Over the last 6 years working in interior design, I’ve realized that the worst stereotype of the industry does still apply: interior designers make you spend too much money. What’s worse is the corollary: interior designers make you spend too much money so they can make more money. While this is not true of all designers (or even most of them), I have been seeing it on some recent projects and it upsets me. Below is a guideline for anyone thinking of enlisting a professional, whether it’s an independent designer or one working for a store.
*If you’re interviewing independent interior designers, the key issue is transparency. You need to know from the very beginning how this person is being paid and by who. Most importantly, ask if the designer takes a commission or includes a mark-up on the items you buy. Many talented and ethical designers will do one or the other and would never recommend something wrong or unnecessary for the space simply to collect a check, so it certainly shouldn’t be a disqualifying issue; However, when I see a room with enough furniture and decor to fill out two rooms, I start to be suspicious. You should too.
*If you’re working with a designer employed by one of the big name home stores like West Elm, Crate & Barrel, etc. transparency can be a little trickier- their job is to sell so you can hardly fault them for pushing the product. My recommendation:
- After completing the room’s plan (including everything they recommend you buy), ask them which 3 items they could remove and still achieve the desired functionality and style.
- Ask where to cut price corners. In every room, there are big ticket items you should splurge on* as well as those you can find for much less. I’ll tell you right now that if a designer insists you should be splurging on side tables or lamps when you’re on a tight budget, I would be very suspicious.
- Examine logically how many pieces of furniture they’re saying are necessary. A living room does not need a side table for every seat or multiple coffee tables (even if you have two sofas). A master bedroom does not need a seating area if you know it won’t get used. You don’t need a degree in design to know that 4 side tables in one room is excessive.
*Generally speaking, the largest piece in any room is where you should be spending the most money.