
  • May 21 2010
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