FINDING THE RIGHT DESIGN PROFESSIONAL
Thinking of hiring an interior designer but don’t know where to start? Here’s your answer. After a stellar career in photo journalism and stints at Metropolitan Home, The New York Times, Elle Decor and pretty much every shelter magazine you’ve ever heard of, my old friend Donna Paul is now plying a career’s worth of insight at her new company, Designer Previews. Essentially a therapist for homeowners, her job is to find the right professional, whether designer or architect, for your project, no matter how big or small.
Designer Previews works with homeowners of all kinds: whether you live in an apartment, condo, country or suburban house, no matter what size or style. Her role is to eliminate the daunting and overwhelming process of finding the right design professional. Today there is an overload of information about how to renovate, build a new house, or simply redecorate a few rooms. The Designer Previews website is the starting point. Have a look for ideas and to see a range of styles. The rest of the work is done in person. Donna will present portfolios of interior designers or architects to review and discuss together. Your questions are answered and she’ll make sure to find the right designer for your project.
I asked Donna what clients need to know when considering hiring a design professional and here are her answers to the questions she’s most frequently asked.
1. How do I know how to explain my style?
Clients ask me to help them identify the style they want for their home. They hear so much about “modern, contemporary or transitional” but they’re not sure what those words mean. My clients need help with those words, that are really just labels that often don’t describe what they really want. My job is to help them focus and find a designer who will understand what they want. It’s ultimately about the person, which leads me to #2:
2. How important is the personality of the designer we hire?
I always say that the most important thing is what I call, “the click”. What I mean by that is the chemistry between the homeowner and the designer. I actually advise people, that even if they love the work seen on the pages of a magazine or in the portfolio I show them, if they feel uncomfortable when they meet (or don’t click), don’t hire them. I advise that they don’t need to be your best friend, but you are going on a kind of journey with them, and it’s important to have good communication and the chemistry that just feels ‘right.
3. How does it work when hiring a designer in terms of budget and expense?
Designers have different ways of working. There is often a flat fee for the early stage, called the design and concept development. Sometimes that is billed at an hourly rate, again, it depends on the designer. After that first phase, when furniture, fabrics, and decorative items are ready to be bought, there is a percentage of mark up on goods that are purchased by the designer at a net (discounted) cost. That mark up can vary depending on the designer’s experience level, time in the business, and location. On average the mark up can be as low as 25% but is more often 30-35%.
4. We have some furniture we like and want to keep. Will a designer let us do that?
Yes of course. Any designer you hire has to understand your attachment to existing possessions, and that they must be worked into a new plan. A skilled designer can weave these existing pieces into your new look.
5. Why is working with Designer Previews better than a website? How are you different from a website?
Designer Previews is a personalized service. I’ll meet with you in your house or apartment, and talk through your goals. I’ll help you focus, where the internet can often create a sense of feeling overwhelmed with too much information that’s not easily clarified and often understandable. I interpret that for you in terms of your project. I’ll prepare a presentation of various designers portfolios, specifically for you, that I think is a good place to start. It can take one visit, it can take two. I’m yours until we find the right designer or architect.
photos of Designer Previews interiors: