What the Press Says



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 label​s 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:






Donna Paul gives the scoop on Designer Previews

 June 27, 2014.

Many in the industry knew Designer Previews when it was run by Karen Fisher, an interior design expert and trend forecaster. She created one of the most widely used “matchmaking” services pairing residential and commercial clients with designers and architects. After she died three years ago at age 72, design journalist Donna Paul took the reigns as the official owner and president of the New York-based company, and has since expanded the business to include branches in Los Angeles and Miami.

“We knew [Designer Previews] was a business that had been such an important part of the design community in New York that it shouldn’t lapse,” said Paul.

Paul follows the same process Fisher did. She meets with clients who are looking for residential redecoration or restaurateurs wanting a fresh space for a new restaurant or store owners looking into new retail ventures, and discusses the goal, budget, aesthetic and scope of the project—then finds the solution.

“I see their spaces and do a presentation for them of various designer’s portfolios that I think fit their vision,” said Paul. “It can take one visit, it can take two. I tell all my clients, I’m ‘theirs’ until we find the right designer or architect for them. I talk with clients many times on the phone if they need me, and it can go on for weeks. I’m a therapist, a design consultant and ultimately the ‘connector.’”

This reporter chatted with Paul to learn more.

How did you know Karen Fisher? 

I met Karen in 1995, so I knew her for about 17 years. I was doing a book,  “The Home Office Book,” which was the first book on really stylish home offices (now so common, but back then, so new), and her office where she ran Designer Previews was fabulous. As everyone who met with her knows, she had a rent-controlled 500-square-foot penthouse in Gramercy Park with a terrace. I also wrote about that apartment in the New York Times Home section in 2000, when she had lived there for 20 years. She was an amazing person, a visionary and a dear friend. I took over Designer Previews in 2011 when she became ill and I purchased the business from her estate in early 2012.

How is Designer Previews different today?

The business is different now in the way I meet with clients, in their own spaces, which they prefer. I have to be more service oriented, and I don’t use the old book style portfolios for presentations, everything I show is on PowerPoint or on my iPad. And, I can easily travel all over the country if I need to, to meet clients.

Also, my website is much deeper—it has many more photos to look at and it has a blog where I write fairly long articles. Given my journalism background—I wrote about design for many years atMetropolitan Home, and other major shelter magazines—that is still part of who I am, so I enjoy writing blog posts that are real articles. I cover hotels, art shows and all kinds of topics that relate to design and lifestyle that I am passionate about and that I think my clients will resonate with.

What makes Designer Previews distinct from other “matchmaking” services?

People are overwhelmed in their lives, they have too much information coming at them and it’s a relief for my clients to have someone take away the pressure of sorting through websites—as I streamline the process for them. My clients are generally not people who want to, or have a lot of time to sit and scroll through websites. And, they like service. I can not only guide and help focus them, I knowledgeably answer their questions that no website can. There’s tremendous value in that for them. They also appreciate that I have vetted all the designers or architects ahead of time. Every year since I started there has been growth. I have a very good rate of success.

Why did you pick Los Angeles and Miami as the two new cities to launch in?

I chose L.A. and Miami as the two new cities to focus on based on the robust design communities in each—exciting work where important architecture and design is happening. They are very different, but the work I’ve found by designers and architects in each city is really spectacular. These are the innovators of our time. I personally have always loved the architecture of L.A., the work of the mid-century masters like Craig Ellwood, John Lautner and R.M. Schindler, which was thrilling when it was new.

Any other new initiatives coming down the pipeline? 

There will always be evolution within Designer Previews as the Zeitgeist shifts in terms of design. For now, I’m staying focused on my new sites and giving attention to new clients, wherever they are. And, I like to stay connected to the talented team of designers and architects who have chosen to be represented by me. They continue to inspire me so that I can work hard. Design is a 24/7 business.  Samantha Snowden- EDITOR AT LARGE


Inspired by New Design Talent
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Design Matchmaker + President, Designer Previews
Donna Paul
Designer Previews
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Right now, I’m inspired bynew design talent! I’m constantly surprised by their individuality, ingenuity and seemingly endless supply of fresh ideas brought to their work.
I feel most creative when I’m looking at extraordinary art. It can be fashion, a dance performance, an extraordinary drawing or painting—anything that takes genius and extreme talent to create.
My style icon is Diana Vreeland. Without question, she was one of a kind. Not only a great editor, she was a true teacher, imparting wisdom that was original and made one think. That she gave us everything she did is something I am still awed by. For example, “The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”
My piece of advice Don’t skimp on the important things. You get what you pay for. It’s important to remember when it comes to the essentials that make a difference in your life—food, your home, etc.
Everyone should own a museum membership to MoMA, one of the great places to see art and design in NYC.
I collect boxes. I have them from all over the world, and make sure each one is different. One is from the 1930s and made of different colored paper. I’ve found them in Morocco, Mexico, Italy!
My uniform is black and white. A crisp white shirt, black leggings and great boots.
I can’t travel without my camera.
The best way to make a statement is in your home. In your bedroom, have a sexy, yet subdued palate. Use the best, crisp sheets, Italian linen, splurge on the duvet and layer fabulous throws on top.
My next adventure is traveling to the Aegean islands. I try to find a new one to go to every year. There are very cool, small, chic design hotels on many islands, and I’ve found a new one or two to check out.



Designer Previews takes the stress out of finding the right interior designers. Since 1985 they have methodically signed on the best of world class designers and the most promising young talents. Designer Previews matches prospective clients with world-class designers or architects.       — Forbes Magazine


Designer Previews, a company that matches architects and designers with clients seeking to build custom homes. — New York Times


Their enviable stable of contacts makes Designer Previews second to none.  —  Robb Report


Anyone who needs an interior designer should start by calling Designer Previews. –New York Magazine


Designer Previews brings selecting an interior designer  into the 21st century. –Veranda Magazine


Designer Previews helps clients clarify what they want, how much they’ll need to spend and who can best realize their vision.    — Interior Design Magazine


Using psychology, taste, intuition, budget guidelines, Designer Previews matches clients with interior designers and architects suited to their personal tastes. They can tell you whether you’re art deco, contemporary chic or 1970s chintz. -Daily News


Designer Previews helps clients clarify what they want, how much they’ll need to spend and who can best realize their vision.” — “We think your choice of an interior designer is your most important decorating decision. We’ll help you make your  choice by showing you the designers and architects whose style and approach best reflects your needs. —  Layers of Meaning website

Designer Previews stands by itself as the agent for pairing designers and clients. — Hospitality Design

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