What Won’t Your Interior Designer Tell You? 10 Thoughts to Ponder
Smart Money Magazine recently published an article entitled “10 Things Interior Designers Won’t Say.” Numbered lists are popular formats, whether they’re giving positive tips or helping you avoid dire consequences.
The Smart Money article falls into the dire consequences category. Since we deal with many interior designers here, we took a good look at the list. Here’s what we think, in response to the 10 things designers apparently won’t tell you:
My Qualifications? My good taste, naturally.
1. On a question of qualifications, especially in a big-ticket and long-lasting transformation like a kitchen remodeling or bathroom renovation, it’s probably a safe bet to go with a professional interior designer, or one who works regularly with the cabinet maker, craftsperson or architect you’re using. Areas that involve water and electricity must adhere to codes, and it’s more than just what looks good. The interior design has to hold together in a functional and safe way as well. We agree with the Smart Money article that you should do your homework about your designer selection. The California Council for Interior Design Certification administers the Certified Interior Designers Law, and you have to pass requirements before you can call yourself a Certified Interior Designer. Certification by CCIDC is the highest standard of professionalism for interior designers in the State.
“I’ll decorate in my style, not yours.”
2. Do you even have a style? To be honest, many people like lots of different styles. The Smart Money article advocates careful examination of the designer’s portfolio, and matching their style to yours. If you’re not sure you have a style, start gathering images that really appeal to you, and your style will emerge. Good interior designers work to bring out your style, and make it better. We agree that you’ll enjoy working with an interior designer with whom you have good report. We don’t necessarily agree that specialists can’t work effectively outside their specialty. As in every relationship, good honest communication is the key!
While we’re at it, here’s another thought: if you’re writing the check, you’re the boss. But if you’ve hired someone to bring your ideas to fruition, hear them out.
“I’ll redesign your budget along with your rooms” and “My hourly rate will make you see red.”
3. & 5. Again, communication is the key. Ask your interior designer every money question you can think of. Do they charge by the hour or project? Will they give you a breakdown of design, construction and finishing costs? What is included in their fee, and where does the fee fall in the cost of the project? Are they bonded or insured? Clarify your objectives for the room, then start with what you can afford and are willing to spend as the total cost, including their fees. Use your interior designer’s expertise and experience, ask for alternatives, and see what can be done within your spending range (your budget.)
The Smart Money article says, “Have the interior designer give you a proposal with everything itemized before anything is started.” We agree. They also suggest that a simple room typically takes about 20 hours of designer work, and that clients should set a maximum if they’re working with a designer on an hourly rate.
“You have no idea how much that sofa really costs.”
4. This is in reference to the discounts designers will get from trade showrooms. Will they pass the discount along to you? Go ahead and ask. You should be well-versed in what styles and fabrics will work in your home before you buy anything. It’s easy enough to take shots of what you like to show your designer, or to look at furniture your designer recommends. But sit on it/lay down on it/pretend you’re eating at it first. Make sure your furniture choice is functional and comfortable before you consider investing. Along the way, you’ll also be getting a good idea of the retail cost of various levels of quality construction.
At the very least, you shouldn’t pay more than retail. The interior designer interviewed for the Smart Money article passes along savings 20-30% below retail, even with her markup.
“Shop at the right stores and you’ll pay less for interior designers.”
6. The Smart Money articles notes that national chains, like Bloomindales and Ethan Allen, offer design services at an excellent rate (and sometimes free.) We’ll leave the living room up to them, but Bradco Kitchens and Bath offers complete kitchen and bathroom design services, as well as kitchen and bathroom remodeling. And we specialize in green kitchen/bath design! Bradco’s kitchen designers are trained experts with many years of experience, who utilize the latest design software so you can view your new room in 3D! (If you are interested in talking to one of our designers, call our office for an appointment: (323) 936-3457)
It’s a good idea to ask your designer for referrals, too. With a store-based designer, make sure you understand any fee or purchase requirements, and that you get them in writing.
“Using my contractors will cost you.”
7. The Money Market article notes that many interior designers work with preferred contractors, often because it saves time and increases reliability. (At Bradco, we use B & R Construction, an on-site construction company that has an exclusive agreement to prioritize Bradco customers.) That said, you may have construction contacts who might be well-known to you, or less expensive. Don’t be afraid to ask for bids on your job.
“Don’t rush me — or I’ll have to charge you.”
8. This one is just common sense: design and renovation/construction take time. While it’s important to have a schedule, it’s also important to have reasonable expectations based on a good communication with your designer/architect/builder. The Smart Money article notes that getting work done for the holidays means starting the job in the summer. Ditto getting ready for summer visitors: you’ll need to start the process months ahead of time.
If you’re renovating a kitchen or bath for a big event, like a wedding or graduation celebration, make sure the designer knows the date you’re aiming at, develop a calendar, and start well ahead of time to avoid rush costs.
“Custom orders mean you’re courting disaster.”
9. According to Smart Money, there’s more “custom” furniture (which includes anything different than the showroom model, including upholstery) being ordered today, because there’s less standard stock on the floor. Make sure you understand and OK every part of the order, and that means….you bought it. Get samples of upholstery or fabric, get a good look at the stain color on the wood, and be sure of your dimensions. When you’re working with a kitchen/bath designer, it’s easier if you can actually see and touch cabinet samples and look through the showroom for countertops and fixtures.
“If I botch your project, good luck getting reparations.”
10. Three words: have a contract. (Or a letter of agreement). Make sure you’ve got a method for handling disputes. Even if you have it all in writing, there are still opportunities for error, disagreement or opinion. And work with a designer who carries liability insurance.
The Smart Money article was updated and adapted from the book “1,001 Things They Won’t Tell You: An Insider’s Guide to Spending, Saving, and Living Wisely,” by Jonathan Dahl and the editors of SmartMoney.
Bradco Kitchens and Baths takes pride in having industry leading design professionals that take our customers through every step of the design and construction process. Bradco also has a special running for the month of April, NO TAX! That’s right, no tax when you purchase a complete kitchen from Bradco Kitchens and Baths, Los Angeles’s first place to get quality kitchen and bathroom cabinetry. Click here to access the special.