Top 5 Essential Qualities of an Excellent Home Designer

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Selecting a home designer that can help you turn your dreams into a reality can be complicated. Designers build a reputation around their work. Apart from photos in a portfolio, you should be armed with questions that will show you whether a home designer has what it takes and will work well with you. When looking to do a full remodel or just your kitchen or bath, there are some essential qualities to consider when selecting a designer.   We have listed a few here: 

1. A Good Understanding of How Long a Project Will Take

Every home design is going to be different. Since there isn't a template for how a home goes together, it is very important that someone be there to keep all the plates spinning and all the plate spinners on the same page. A good home designer can make it happen. You should look to your designer for advice at every stage of the journey. We'll give you some guidance here.

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Let's talk about small projects. Designing a small project like a bathroom or a small kitchen can take about two months from start to finish. This gives you enough time to be completely ready to order products and start construction. There are always opportunities for snags once the project goes to construction, so keeping the contractor and the design together is where the interior designer becomes an asset. Have a small kitchen you want to make bigger or remodel a kitchen that is already pretty involved? Something like this will take you a little longer. You'll probably need about three months to get through putting together the design for this one. What if your project is much bigger? If you are thinking about a full home remodel or new home construction the time frame is going to be more like six months. Bigger remodels or new construction have a lot that goes into them and need to be given as much time in the planning and designing phase as possible. Mostly, our full home remodel designs are within the six month window. With larger projects there are more plates in the air and therefore you will want to pay much closer attention to your plan. A good interior designer can keep you on track and make sure your project runs much smoother with only minor hiccups.

2. Clear on How They Charge for Design Time

As you get to know an interior designer, one of the questions you will ask is how they charge for their time. This may seem like a more obvious quality, but not one to be overlooked. Of course, depending on where you live in the country the hourly rates can fluctuate. There are really two ways that most designers charge for the service they provide and it can depend in large part on the size and scope of the project. One way is a set hourly fee that is attached to a scope of work like space planning, selecting finishes or actually drawing a design. The other way is a fixed rate that is based on the full scope of the entire project. This is usually based on the total square footage and is typically something you would see on a larger project like a full home remodel or a new home construction. 

A good home designer should be able to show you clearly what they will charge for your project. It should all be spelled out in the contract. They should also be able to easily give you a good estimate of what you are looking at in total hours using experience as a barometer for time frame for design time and total time to completion.  

3. A Good Understanding of the Process

Any home designer worth their salt is going to know this is the key to a successful home remodel. Knowing how to lead the client is very important. As a client you should be looking to the designer for all the answers. They should know the process of taking a project from scratch to completion like the back of their hand. They should also be able to walk you through it like a tour guide. The last thing you need when hiring an interior designer is someone who can't help you make decisions and can't help you plan for what's coming ahead. 

Here's the big picture:

After hiring your designer and discussing the dreams you have for your space, the first phase of the process is space planning. This is where your designer will measure the space to be remodeled and then they will draw up a design layout. Once you have settled on the final design layout, the next natural step is to select finishes. This can be done at various showrooms or depending on the scope of the project, at the designer's office. The designer will then meet with your contractor to make sure everyone is on the same page with your design and time frame for completing the work. Next, you'll meet with your designer to go through pricing on the finish materials and discuss the cost of the project. The final decisions will be made and then you will order products. Whew! That's a lot of work! Yes. This is why what we said above is so important. There are a lot of moving parts that need someone to give some direction. Finally, the product will be on their way while demolition starts and the construction begins. 

4. A Good Handle on the Finish Date

This can be very tricky, but a good interior designer should be able to confidently give you an estimated finish date for your project. It may be hard to get a clear sense of whether they can do this when interviewing designers on the front end.  One way to know if they are capable of knowing when the goal finish date should be is by asking them about past projects they worked on like yours. Their answers will be a good indication of how much confidence you should put in them. 

In order for a designer to get a proper perspective on how to calculate a finish date they have to be able to coordinate three schedules. The reality of a remodeling project is that the contractor, designer and client have to be on the same page for sometimes months at a time. It gets tricky when the contractor is working on multiple jobs at once. It can create a stall and the designer should be the one to make sure the project continues to move ahead. This leads us into our last and sometimes most important essential quality of an excellent home designer.

5. Knows How to Keep the Project on Schedule

 It wouldn't be reality if there weren't setbacks. These are common when working with measurements, time frames and let's not forget ... people. From the beginning you will experience highs and lows that are natural for taking a journey like designing a new home. You will wander off on rabbit trails while trying to decide if you want this faucet or that one, but an excellent home designer should be able to reign you back in and help you with your vision. One key ingredient is having all the decision makers in the family at every meeting. Especially in the beginning stages, there are a lot of decisions to be made and plans to be set. Having everyone there helps to build a foundation for a successful project moving forward.

Having a clear plan and knowing the process of great design is how an excellent designer takes your vision for your home and turns it into reality. These are five of the top qualities that make an excellent home designer, but there are many more supporting these five. In your search for an interior designer, spend the time on the front end to find someone who really understands you and wants walk alongside you to help in achieving your dreams. 

Posted on February 13, 2014 and filed under Interior Designer.