You’ve likely heard a few different sayings tossed around when it comes to planning… “Plan your work and work your plan”… “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”… or my personal favourite “a goal without a plan is just a wish”… but I digress. The point is, starting your home renovation project, without a solid plan can lead to mixed results. Furthermore, when it comes to designing a plan for your home renovation, not all interior designers are equal.

But, if I were to ask you “what should you consider when hiring an interior designer for your home renovation project?” what would your response be?

If you’re unsure or don’t know what information is important or relevant, then this article is for you. Within this article, we’re going to uncover everything you should consider before you hire an interior designer. We’ll cover:

  • Clearly and concisely outline the key differences between an interior designer and an interior decorator
  • Give guidance as to what you should expect of the project process from your interior designer
  • Openly and transparently answer how much an interior designer may cost and cover interior designer pricing models
  • Talk about how to determine the quality of the interior designers you’re considering hiring
  • Review what to look for when it comes to the experience of an interior designer you’re looking to hire
  • Cover how an interior designer should work with you to ensure your design project matches your style
  • And, outline Hammerdown’s strengths and expertise when it comes to interior design projects

With a lot to cover, let’s get started!

Interior designer versus interior decorator, what’s the difference?

The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live.

In short, an interior designer has an understanding of how you will use the physical space available in your home – the delicate balance between functionality and form. An interior decorator can increase the aesthetic appeal of a predefined room. More often than not, interior designers are also skilled decorators. However, interior decorators lack the ability of an interior designer.

Key differences between interior designers and interior decorators

  • Interior designers work closely with architects, contractors, and engineers to bring a client’s dreams to life; whereas interior decorating doesn’t involve the structural components of a home but involves the placement of furniture and items within the home
  • Interior designers are part of the planning, designing, and building process of your home renovation. In contrast, interior decorators are brought into the project after the renovation is complete to select colours, textiles, and accessories.
  • Interior design is part an art form and science combined to ensure your needs are met while you live in your home; whereas interior decorating is strictly an art form and while decorating also has a lasting impact, it plays more into our stylistic wants

If you’re starting a renovation of medium or large scale and your “designer” refers to themselves as an interior decorator, chances are they won’t have the required expertise to pull off your project.

You should consider your designer’s interior design process

Consider how an interior designer will work with your style and taste, before hiring an interior designer

It’s essential to understand how your designer will work with you to achieve your desired outcomes. The steps an interior designer needs to take to ensure your renovation is done well are critical to the success of your home renovation.

  1. Initial interior design consultation – where your interior designer will get to know you, your home, and your needs. Most designers will discuss your renovation, layout options, materials, and approximate cost during the appointment
  2. Design contract – after the consultation your interior designer will supply you with a contract that includes all the details of the project for your signature
  3. First interior design meeting – during this part of the process, your interior designer will present floor plan layouts, options for materials, and renderings of your space. Your feedback is encouraged
  4. Second interior design meeting – with your feedback in place, your designer will provide you with final drawings, details of selected materials and finishes, and project renderings
  5. Home renovation project quote – if your interior design team are design-build contractors, and you’ve expressed interest in moving forward with the renovation project after the interior design project is complete, you’ll be presented with the renovation quote, based on all of the details found in your interior design project

While this isn’t the exact process that every interior designer will follow, if their process seems a little thin on the details, has way too much detail, or seems to be out of order – treat this as a red flag. If your interior designer tends to use a lot of insider language if they are unclear, or difficult to understand – proceed with caution.

Consider the price your interior designer is charging

Consider your interior designer's process before you hire an interior designer

We don’t doubt that the cost is a factor in your decision when hiring an interior designer. While it can play a significant role, it shouldn’t be the only factor. If your interior designer isn’t established or experienced the cost of working from the plan they create for your home can far exceed the cost of a reputable interior design company.

If you are curious as to the cost of working with an interior designer, please check out our recent article that covers precisely that! In the article “How much does interior design cost in Winnipeg?” we cover ballpark cost estimates for the various design projects by space in your home. We also dig into other things related to interior design costs like:

  • What you should receive as assets once your design project is wrapped up
  • Where Hammerdown’s interior design services fall within the cost range
  • Advantages of working with an interior designer that’s part of a design-build renovation company.

Consider the timeline before hiring an interior designer for your project

In addition to the interior design cost consideration, the timeline for your project should be something your interior designer should openly discuss with you. If they are vague on the timeline or how long it’s going to take them to respond to you, chances are you’re going to encounter communication problems throughout the project.

How long should an interior designer take with your project?

In most situations, our interior design projects run from 3 weeks to 3 months. In situations where the timeline is extended, it’s due to scheduling conflicts, as we will need access to your home to take measurements and review engineering details. As well, the length of time is dictated by the project size – ie: the timeline for a bathroom interior design project will be much shorter than a whole home interior design project.

Consider how your interior designer will work with your budget

Your interior designer will have their pricing structure for the design portion of the project. However, for the solutions they provide, are they consciously aware of the budget for when you take their design into the building stage? And that goes both ways – if you haven’t told them the budget you have to work with for the renovation portion of the project, they won’t be as effective.

As part of your communication for the project, your interior designer should understand the budget you have to use. If they suggest high-end finishes and materials in the design process, that your budget can’t support, the outcome won’t satisfy either party. 

Along with that, the interior designer should get to know what your wants and needs are from your home at an intimate level. Armed with this knowledge, they will help suggest areas to splurge and areas to save. One of the strengths of a great interior designer is being able to allocate a renovation project budget, so that the homeowner gets the most from their home, in the areas they want to focus on. Creative solutions at full force.

Consider the quality of your interior designer’s past work

“You’re only as good as your past work last game”… sure, I changed the meaning of that sports adage, but in the interior design world, it also rings true. And, of course, I realize this consideration might be a no-brainer, but the importance of it is worth mentioning.

A whole home interior design project - showcasing the view from the dining room table looking into the family room, kitchen with large island and down the hallway

I’m going to assume you’re in the same boat as us, that your home is your number one investment… so, letting anyone without proven expertise tell you how to change your home can be a big risk. Most interior designers should be able to show you their past work or a portfolio of what they’ve done.

This gives you the perfect opportunity to consider things further…

  • How do they talk about past work or clients? Is it with genuine enthusiasm? 
  • Ask them questions about their favourite design… and why it’s their favourite?
  • Point out a specific part of their past work and ask them why they made the choices they did.

Your interior designer should be able to answer these questions. If you ask them about their work, you should receive forthcoming answers. If you sense they are trying to hide certain aspects, also consider that. As much as you’re both building rapport with each other, you must also remember that they should be able to answer questions like these to earn your trust.

Source out recommendations and reviews before hiring an interior designer

Now, some individuals are natural communicators. Part of evaluating past work before hiring an interior designer should involve the Internet. Dig into their website, and their social media profiles, and check review websites like Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews, and other third-party home renovation review websites. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. If you do your due diligence now, you’ll encounter fewer surprises later.

Consider your interior designer’s experience level

While experience isn’t everything – we all need to start somewhere right? – it’s still worth looking at your interior designer’s experience level before hiring them. If they are fairly new to the industry, say with under five years of service to their name, that isn’t necessarily a problem. Do they have a mentor, supervisor, or manager? If so, how do they interact with each other? Ask questions about how much oversight their manager provides… or better yet, meet them, as well.

Interior design for a luxurious ensuite bathroom with custom tiled wall and fireplace looking into the master bedroom

Another aspect of the level of experience your interior designer may possess is experiences with a specific type of design. Ask questions about their background – how did they get their start? What spaces do they typically design within a home? There can be some stark differences between providing interior design services for a kitchen versus a bathroom. 

Make sure you have a full understanding of their experience including where they have experience within residential interior design.

Consider the support your interior designer has

Does your interior designer work independently? Do they have a team to bounce designs around? There can be advantages to both situations, but most times, the more brainpower given to a specific project, the smoother it goes.

Will there be a second set of eyeballs to review the design? Even the most seasoned interior design professionals can make an error. If they work as part of a team – ie: a design-build team, is there an opportunity for their work to be peer-reviewed? If they are independent, ask them what occurs if there is an error with their work. 

What are your plans for your home? Chances are, you’re not hiring an interior designer to only have some measurements and beautiful renderings of what your home could be. What’s your plan once the interior designer finishes the project? Are you going to renovate your home?

Hiring an interior designer that works with a design-build team can help transition from “designing” to “building”. However, just because the interior designer has a preferred home contractor they work with, doesn’t mean the contractor is right for you. If you plan to work with them, it can be a good idea to meet with the contractor at the start of and throughout the interior design project. Of course, the easy solution to hiring several independent contractors is to work with a design-build team that has all of the expertise in-house (did I mention we have interior designers, residential renovation project managers, skilled tradespeople, and contracting production leads?)

Consider how your interior designer will work your style

Interior design palette for a kitchen design, created by our interior designer

The final consideration in this article is how your interior designer will work with your style. Your interior designer will likely have a sense of style. Depending on the individual, they might try to push their ideals into your project. But remember, this is your home they are designing!

However, there can be a fine balance between suggesting ideas and working within the style you see. An interior designer with little or no ideas isn’t an ideal situation. If you feel like you’re driving the project, this can be a red flag. 

In the perfect scenario, your interior designer will:

  • Gather all of your input and will help you decide if you’re getting what you want, and not just want you think you want
  • They will show you options. They will not be discouraged if you don’t like something they’ve designed (they should check their egos at the door)
  • There will be creativity present – they are professionals. An interior designer is there to act as a guide to transform your existing home into the home of your dreams

If you’ve considered all of the things in this article and the interior designer you want to hire checks the boxes, it should be a sound decision. However, if you’re on the fence or your gut-feeling senses something is off, take time to re-evaluate your choices. If you need a second (third or fourth) opinion, we will gladly discuss your interior design project with you.

Hiring an interior designer? Hire Hammerdown for interior design!

If you’re interested in starting the conversation for your interior design project, we make it easy to reach us. Give us a call at 204.793.0500 or online through our contact us form. We look forward to talking with you soon, and we thank you for considering Hammerdown for your interior design project!