How to Work With an Interior Designer

Renovation Redefined
Renovation can be a four letter word for most homeowners. We all love the result, but the process however, can be downright overwhelming! I’m sure we all have friends who have had some work done in their home, and can tell you all about their construction horror stories!

Imagine this.

You sit down with your contractor and he’ll give you a rough idea of what to expect. You are, of course, excited because you have wanted to renovate your house for a long time and now that dream is really happening!

Or so you thought!

You discuss plans, pick out finishes, and daydream about your next dinner party (in your fabulous new home) while the contractor is talking about details you don’t understand. You feel rushed!

But then the work begins and your house is a disaster area – you have to squeeze into other rooms to live – and you have no idea what is really going on.

Scenarios could include: contractors not showing up on time, materials not delivered…wrong materials ordered, and the list goes on! And what’s worse – there never seems to be anyone in charge who can make the job run faster or smoother. You dread getting those phone calls that something might not be right, or they need to do “B” in order to finish “A”.

In other words, they need more money and time!

What you need is an expert.

Renovation projects don’t have to be this way. In fact, the process – when done well – can be a fun and enjoyable project that will leave you wanting more.

Thanks to more than 30 years of experience as a design professional, I have a real understanding for the needs of my clients. Having endured several renovations in my own home, I am extremely sensitive to the concerns of homeowners throughout the process.

I have also learned a thing or two along the way.

Read on to discover the basics of working with a designer. Knowing how it’s supposed to be done will let you know what to expect from your design professional – and tip you off if the designer you’re talking to is not savvy and experienced!

When your renovation project follows these steps – I promise the project is one that you will enjoy!

Total Project Management
The simple fact is- the more initial planning and understanding that happens before so much as a hammer is lifted, the more smoothly and cost effective the whole project will be. And hiring the right interior designer to design and manage your project is the most efficient way to get the results you desire! What’s more, by working with your designer, you are actually working with a professional staff of experts, and don’t need to worry about the overwhelming details of the project.

So what is involved in the process of working with a designer?

It is important to understand the entire process, and to be informed so that you can make the right choices. The number one skill to look for when hiring an interior designer is excellent project management skills. This is what guarantees all the players are in the right place at the right time.

Discuss the entire scope of the project.
Your designer will listen to your needs and wants – your “wish list” – and will help you refine the plan according to your lifestyle; ensuring that the project fits you to a tee, and that it’s done within your budget. Your designer will also help you understand what will happen during all the phases of construction, so you know what to expect while the various contractors are in your home.

It is important that you feel completely comfortable with your designer/project manager! You want someone who understands not only your need for the space, but your needs overall as an individual or family. Someone you can feel comfortable talking to and someone who is there when you need them.

These upfront discussions are an opportunity for you and your designer to get to know each other, and will give your designer an opportunity to really understand your specific goals.

If I’ve learned anything from the hundreds of projects we’ve done over the years, it is this:

Everyone’s set of circumstances is different, and no two projects are identical.

Your designer must get the full picture in order to achieve the desired outcome!

Plan the work
Planning is simply the most critical phase of the project, where the knowledge of an expert project manager is priceless! This is when your designer takes your initial vision and really brings it to life! At this time a design and budget proposal will be presented for your approval.

Professional Designers have extensive knowledge of the products, from both the practical and functional sides. Want bamboo flooring? Your designer will be able to tell you if you need a sub floor or sound insulation, to help you pick the best flooring manufacturer based on aesthetics, installation and maintenance issues.

They cover all of the things that you might not think (or know) to ask, or might not know about that particular flooring. That way you are not wasting money on something you might not like once installed, or that requires extensive maintenance down the road.

Also, your designer can help you facilitate unique design solutions for your vision. Perhaps there is an unusual water feature that you would like to install. The designer will figure out all the logistics and cost of that feature, while giving you a clear idea of whether or not you really want the feature after all!

Furthermore, your designer will select finishes and features that fit your budget, while giving you the aesthetic you want. It is their job to know all the different elements of your interior renovation- from construction to final finishes.

In addition to the actual design – the plan should include precisely what materials are to be ordered, each contractor’s responsibility, and a comprehensive budget proposal. The schedule should include the ETA (estimated time of arrival) for all materials, and the commencement dates of all contractors.

Work the plan
Once the plan is in place, you have one important job – relax! The job is now in the capable hands of your designer. The designer will see the entire project through to completion.

It’s your designer’s responsibility to prioritize the work flow, making sure the project runs smoothly throughout, and keeping the costs down. Again, when you hire an interior designer, you are really hiring a team of experts. They will work with an architect, contractors, and various contacts in both the state and local agencies, when a permit is required. They are able to address code issues and association rules, so that unnecessary mistakes are avoided.

Besides that peace of mind, you are also saving time and money. Having a solid plan in place before the work begins will reduce any unforeseen trouble. Your designer will know what steps need to be finished, and in what order, so that no one has to “double back” and change something.

Rolling with the punches
Another thing we’ve learned is that there is almost always something unexpected. This is where an experienced, professional team makes all the difference between a great project and an over budget, behind schedule disappointment.

We work in a lot of old buildings, and let me tell you, there is no end to the surprises hidden within those walls!

We were working with a client who was doing a major renovation – converting two condo units into one. Early on, we understood the complexity of the project, and while it was extensive, with the right team in place we knew we could handle anything that might come up!

What complicated matters however, was the fact that no one could locate the original architectural and mechanical drawings. So when it came time to knock the dividing wall down, we had no idea what was in the middle! Sometimes, despite all the initial planning and design work, you still need to plan for the worst case scenario.

And that worst case scenario is exactly what we found. The mechanicals that were there were not what we expected. The problem here was that our client wanted to move the kitchen to a different location, and that now meant that all the kitchen plumbing, gas and electric for the units would have to be moved.


At this point, we had two choices. Go back to the way things were, or move forward and deal with the problem.

The clients had their heart’s set on the original concept and so my team and I worked tirelessly to get that done!

The first step was a revision of the plans to work around the actual building plan. Because we had established a relationship with the association, and were familiar with the city protocol, new permits and plans were approved in no time at all.

In the end, our solution was successfully implemented and the project was completed to the Clients’ delight!

Refind Interiors
Having gone through the renovation process myself at my own home, I know what homeowners endure during this process. Because of my “hands on” approach, and personal involvement with all of my projects, most projects take less time to complete than you would think.

  • Are you ready to dive in and re-find your dream home within your current home?
  • Not happy with some aspect of your home, but just don’t know what can be done?
  • Need to make your new home your own?

Let’s talk. Contact me today for a no-cost, no-strings, no-obligation consultation.