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Have You Ever Hired a Designer or Decorator?

If so, how did it go?

There are so many nightmare stories “out there” that I had to think what causes this?  And how can I try to avoid these problems.

One word: Communication


I asked a group of people to share their experiences with me. I heard a lot of different stories but at the root of each one was a lack of communication between the designer and the client.

1. The Vision

I always try to get my clients to share what they are looking for with me.  Showing me inspiration photos help me understand  their definition of the style they are after.

If you tell me you want “modern”, in my head I see this:

Blog Modern

source: Jose Garcia Design

But you might be thinking this:

Blog Contemporary

source: Ownby Designs, photo by Mark Boisclair 

(Both of above photos are from Houzz)

So make sure your designer has a grasp on your vision, and make sure your designer shares his/her ideas with you.  I tell every client that if I show them a photo of something, they can reject it and not hurt my feelings–this is how we narrow down the look.  (FYI I classify the first photo as “modern” and the 2nd as “contemporary”)

2. Billing

Nobody wants surprise bills.  Make sure you understand how your designer is going to bill you.

I charge an hourly rate when I am on-site with my clients.  Also when we are shopping together, or if I am shopping on their behalf.  I do not charge for any of my office hours. A lot of designers will charge you for every 10 minutes that they are “thinking” about you.  This is perfectly ok, it is quite acceptable in some parts of the country.  If your designer does this, just make sure that you know it ahead of time in order to avoid any surprises when the bill comes.  Maybe even had a discussion about how many hours the designer believes they will be spending on your project in their office.  Set a limit and agree to discuss if that number is going above the original set amount.

Are phone calls between the both of you billable hours?  What about time sending emails to you or on your behalf?  Knowledge is Power, know the answers to these questions in the beginning.

I also try to make my invoices as clear as possible with as much detail as possible.

4. Purchasing Items

Many designers have access to products that are To-The-Trade only.  You cannot get these items on your own.  Your designer may be buying these items at wholesale or at some other discounted price.  It is their decision how they will markup and resell these items to you. For example some will markup their cost 30%, even if their discount is only 10% off the MSRP.  This aspect of my business has just been launched, and I have given much thought on how I will handle this situation.  I have settled on being as fair as possible with my clients.  I will split the savings I receive 50/50 with my client, if the savings is greater than 10% off of MSRP.   Again, this falls under the category of being open with my clients.

5.  Contractors

I’ve heard stories that some designers will recommend a contractor that they have not properly vetted.  These situations usually turn out ugly and the client will end up with residual problems that need to be corrected later.

I only recommend specific contractors if I am involved in the project.  I will suggest a specific contractor because it is one I have worked with or one that comes very highly recommended from proper sources. If I am not going to be involved with the project, ie, I only provided a consultation for the clients, I will not suggest any contractors.  I consider “my” contractors part of “my” team and we have a great working relationship.

If you end up choosing your own contractors, you should interview them to find out some information about them.  An excellent article by Christian D. Malesic about how to choose the right contractor  appeared in the magazine “at HOME in York”, Fall 2014.   Here is a link to the Fall 2014 edition of the magazine.

Have a great week, and keep those lines of communication open with your designers!