Ask Christine

Following is a list of frequently asked questions, along with Christine’s responses. If you have a question that is not answered here, please Ask Christine.

Why should I hire an interior designer?
When you have a health issue, you call a doctor. For assistance with a legal matter, you hire an attorney. It only makes sense that you would use a professional to design the interior of a major investment like your home. Interior designers are professionals who know where to find the items you want, how to put them together, and how to work with architects, builders, and suppliers. In the end, a designer will save you time and money (and lots of aggravation). Return to the top.

When should I hire an interior designer?
If you’re having a hard time deciding what color to paint your dining room or you can’t decide what window treatments would be perfect for your living room, how to place existing furniture or artwork, or how to optimize your living space, it’s probably time to think about hiring a professional designer. Effective interior design involves layering all of the elements of design so that they evolve into the home you’ve always dreamed of. Return to the top.

How do I find an interior designer?
Some great ways to find a designer are to ask friends or relatives who have worked with a designer, browse the internet, including professional websites such as The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and peruse interior design magazines for designers who’s work is featured. Another good option is to visit showhouses to view the work of local designers. You’ll want to take paper and pencil to note rooms or details that “speak” to you—a particular drapery trim or an unusual accessory. Make sure you look at all of the design spaces—both large and small—to get a sense of the designers’ style. What are your first impressions of the room? Are all of the details of the room carefully appointed? Take a business card or room photos/postcards for the designers whose spaces appeal to you.

You should also ask questions of designers before making your choice: Where did you go to school? What professional organizations are you affiliated with? When did you first become interested in interior design? (Chances are, for a designer who is truly following his/her “calling”; it has been a lifetime passion). How did your current clients find you? If designers’ clients come from referrals or from seeing their work, chances are these designers are reputable not only for their design talent, but also for their personality and ability to work with clients—a key factor in the interior design process. Return to the top.

After deciding to enlist the help of a professional, what should I do next?
First, you should determine your most immediate needs: Do you want to finish your house from the entry inward? Do you want to complete your master bedroom for a peaceful repose? Are you consulting with an architect or builder on new construction or renovation? Next, you should acknowledge your decorating/design budget. Since a designer can save you from making costly mistakes in the first place, you should hire a designer at the onset of any decorating project—large or small—even if that means only paying for a few hours of consultation and then tackling the rest on your own. Return to the top.

How should I prepare for my first meeting with an interior designer? 
The heart of any good design project is your own wants and needs, so the first thing you should do is to get “centered.” This means having a clear vision of how you want your home to look and feel. You can do this by writing down your thoughts or collecting pictures from magazines, books, and other sources of rooms and spaces that appeal to you. I can often tell a lot about a new client from his/her existing art collection and wardrobe preferences. The goal is to explore what’s in your soul and blend it into your décor. The role of an interior designer is to facilitate this process. Return to the top.

How do interior designers bill for their services?
Interior designers generally charge an hourly fee for consultation time plus a fee for each item purchased through their firm. This can be a “cost plus” fee, a “list price” fee, or some combination of the two. Designers make their money consulting and finding pieces for clients. Some designers charge a flat fee to cover all of the consulting they do on a project.

No matter how you and your interior designer decide to work together, the bottom line is that design is not free. Talented designers can make a project seem easy, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t spent a great deal of time on it. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. An interior designer will and should save you time and money, even if the fees and items seem expensive in the beginning. Return to the top.

How long will it take for an interior designer to complete my project?
Though a common question, it’s virtually impossible to answer. Every project is different and largely depends on how you want to utilize the designer’s (and your own) time. How well you translate your ideas to the designer (those you can articulate easily and those you communicate non-verbally), how well the designer listens to your ideas, and how involved you want to be in the design process all affect completion time. You are the prime factor in how long a designer will take to deliver the completed rooms. It’s better to take the time to do it right than to rush the process and be disappointed with the result. Return to the top