Last time, I revealed to you a seven step process that you should go through when selecting an interior designer for your next project. This time, I will tell you what exact questions you need to ask your interior designer based on which you can make a really informed decision as to who you want to award you design project to.
Welcome to the second and final chapter of Tilottoma’s 2-part guide to selecting your interior designer.
In part I, we went through a 7 step process to help you select an interior designer for your interior design project.
Among those 7 steps, step 5 was to meet up with the designers you have shortlisted and have an initial consultation with them about your project, your expectations and your requirements. This initial consultation is a very important stage in the designer selection process. This is when both sides – both you and the designer – are seeing whether you’re a good fit for each other.
The difference is that you are not a professional designer.
You may have unrealistic expectations, you may not know what factors to clear up at this stage and you may not even know what kind of hints the designer will want about your project so they understand what you are looking for. To help you out, Tilottoma has put together this list of 10 questions you must ask your interior designer at an initial consultation. They will help you make a really informed choice of interior designer for your project.
How do I know you’re a professional interior designing firm?
If that feels a little too confrontational, you can ask them ‘what degrees do you have relevant to your role as an interior designer?’.
In either case, you’re trying to find out whether the individual or individuals in question are genuinely trained and accredited interior designers or whether they are decorators.
What’s the difference?
A designer or an architect needs to have gained relevant degrees. And they will have the training and skills necessary to execute bespoke designs. A decorator, on the other hand, may or may not have any formal training. He may or may not be competent to execute your project; so, if you were to hire a decorator, you would be leaving a lot to chance.
How do you choose clients/projects?
This is to ensure that priorities and personalities match.
Interior design and architectural projects can go on for months, even years in some cases. And the client-designer relationship can stretch on even beyond that, with the designer becoming the client’s ‘family designer’ or ‘go-to designer’ of sorts. So you need to make sure that the two of you – you and your designer – are a good fit for the long term.
Can you adapt to my desired style?
This might sound a bit silly, but it’s worth asking, just in case. Also, this question doesn’t make sense if you’re just concerned about a neat and working space and you don’t really care about the style.
Now obviously, there is a chance that the designer in question will say ‘yes’ to this without thinking about it a lot, but you gotta ask it all the same. Suppose you like a bit of vintage in your design. Let’s say your first shortlisted designer is John. Now John has an impressive portfolio and good client testimonials, but his design outlook is modern and minimalistic. In that case, can John adapt to your outlook? There is absolutely no question that every designer has their own niche – the outlook they have and the style(s) they are good at. No designer can be good at everything.
The question is – can they adapt to your style since this is your project?
What kind of budget do you work with?
I know what you’re thinking. What good is talking budget before choosing a designer? But these are things that should play a part in your selection of designer.
For example there could be a designer who you gel with and who you feel can adapt to your style. But they could have a rule of not working with clients who do not spend at least, say, Tk 300,000 on each room. On the other hand, you do not have that kind of money.
Then you should just avoid that designer and that’s why this question is important.
A related question is
How do you track budget utilization and whether that progress will be shared with the client?
The tracking system may be as simple as an excel sheet or an app.
Whatever it is, you need to be on board that so you can keep track of the budget utilization. If signs of going over budget appear, you can discuss your options with the interior designer…and be prepared for the additional outgo if necessary.
What are your consultation and design fees?
Remember, over and above the actual budget comes the designer’s consultation/design fees. If they’re handling the entire project for you, it may be worthwhile asking also what kind of labour they’re likely to charge.
While you’re at it, you should clear up some related topics, like
- Does the designer provide support after completion of the project?
- What are their charges if you decide some alterations are needed while the project is ongoing?
- How would you be billed (per hour, per unit area etc) and how often?
And a related question is
How long does the designer estimate, roughly, he would need to complete the project?
Depending on the time and scale of the design project you may need to live elsewhere while the project is ongoing, so it’s best to clear this up at the very beginning.
Do you encourage client participation?
Some designers actively encourage the client to be involved in the design process. Others may not encourage it but they do entertain client participation. Some however, may be dismissive of any participation from the client at all. On the other hand, you yourself may want to leave everything to the designer once the project has been awarded.
It is very important to ensure your preferences are aligned. If you do want to remain involved in the project while it’s ongoing, you should also ask the designer
- How do they document the progress of work?
- How often would they entertain you?
- How would your participation be facilitated – via phone/Skype, emails or site visits?
Do you source only trade-only supplies?
First of all, what are trade-only supplies? Trade-only supplies are those that are mostly made available to interior designers only. They can really push the oomph factor of your design. However, sometimes their pricing may be a lot higher than what you encounter in the shops.
It is very important to have an extensive consultation with your shortlisted interior designer(s) before awarding your project.
However, since interior designer isn’t your trade, you may not be able to clear up all the relevant issues. That’s why Tilottoma has compiled this list of 7 questions that you absolutely must clear up at your initial consultation.
Do you think there are any issues we forgot to include? Please do let us know in a comment below.