‘What do you call an interior designer who doesn’t finish on time, doesn’t do what you ask, and overcharges? Common.’
Jokes about interior designers may not be quite as common as those mocking lawyers or priests, but the cliches targeting our industry endure. We have to fight the mis-perception that we’re money pits- making clients buy things they don’t need, spending too much on what they do, and overcharging for the work. While I wish my industry only attracted the best + brightest, this is sadly not the case, but unlike most other industries, this work is not regulated; anyone can claim to be a ‘designer’, ‘decorator’ or ‘stylist’ and, with the exception of Yelp and other online bitch-pits*, face little to no repercussions.
I certainly am not the only competent design professional, far from it. There are many talented and highly ethical designers in our metro area that I would and do refer business to. However, in an effort to protect you from hiring the wrong ones, and experiencing the pitfalls of our unregulated industry, I’ve put together the top 3 matters to address with anyone you hire.
Photos– This is becoming more and more important as the use of stock photos increases. It’s too easy to download photos from the internet, put them on your website, and (by not crediting their origin), suggest the work is yours. It’s hugely unethical, a violation of intellectual property rights, and sadly, happens all the time. When interviewing a design professional, ask to see a portfolio (either online or hard copy) of their work- this is the best indication of the look, style and talent they’ll be bringing to your home.
Fee– You have a right to know what they are charging for, how much that is, and any arrangements they have with stores, vendors, and contractors. Many skim a reasonable percentage off the top (10-15%), many will outright rob you. Transparency is so important and any professional who doesn’t want, or isn’t willing to have an open and honest discussion with you regarding these practices is not someone I’d recommend working with.
Referrals– As you’d do for any other service provider, try to speak to people who have worked with them. Unfortunately, anything appearing on a website can be, flat out, made up, so while I think testimonials are wonderful, there’s no proof they’re true.
*Sites like Yelp seem less and less helpful and more and more a catalogue of everyone’s rants because they received bad service one time. Fun fact about Yelp? Once you register your business with them? You can never take it off.