Ready to Revamp Your Home? Find Out How to Choose an Interior Designer

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

If you look around your home and wonder how it got to be so cluttered, so boring or so unworthy of being in a magazine feature, you may be thinking it’s time to get some help. Whether you find choosing a paint color challenging or can’t seem to decide where to hang your favorite painting, a professional interior designer can advise you on how to make your home lovelier, more livable and more welcoming to visitors.

Some readers may instantly think “an interior designer – that’s for rich people.” But the reality is that trained designers work on all kinds of projects both big and small and with all kinds of budgets. Best of all, interior designers have access to sources for furniture and accessories that can result in your getting high quality items for less than if you had to pay retail value. If you love that vintage look but don’t have time to haunt flea markets and consignment stores – or the vision to see through the clutter – an interior designer can search for you and help you put your personality on display without breaking the bank.

Start with your budget
Before you jump into looking for an interior designer, you do need to consider your budget and the parameters of your project. Clearly, hiring a designer to redecorate your entire home with all new items – or to establish a color scheme and furnish a home under construction – is a much bigger design challenge than asking for help to create a serene bedroom or to turn a disjointed kitchen, breakfast area and family room into a cohesive open space.

If you’re brand new at working with an interior designer, you may want to start small and choose a simple one-room makeover to start and then reevaluating to see if you’d like to hire the designer to continue on and help you with the rest of your house. Your budget should include new furnishings or window treatments you may need as well as a fee for the designer.

Designers bill customers in various ways, so part of your search for a designer will include asking for estimates of what their services will cost. Some designers work for a flat fee and others charge an hourly rate. Some designers get paid from the discount they receive on furniture they purchase on behalf of their clients. It’s also possible to pay a designer through some combination of those methods or with an upfront retainer. Sometimes a two or three-hour consultation is all you want; in that case you may be able to just pay for the consultation as a whole or by the hour.

Think about your style
While interior designers are trained to work with anyone and can give you lots of advice, the most successful design projects meld your personality and your designer’s expertise. If you have no idea what style of home decorating you prefer, you can start with thinking about your wardrobe and the colors that appeal to you. Start noticing other people’s homes or some of the endless photos online and bookmark some favorites that appeal to you until you recognize a pattern. You can even do it the old-fashioned way and peruse magazines like “Better Homes and Gardens” or “House Beautiful” for ideas. Your designer can hone these random inspirations into a coherent design plan.

Search for a designer
Multiple resources are available for finding an interior designer – in fact, you could be overwhelmed if you delve into and start randomly looking at design inspirations. You can start instead on the American Society of Interior Designers website at to search by location and specialty. Another option is, which is also full of ideas and has a search by location option.

A recent introduction to the D.C. metro area is, which also connects homeowners and interior designers by location and by the project type.

When you’ve searched these sites and have come up with a few options that sound promising, you can go to each designer’s website to get a feel for what their designs are like. Keep in mind that even though most designers will do anything you ask, you’re likely to find it easier to work with someone who generally shares your taste. If you prefer clean and contemporary rooms, you probably shouldn’t choose a designer with a website photo gallery filled with antiques. Many designers have blogs on their sites that can give you a sense of their personality.

When you interview potential designers it’s essential to be completely honest about your budget so you and your designer can determine together what can realistically be accomplished. And, just maybe, all that time you spend researching designers and looking for inspiration could resolve your decorating dilemma without needing to hire a designer at all.