12 Insider Tips for How to Choose an Interior Designer

Updated 06/21/18
how to choose an interior designer
Courtesy of Birgit Klein Interiors

When it comes to how to choose an interior designer, premier designer Ariel Okin at Homepolish says it can kind of be like dating (as in, you need to put in some work and ask the right questions). "I believe that an ideal working relationship between an interior designer and a client is founded on trust," Okin says. "If a client can trust where the designer is going with the creative vision and roll with it, that makes for the most fun and exciting—and not to mention, beautiful—projects."

In order to get to that space with a designer, you need to truly find one that aligns with your needs and personality because if you can't get along, how can they truly understand you? "When meeting a new client, I always try and make sure that our personalities and priorities align," explains Birgit Klein, owner of Birgit Klein Interiors. It begins by meeting and asking the right questions to suss out who is the right fit for you... and your space, for that matter. We decided to tap four experts to find out the top questions they think every client should ask when it comes to choosing an interior designer (plus a few rules to follow at your first meeting). 

kitchen interior design
Seth Caplan for Ariel Okin/Homepolish

Get collaborating

"I believe the client should be involved in the decision-making process so that the end result reflects them," says Crystal Sinclair of Homepolish. Christine Markatos Lowe, principal designer of Christine Markatos Design, agrees, saying that the best working relationships are when it's a collaborative effort. But if a client prefers to be more hands-off, it's imperative for them to communicate how involved they want to be from the start.

foyer designer
Courtesy of Christine Markatos Design

Follow the "rule of three."

"My general rule is to meet three designers," says Markatos Lowe. "You will find two of the people you meet are probably more like-minded and one will stick out to you." By not meeting with more than this number, the designer says it will be easier to compare the different personalities and styles. Okin suggests meeting with at least two if not three designers to get a feel for different aesthetics, working styles, and personalities (which are important).

interior decorating
Courtesy of Christine Markatos Design

Come prepared

Okin suggests bringing inspiration images, a Pinterest board with some of your favorites pinned, and a floorplan of your existing space as a starting point. And show as much as possible up front. "The more aesthetic information you can share, the better as it will help create open communication," says Markatos Lowe. She suggests bringing along any plans, drawings, or examples of styles you like to your first meeting. 

interior design experts
Seth Caplan for Ariel Okin/Homepolish

Be honest about budget

There's nothing worse than not discussing expectations and having designer's plans foiled and client's hopes shattered. Sinclair says to definitely have a budget in mind (although it can be hard to pinpoint exactly how much something will cost until you work through what you want). "If you're unsure about a budget, do a little research before you meet to get a better understanding of what things cost," suggests Sinclair. "A sofa can cost anywhere from $700 to $27,000."

nursery decor
Claire Esparros for Crystal Sinclair/Homepolish

Follow your gut

You need to remember that you're not the only one interviewing during this process since you're being interviewed, too. Markatos Lowe says to keep in mind that both parties are looking to feel comfortable with one another. "I also believe it's an instinctual feeling—if it feels like a good fit, it's often the right designer/client match," she says. Keep an eye out for when it just feels right and go with that person.

bathroom design
Courtesy of Birgit Klein Interiors

12 Questions to Ask an Interior Designer

- Is there a particular style that you like or that you don't like?

- How many projects do you work on at a given time?

- What's your internal structure, and who would I work with on your team other than you?

- How long would you anticipate the project to be completed?

- Does our availability line up?

- Are you comfortable with ______? (Anything special to your situation like dogs, kids, fabric allergies)

- What is your project management style and what will you expect of me?

- How do you charge and what does your fee include?

- How do you keep track of my budget, payments, and refunds?

- How do you resolve problems during the project? (Furniture arrives damaged, wrong piece was shipped, etc.)

- Is your design green or environmentally conscious?

- Can I have a client reference? 

wooden kitchen
Claire Esparros for Crystal Sinclair/Homepolish

Now that you know how to choose an interior designer, you're on your way to finding the right design fit. 

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