Ten ways to get the most from an interior designer

If you’re thinking about reworking one or more rooms at home, it’s a great idea to pick the brains of an interior designer.

At Bear Interiors we advise customers all the time, so here’s our guide to the preparation you can do to really get the most from the conversation – and help you decide if you want to buy your interior designer’s services.

Living room of Ducklings Retreat, Cartmel, designed by Bear Interiors

Living room of Ducklings Retreat, Cartmel, designed by Bear Interiors

1. Choose an interior designer whose work you like. Personal recommendations are great if you have friends who wanted something similar to you. Any good designer will show you a portfolio of recent projects and provide you with customer references. If like us they also build and install custom-made furniture, ask to see (and feel!) examples of their wares.

2. Look around for inspiration. Take cuttings from magazines, ask for swatches in wallpaper and fabric shops, and take photos of things you like wherever you go. Even if the features you like would need re-working for your home, they are very useful guides to your taste, the colours you love and the feel you’re after, which aren’t always easy to describe in words.

3. Have a little measure up. Obviously an interior designer will do this thoroughly if you give them your commission, but a sketched floor plan including dimensions will make sure your initial conversation is accurately based on the existing room, its nooks and crannies, and help you illustrate what you’d like it to become. Don’t forget to note the height of the room too.

A rough sketch plan - helping you describe your brief to an interior designer

A rough sketch plan – helping you describe your brief to an interior designer

4. For practical interior design proposals and an idea of costs, it’s important to know if a new design is going to require structural changes like moving utilities, drains, radiators, interior walls or windows, so mark existing positions on your sketched floor plan. If you are having building work done, you may have drawings already, and it’s helpful to have some copies available.

5. If you’re not meeting at home, take along some photos of your existing room to go with your sketch plan – on a phone is fine.

6. Have an idea of maximum budget, and don’t be embarrassed about setting a limit. It’s much better for a designer to know a realistic figure and work within it than to propose something that won’t be affordable, and some are great at suggesting clever cost saving ideas. In working out your budget, have a think about the current value of your home and what your transformation may add to that. As a very rough guide, a newly built kitchen will add an average of 8% to the value of your home, though that varies. It’s not the only consideration and it matters less if you have no intention of moving soon, but it’s sensible not to spend amounts far in excess of what you could recoup.

7. Be ready to share a little information. It won’t get too intimate, but we are talking about your home here, and it needs to reflect who lives there, how you use it and what you like doing. Giving your designer some clues about your lifestyle will help them offer ideas just right for you – whether it’s for a storage unit the right size for fishing rods, a desk to fit a particular alcove, a love for home cinema or enthusiasm for all things tartan. Don’t worry, we interior designers are like doctors, we’ve heard it all!

8. Think about the future. Especially if you’re aiming to stay put in your home, your needs will change. Kids grow up and want media walls instead of play dens. Career changes could require home office space, and retirement opens up new ways of spending time. Family members may need provision for reduced mobility, and even pets have their own accommodation needs. You can’t predict everything but if you share the possibilities with your interior designer, you can create options with greater inbuilt flexibility for change.

A design for a child's room can have inbuilt flexibility for changing needs

A design for a child’s room can have inbuilt flexibility for changing needs

9. Be ready to listen to advice. A good designer will take your brief and add value to it. They may suggest things you didn’t know you could do, or they may come up with a different solution to your design challenge. Don’t be pushed around, but don’t dismiss new ideas out of hand either – ask why they are suggesting something different, and make sure you’re satisfied with the answer. They will have worked on many similar projects and their interior design expertise is what you’re going to be paying for. If they can spot an issue early on and work around it, they may save you a lot of time and trouble.

An initial kitchen design render helps you see in detail what you'll be getting

An initial kitchen design render helps you see in detail what you’ll be getting

10. At the end of your conversation, be clear about what you’d like the interior designer to do. If you want time to think about it or want to talk to another supplier before you decide, that’s fine. If you want your designer to start working on designs for a kitchen, living room or bedroom or the whole house, make sure you’re aware of the costs involved and agree what you’ll get for your money and when. It could be the start of something beautiful for your home!

More information about the Bear Interiors design service

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