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Hire an Interior Designer

Your home's decor is important for comfortable living. A professional designer can lead the way to a look you'll love.

Fact: A good designer can help you get the most from your space.

When you think about hiring an interior designer for the first time, two concerns may come to mind:

"It's too expensive."

"A designer will try to impose a style that doesn't reflect my personal taste."

Both are myths, according to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the oldest and largest national organization devoted to this profession. A designer can save you time and money in the long run by managing your budget as well as the work of other professionals, possibly saving you from hiring inexperienced or unscrupulous tradespeople. With a wide range of resources at their disposal, interior designers can frequently obtain products you can't find on your own, and they can also buy some products at a discount. Most designers are also quite willing to help you make the best of what you already have.

Although many designers enjoy tackling a project with creative carte blanche, most want the homeowner to contribute ideas. In a recent ASID survey, 69 percent of the designers polled said an exchange of ideas was "critical" to a project's success, and nearly half said the results were even better when clients brought a lot of suggestions to the table.

Clear communication with your designer is the best way to ensure that you'll get what you want. Here are some ideas for being prepared.

  • Decide how you really want to use the space. List all the problems that currently prevent you from fully enjoying the room. Take a photograph or two; you may be surprised at what they reveal.
  • Think about which existing design elements you want to keep, such as heirlooms, artwork, or a favorite piece of furniture. Identify the items you want to change or can live without. A good designer will try to relate each room to the rest of your house to create a harmonious whole.
  • Make a folder where you can keep pictures of designs you like. Identify the elements that drew your attention, especially colors and styles.
  • Visit furniture stores and showrooms for additional ideas, taking note of the prices. This will help you set a budget and compare the designer's charges to the account you'd spend on your own.
  • Consider your priorities and your lifestyle, as well as your budget and time frame. You may have to compromise in the end, but don't be afraid to keep a wish list of every extravagance; some little niceties may be easier or cheaper to add than you think.

Once you have a good idea what your goals are, you're ready to start interviewing for a designer who can help make your dream come true.

  • Ask family and friends, even co-workers, for recommendations.
  • Once you have a few names, schedule meetings to review portfolios and talk about your expectations and budget.
  • Check credentials and references.
  • Ask designers exactly how they charge for services. Some designers work for a flat fee; others charge an hourly rate plus a commission; and some work on commission alone (keeping a percentage of the amount you pay for furnishings).
  • Look for a professional who works with other clients like you -- someone who's willing and able to work on your terms. After all, it's your house. If you're not comfortable with the designer, you probably won't be comfortable with the results.

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