Ten Questions A Designer May Ask You

Hiring an interior designer should be an exciting time for you.  However, if you’ve never used their services before, you may feel a little anxious or intimidated by the prospect of having a total stranger come into your home (and your life) and start analyzing everything you own.

Retro Interiors: Private Residence, The Bahamas

While most designers understand the dynamics of what they are walking into, I’ve found that most homeowners have a lot of questions and concerns about how it works.
To help those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of working with a designer, here is a list of some of the most common questions that your designer will likely ask you.

1.   How would you describe the overall look that you want to give your home?  This could range from casual to contemporary or traditional to transitional.  Some clients have certain keywords that they may have in mind such as coastal, cottage, vintage,  Mediterranean, eclectic, minimalist, etc.  Generally the designer is looking for a mental picture to begin the design strategy.

Retro Interiors: Private Residence, Las Olas Isles, Fort Lauderdale

2.   How is the space going to be used?  There’s nothing typical about how people live.  Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong.  I’ve had people convert complete bedrooms into closets, dining rooms into billiard rooms, etc.   Maybe you want the room to have multiple uses such as a great room for entertaining, gaming, media center and family gatherings.  Maybe the home office needs to accommodate overnight guests.  Maybe the dining room needs to be able to serve as card tables on game night.  This is where you need to be honest in the way you live so the designer can create something that will satisfy your requests.

Retro Interiors: Penthouse, Pompano Beach, FL

3.    
How do you feel about structural changes?  This could include adding windows, moving doorways, enlarging rooms, raising ceilings, etc.  Sometimes these changes can make a huge impact on the final result.

4.    How many people do you typically entertain? This can have an effect on the size of the dining room, the amount of seating in the living areas, the traffic pattern and layout of the furniture and also the types of surfaces selected.  Heavy traffic areas need surfaces that will take abuse and are easy to clean.  The same holds true for fabrics used on upholstery.

5.    Do you have any pet peeves or things you don’t like?  Let you designer know if you have certain colors that you favor or ones that you don’t like.  If you have preferences beyond that, such as types of patterns (florals, stripes, plaids, etc.), speak your mind.

Retro Interiors: Penthouse, Fort Lauderdale, FL

6.   Are there any special personal needs? Special needs include family or close friends that might have certain handicaps, pets, size of extended families during holidays, etc.

 
7.   Time Frame?  Do you have any deadline for having the work completed?  Is this date firm or just a desired date?  Keep in mind that by shortening the timeframe, you may be shortening the selection that your designer can choose from and also limits them on suggesting special treatments such as construction related improvements.  Also, if you don’t have any specific deadlines, the option of completing the project in phases is a possibility meaning the scope of the work could be increased to fit your financial situation over time.

Retro Interiors: Penthouse, Fort Lauderdale, FL

8.   How long do you plan on living here?  This is important so the designer can gauge the value of different options.  Those planning on moving in 4-5 years should invest less in a project than someone who his planning on spending a great deal of their future years in this home.  The only exception to this rule is if you have purchased an older home at a great price and you’re hoping to realize a profit on the resale.  In that case, construction costs may exceed the cost of furnishings but undoubtedly need to be done to bring the home up to a competitive standard.

9.    Do you need any specialty services included in the project? Specialty items would include things such as sound systems, media or security systems, special remote controlled devices such as the Lutron SmartHouse system, specialty plumbing or any other mechanical items that would require the coordination with an outside source to include in the project.

Retro Interiors: Private Residence, Fort Lauderdale, FL

10.    What is your budget? This is a bit tricky. Some clients feel they need to low-ball the designer thinking that designers always come in over budget.  Some throw out an unrealistic figure with no real intention of spending that much money.  The best advice here is to be honest.  Let your designer know just how much you are comfortable spending.  They can apply it in the best possible way to give you the biggest bang for your buck.  If you have no idea what things cost, again be honest.  A good designer should be able to give you some idea after discussing the scope of the project based on their previous experience.  But before you start handing over any deposits, it’s a wise decision to get all the costs lined up first so there are no surprises.

This will give you an idea of some of the more popular questions that we, as designers, like to know going into a new project.   Of course, you will have questions too and you should ask all of them without reserve.  Having no surprises during or at the end of the job will make the process much more fun and hopefully you will have built a lasting relationship that will follow you and your family through the years ahead.

For more information and tips on finding the right designer, check out my posts: http://retrointeriors.net/news/whos-driving-this-bus
http://retrointeriors.net/news/the-last-supper

Designer or Onliner?

Giving credit where credit is due, one of my coworkers, Mary Nowak,  presented this concept to me this week.  It seems in this digital age, everyone is trying to reap the rewards of shopping online instead of enlisting the advice of a designer or a local showroom.  Apparently it’s just as easy to get a sofa online as it is a date.  But just how much are we willing to sacrifice to save money? And who really looks like their online picture.  In the past, hiring a designer was a luxury few could afford or so they thought.  Many people found it intimidating as their designers suggested items that were priced well outside their comfort zone.  It was a time when it was more about the name than the style and that usually meant a hefty price to go along with it.  High priced designers were making a killing…and it was our profession they just about buried.

Hiring a designer is no longer just for a lucky few, it’s now for the savvy.  Over the years, scores of well-established design schools and universities have churned out a sufficient number of talented individuals to make access to a designer more reasonable and in a more consumer-friendly environment than ever before.  This, in turn, has changed the way many people approach furnishing a new home. Designers have the ability to negotiate wholesale pricing and even with their fees added, the price is still less than retail.  Plus you have a designer on your side to help avoid mistakes.

But still there are those who feel compelled to shop online, forfeiting any type of personal guidance or service in hopes of saving a few dollars.  For smaller, disposable items, it can make good sense but buying an item of value online can be a little like Russian roulette.  Who cares if the sofa you ordered online doesn’t fit?  Just put it in your next garage sale. What if the fabric looks terrible in person?  If there’s a defect or damage in shipping, or if the item breaks after only a few months, you will probably wish you had someone local to call to make the problem go away.  And the only person with a vested interest in your happiness other than yourself is your local designer or showroom.  I have a feeling when you call them that your call isn’t going to get rerouted to a customer service department in a third-world country.  (Peggy, can you hear me?)

Many better quality retail stores and design firms are eager to work with clients on smaller projects.  And this isn’t just because of the economy.  It’s because we have all gotten a little smarter over time.  We realize that helping a young couple with their first home and developing a relationship with them often results in future homes down the road.   It’s become the building block for smaller firms and for designers who are in the business for the long haul.  It’s residual business.   I have personally had clients start out with just a small living room and, over time, grow into several jobs for their relatives and also larger homes for themselves as their careers have blossomed.  When it comes to clients, a good investment always grows.

Onliners pride themselves on savings but in many cases, item for item, the prices end up about the same.  And if you have a problem once you get it home, you can usually resolve it easily and quickly.  Online companies often had hidden charges such as crating, in-home delivery, etc. that add to the price.  And it’s funny how they make you pay for it in full before you even take delivery.  Hmmm.

We all use online services for something.  Electronics, games, reviews, news and yes, even dates.  But a sofa or dining room set?  What if I answered the door and the sofa didn’t look anything like it did in the picture?  Ah, the date from hell.

 

First Impact-Making The Right Impression For Whom?

It’s not really something you learn in school, nor is it the kind of thing most clients would be willing to admit when furnishing their home.  But believe it or not, other people make their first impression of your home within 10 seconds of entering it.  And sometimes that impression is difficult to change   So the question is…should we be concerned with what they think?  To answer the question, we have to look beyond purely our own ego.

Drawing on my previous years of doing some high-end model homes for a couple of Florida’s leading builders, one of the key elements in home sales was the point of impact.  What does the potential buyer see as soon as they open their door?   This created one of the contributing factors to what has become a standard in home design…the open floor plan.

The open floor plan can easily make a home feel larger and customers can immediately envision a family-gathering lifestyle.  The cooking/eating area exposed to the entertainment area speaks of family meals and movies, weekend BBQ’s, birthday and holiday parties, and a place where the world is safe.  These are powerful mental images that turn lookers into buyers.

Keeping that in mind, it’s important to plan your furniture layout not to obstruct the view, especially if your pool or view lies in the background.   Furniture with it’s back facing the entry should be the smaller, lighter pieces such as chairs, and not your sofa.   Brighter homes give a sense of good health and well-being.  Colors, textures and styles all play an important role.  And don’t forget to dress the windows.  They are the frames for your picture.

So, first impact has an affect on sale/resale.  It also has an affect on value.  A home that has been well designed and furnished, more often than not will sell faster and for a higher price.  When people are buying a new home, they are not looking for the added expense of renovations or trying to figure out how to use the space.  It’s more than just a kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms to them.  It’s how they imagine living in it.  Or what it will be like to wake up to it on the weekends.  And trust me, the more beautiful and interesting it is, the more desirable it becomes.   So while you may think it’s not important to you what other people think, the day will probably come when you may want to rethink your position.

With the price of homes being what they are, who wouldn’t want their investment to look like more than they paid for it?

So it’s not really caring what other people think about your home but rather how they will subconsciously respond to it.  And if they can feel it, trust me, you can feel it.  And if there’s one person you should care about how your home makes them feel, it’s you.