Interior Designer, Adrienne Chinn offers her expert advice...
When should I hire an interior designer?
At beginning of the planning stage – they will be able to help you realise your objectives and translate them into designs. You should consider using the services of an interior designer for any interior refurbishment project you're undertaking, whether it's one room or a whole house. The important thing is to bring your interior designer on board at the very beginning of the project so that they can be involved in meetings with builders, architects and other professionals involved.
Why so early?
The designer is there to think through the project to the final furnished result. So they're the ideal person to recommend positions for lighting and sockets, radiators, underfloor heating, kitchen and bathroom plumbing, etc. All of these things need to be considered at the beginning so that you can obtain a realistic quote from your builders and avoid costly changes mid-way through the contracting work.
What services can I expect them to provide?
A qualified interior designer will listen to your thoughts and ideas and provide you with scale plan and elevation drawings, lighting plans, building specifications, furniture quotes, flooring and fabric samples, and can obtain quotes from reliable tradespeople for building and joinery work, carpets, wood flooring, soft furnishings, upholstery and bespoke items. They have a huge resource of trade only suppliers from which to source high quality materials, furniture and accessories at reasonable prices. Some interior designers offer a project management service, and those who don't can recommend a qualified project manager for your project.
How often will an interior designer have to be on site?
This depends on the level of involvement you require. If they take on the project management of a large project, then they will need to be on site at least once a week. If they are not project managing, but are supplying items such as bathroom fittings, flooring, lighting, tiles, etc. then they will arrange to meet with the project manager and client about once a month or when a site meeting is called by the project manager. They should always be available by phone or email to answer queries and chase deliveries during the building process.
How do I know if the person I hire is qualified?
Interior designers are not licenced in the UK so anyone can call themselves an interior designer. However, if they have a website illustrating a large range of projects, if they have a recognised interior design qualification (a professional Diploma or university degree in Interior Design), and if they are a member of a professional organisation such as the British Interior Design Association, these are all good indicators that the person is qualified to undertake interior design work of a high standard.
Isn’t hiring an interior designer expensive?
Weigh up the savings you will make against the costs. Having a designer do the leg work frees up your spare time to enjoy as leisure or dedicate to earning money in your job. An interior designer has access to fabric, furniture (including antiques), lighting and accessory suppliers who supply only to the trade. They're also used to commissioning talented craftspeople to create unique items (lights, furniture, rugs etc) and working with them and the client through the commissioning process.
They'll also take care of the burden of placing orders, chasing deliveries and sorting out any delivery errors on your behalf. The end result is that you will have access to a much wider selection of design products which have been sourced or commissioned specifically for you and your lifestyle. Many designers supply at trade price plus a handling fee. This will often result in a saving to you of between 5-20% off the retail price on items purchased through your interior designer.
How do I avoid ending up with something I don't like?
When you start your personal relationship with the interior designer of your choice it will be a collaborative process. They will listen to your ideas, style preferences, and overall requirements. Many designers ask clients to put together a folder of images from design magazines to help guide them in the preferred design direction. Armed with this information the designer will then bring their own design knowledge and experience to the brief to create designs which will appeal to the client while introducing new suggestions (perhaps some painted tiles in the shower room? Some mouth-blown glass lights in the kitchen? A rug made to your own design in the living room?) to help the client create a environment which is unique to them. However, the client is the one in the driving seat and at no point should you feel that the project is out of your control.