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  • Writer's pictureAngela Chang

What to Expect When Hiring an Interior Designer

Updated: 3 hours ago

by Angela Chang | April 7, 2024 | Designer Talk


Hello there! I'm Angela Chang, and over the years, I’ve helped clients transform their spaces into reflections of their personalities, aspirations, and needs. But let me tell you, the journey with an interior designer is so much more than just following the latest trends. It’s a deep dive into your lifestyle, aspirations, and even challenges in order to create a space that’s not just visually stunning but deeply personal and functional. Today, I want to give you an insider’s peek into what truly goes into working with an interior designer, and yes, it’s way beyond just picking the right shade of paint or the trendiest furniture.

The Heart of Design: Understanding Our Role

Interior design is more than decoration; it's about finding that delicate balance between art and science. As Robin Mathew aptly put it, "Design is where science and art break even." This discipline demands a deep understanding of space, form, and function. It's about comprehending architectural structures, optimizing spaces, and creating environments that are not only beautiful but also functional.

Interior designers typically undergo formal education and training in architecture, design principles, space planning, building codes, and project management. We delve into how a space feels and functions, ensuring it is not only aesthetically pleasing but also safe and functional. This intricate process involves translating your desires and aspirations into tangible, living environments that enhance your quality of life and meet all necessary safety requirements. Let’s explore the nuanced distinctions and approaches that elevate interior design beyond simple decoration.

Hiring an Interior Designer V.S. Decorator

The distinction between interior design and interior decoration is fundamental yet often misunderstood. Interior design is a multifaceted profession that involves conceptual development, research, space planning, and programming, as well as the management and execution of the design. Decoration, on the other hand, primarily focuses on the aesthetics of a space, including the selection of color schemes, furniture, and decorative accessories, to create a visually appealing environment.

Decorators may or may not have formal education or certifications and often rely on their artistic sensibilities and personal style preferences. For selections limited to furniture and décor, an interior decorator can aptly fulfill your needs. However, for new constructions and significant renovations, starting with an interior designer ensures a seamless flow from the initial concept to the final touch, significantly impacting the project's timeline, budget, and ultimate aesthetic appeal. The distinction between needing an interior decorator and an interior designer can hinge on the scope of your project. Knowing who to hire for your job is very crucial for the success of the project.


Design Style Compatibility

Design style compatibility is key in interior design. It's important for the designer to understand the client's aesthetic preferences and vision for their space. Before you hire an interior designer, it's a good idea to review projects on their website or social media to see if their aesthetics align with yours. As the saying goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." If the designer's aesthetic preferences differ significantly from yours, it may be challenging for them to understand your vision. With so many beautiful styles available, you want to find the styles that not only speak to you but also define you.

Your First Meeting: A Personal Exploration

Your initial meeting with a professional interior designer is a voyage into your lifestyle and preferences, ensuring that every aspect of your life is considered in the design process. Don’t be thrown off if you get asked whether you and your partner sleep in the same bed or need multiple master bathroom toilets. It's often joked that designers and therapists have a lot in common. The client-designer relationship is focused on creating environments that deeply reflect your way of life, work, and leisure. From selecting pet-friendly fabrics and ensuring accessibility for the elderly to choosing durable materials for active children, understanding your lifestyle is essential for designers to enhance your living space effectively.

As a seasoned interior designer, I place immense value on selecting materials and furniture that not only enhance the beauty of your home but also support your daily life. The goal is to avoid scenarios where style trumps functionality, leading to premature replacements. It's about creating a space that's not just visually appealing but also a perfect match for your lifestyle's demands. This thoughtful consideration in the early stages sets the foundation for a home that truly feels like yours, blending form with function seamlessly.

As Steve Jobs Once Said, "Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works."

Designing Together: A Collaborative Journey

Design is a partnership where every client's level of involvement shapes the journey. Whether you prefer to be hands-on or to await the grand unveiling, the collaborative process ensures your vision and lifestyle are at the forefront. Take, for example, a client eager to infuse creativity into their living space. By diving deep into their lifestyle and art collection, we transformed an overlooked kitchen corner into a lively art nook, embodying our joint creativity at every turn.

Our collaboration extends beyond the client-designer relationship to include architects, engineers, and contractors, ensuring our designs not only look good but comply with all legal and structural standards. Interior design is about crafting an entire experience, from the architectural framework to the smallest accessory, making every space not just a place to live, but a sanctuary that mirrors and enhances your way of life.


The Expertise You’re Investing In

Choosing an interior designer means you're investing in a partnership grounded in deep expertise. Our training encompasses the comprehensive technicalities of design, from navigating building codes and safety regulations to mastering construction techniques.

In states such as Florida, licensed interior designers must pass exams and obtain certifications, such as the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification), and obtain Continuing Education Credits to renew their licenses. Moreover, working in commercial buildings, such as hotels, restaurants, and offices, requires registration by the Board of Architecture and Interior Design in the state of Florida. While licensing is not required to design residential projects, you will want to hire licensed interior designers for your commercial projects.

A licensed interior designer holds an NCIDQ certification underlines our unwavering commitment to uphold the highest standards of interior design, emphasizing safety and aesthetic functionality. They are skilled in preparing plans and specifications for non-load-bearing interior construction. This includes material finishes, space planning, reflected ceiling plans, furnishings, fixtures, and equipment. All these elements are essential in designing interior spaces that enhance and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. This certification isn't just a title; it's our pledge to approach every design challenge with a blend of professional acumen and creative ingenuity, ensuring that each project adheres to stringent quality benchmarks.

Embracing Technology

The digital revolution has greatly transformed our approach to design, making it more interactive and immersive. Virtual walkthroughs and 3D renderings allow us to explore and experiment with designs in a dynamic environment. The technology brings a level of clarity and involvement that was previously unimaginable. 

I've embraced technology in my practice, using it to communicate design ideas more effectively and to streamline the design process. For example, a client uncertain about finishes and furniture selections gained confidence after visualizing their choices in a 3D-rendered space. Technology bridges the gap between vision and reality, ensuring every decision is made with sufficient insight and assurance.

Today, on top of all the 3D modeling programs, we have AI-integrated rendering software that helps us reduce the long processing time of rendering. I even heard of an AI-integrated brain scanner that can draw images you are thinking in your mind. Imagine that! As professional designers, we strive to educate ourselves about these new technologies to better serve our clients.


The Nitty-Gritty: Managing Your Project

Effective project management is the cornerstone of turning design concepts into tangible realities. In commercial settings, there is usually a project manager on the client side and another project manager for the whole Design & Build Team. They are there to keep every Team Member in check. For residential projects, interior designers are usually the Design Team, the Project Manager, and often the representative of their clients. Budgets and timelines are important, and so is the stewardship of your vision and trust. 

Good designers take great pride in steering each project through its logistical challenges, ensuring everything aligns perfectly with the agreed-upon schedule and financial plan. One of my past projects was on the brink of delay due to long product lead times and shipment disruptions. By reorganizing the installation schedule and leveraging creative interim solutions, we not only stayed on track but also maintained the integrity of the original design.

After the Reveal: Ensuring Continued Satisfaction

Our journey together doesn’t conclude with the final reveal. Post-project support is often overlooked but crucial in ensuring that the space continues to meet the client's needs over time. Whether it involves minor adjustments as your needs evolve or planning for comprehensive future renovations, a great designer should be there to ensure your space remains a perfect fit. 

Consider the story of a downtown Sarasota condo project. The client, passionate about art, wanted the freedom to update their collection without constraint. To support this desire, we collaborated with a local art gallery offering a unique buy-back program for artworks, granting store credit equivalent to the original purchase price. This arrangement allows the client to refresh their art collection at will, with only delivery fees to consider. A designer's ongoing engagement with clients like this reflects our commitment to making every space we design a true embodiment of the lives lived within it, adaptable and responsive over time.

Conclusion: Crafting Spaces That Tell Your Story

Embarking on a design journey is an exploration of your identity and aspirations. It’s about creating a backdrop for your life’s most cherished moments. Your space should be a reflection of your journey, replete with elements that tell your unique story. Whether it’s the comfort of a well-loved reading chair or the efficiency of a thoughtfully designed kitchen, every detail contributes to the tapestry of your home.

By understanding what to expect when hiring an interior designer, you can ensure that your design journey is smooth and rewarding. In the realm of design, the blueprint is just the beginning. The true magic lies in the stories we weave together, transforming spaces into settings for life's most beautiful moments.


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