1. The most popular…”How much do you charge?”
Please keep in mind that every designer and design firm is different so charges will vary depending on your project and what area of the world you live in. Another thing to remember is if the individual you are interviewing is educated or just a hobbyist and how much experience they have. Lastly, make sure your designer is insured, if your state requires licensure that they hold what is necessary, and always request references.
At TAB, we are upfront and honest with our charges and like to offer options as well. We generally charge an hourly fee so you pay exactly for the time spent on your project. Normal practice with an hourly fee, is to pay an upfront retainer. This is an amount that is saved for the final design time-bill. The best way to explain this is that it is similar to when your rent an apartment, you pay the last months rent upfront. With TAB, if we finish sooner than expected and there is a remainder left in your retainer it can be applied to materials or what is left is returned.
The other option is when we estimate the amount of hours necessary for a project and do a set fee for a set amount of hours at a discounted rate that is paid for upfront. To be fair to all involved, when we are approximately 3-5 hours away from the agreed upon hours, we let the client know if we feel we can finish ahead of time (which they then get a refund for hours not used) OR that we will need more time. If more time is needed, we either have the client purchase another chunk of time or we can then go to an hourly rate from there. Yes, working with an Interior Designer is an investment but the end result will be worth it!
2. What’s your process?
Again, keep in mind that every designer and firm will differ in their processes!
The TAB process is (this is a quick general list…but not set in stone):
- Initial meet & greet. This is a time for you to get to know us & interview us as much as it is for TAB to get to know you! Like most designers, we do charge for this first appointment but we do roll this amount into the first design time-bill if we are hired to assist with your project. During this appointment, we will ask a lot of questions and review the scope of work you are looking to have done. If you want to save a designer time and save you money, make a list for them to have during this appointment of your likes, dislikes, wants, needs, and must haves. And if a client feels so inclined, they are welcome to send invites to their Pinterest boards or show anything that they have been saving for inspiration. At this appointment, a good Designer will get nosy at this and if we are potentially going to be working in a very personal space (ie a master bathroom and/or bedroom), we may get super nosy! The one question that will always be asked at this point is what’s your budget. This is important to share so your designer doesn’t propose something that you fall in love with, but is out of your realm…this wastes time which equates to money if no budget is given. Also, by sharing the budget, your designer should be able to say if what you are wanting to do is possible or not. In general (and this is for across the United States), the expense for an Interior Designer will be 15-18% of your total design project…our goal is to beat that but honestly it is the client who drives this number. If you have a significant other and you are not on the same page, that percentage can increase. If you are very indecisive, watch too much HGTV, and constantly make changes…the number will definitely increase. If you decide to hire a designer it is then time to stop incessantly scanning the internet and watching DIY/design shows and rather put the trust in your designer that they deserve and spend time with significant others or picking a hobby back up!
- Photos and measurements. Photographs of the existing elements are taken and measurements as needed for the project. This is obviously necessary for a remodel, but even important if just for new furnishings so we make sure to account for the right sizes and flow of a space.
- Finish meeting. Immediately after measuring, we initiate necessary drawings and go to town sourcing applicable items. This appointment can vary as we will then proceed depending on how the client feels most comfortable. Because many want to speed things along, this appointment can be longer as we do three options for every aspect and will have a lot to review. The other option that others may prefer is to work in phases, for example we may start in the dining room for phase one and not look at anything else until done in there. Either way we present via physical samples and/or mood boards that we will together discuss and narrow aspects down.
- 3D Renderings. Once materials and drawings are agreed upon, we then create 3D renderings (example above). Something to definitely keep in mind, renderings are for conceptual purposes only and not to be taken to be an exact replica of your home. These are computer generated and are to give as best an idea as possible. With that being said, this is the best way for individuals to be able to visualize what is in the head of your designer of your space to be! All while the above is being worked on, contractors and applicable craftsman will be going into your space to compile bids for the actual labor required. Sometimes we wait for necessary drawings to be approved so to get the best bids possible. Once you are satisfied with the design and materials, items are then purchased and received so to have them ready to go once work is ready to begin.
- Construction and/or Installation. Work at this point is done by your chosen contractor if you are doing a remodel. If your project strictly consists of new furnishings, we then arrange for installation. After all work is done, we will have your space professional photographed (at our cost) and then we drool as we are jealous of your new space!
3. Do you have a specific esthetic or design style?
This is a question that we get frequently though and my response is always that if you are hiring a true, educated Interior Designer we should not design to just one specific style. A real designer should be designing for each individual client and specifically for their wants and needs in any style or time period. Are we all experienced in French Provincial design…no because there are not a lot of requests for this but we studied the various time periods and are educated on the aspects if needed. Thankfully at TAB we have had the opportunity to work with some adventurous clients so if an eclectic black dining room (as shown above) is not your taste…that is fine because we did that for our clients that love it! If interviewing another Designer, my hope is that you hear a similar response as above…if not, you may be talking to a decorator and their fees should reflect as such.
4. Are you able to work around my schedule or Can you design for me if we live in a different state?
TAB is experienced in virtual design which consists of phone calls, zoom meetings, and virtual presentations. What this means is we are able to work with client from anywhere. We don’t necessarily work at all hours of the day, but we will do all we can to arrange for something that works best for you. Because of this, it also allows for us to work with individuals who don’t feel comfortable meeting in person (possibly due to covid) or because they are so busy they don’t have time to come to our office. We still follow our same process but when we are supposed to do the finish meeting, we may do a porch drop off or send samples to you to review. Virtual design does not work for everyone and that is perfectly fine if this does not interest you…but for those who are good with technology and are used to online shopping it should be a breeze! There is also e-design, this is an option for those that just want us to help with a layout of furniture or want the layout with a shopping list for items for their space…this is not for full remodels but rather a quick refresh which we are more than happy to assist with.
5. Can we see your previous work and do you have references?
WIth that being said though, if you come across a designer who has only worked for other firms or designers, please keep in mind that more than likely they can not use photos of the work they did there as it is copyrighted and propitiatory to whomever they worked for previously. You may also interview an individual coming straight out of school that only has class work to show…this is when the amount that they charge should reflect as such.
For TAB, we are active on Instagram/Facebook, Houzz, and we have our website (all links are found below) to check out. At your initial meet & greet we may show you projects that we are currently working on that are not online yet as well as ones that we can’t put online as of yet for various reasons. If interested, we can also show you some before and afters which are the most fun to check out! But we love showing of the fruits of our labors! We just ask to keep in mind no matter what designer you are looking at to work with…what you see online or in their portfolio may not be your cup of tea, but it is the creation for an individual who loves to return to that space on a daily basis. So basically, judge by the ability that the Designer has to have individuality, creativity, and imagination to offer different spaces for different specific wants and needs.