Why work with an Interior Designer

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Why work with an Interior Designer? 

Interior Design is a luxury, being able to hire a designer is going to help one save time, and money and reduce stress. This service might not be for everyone but if you are considering working with an Interior Designer then this article might help you make the right decision for your project. 

There are many ways in which a designer can help you but establishing your scope of work is the first action item. I have put together a list of areas where someone might be looking for help from an Interior Designer:

-Establishing a color pallet for your home. This might include but is not limited to paint, flooring, and color for cabinets or furniture.

-Are you looking for art and accessories and maybe a new couch? This is a good fit for a department store designer. Many large big box stores offer free interior design services but keep in mind they are not going to be helping you pick paint or items that are sold outside of that particular store. They get paid to sell the goods on the floor and most likely work off commission. 

-Don’t have a big remodel but want to refresh your space? Space planning might be at the top of your list. This can involve buying new items like furniture and/or using some existing pieces. Maybe adding elements like window coverings or reupholstering older furniture to make it look new again.

-Looking to update a room? Maybe this entails a light remodeling with some aesthetic adjustments like adding a wallcovering, some finish carpentry, and selecting new lighting, rugs, or accent pieces. 

-Full remodel but you choose to be the project manager. Some Interior Designers will pull together a package for you and let you execute it on your own time. You are in charge of hiring the trades, organizing the schedule, returns, making sure damaged items get attention, and completing the project on your own. 

-New space completely?  This means knocking down walls, adding window and door openings, engaging an Architect and Structural Engineer, and pulling permits as well as selecting new countertops, kitchen cabinets, paint color, flooring, and maybe furniture and finish accessories.

As you can see there are many different ways in which an Interior Designer can be of service to your project, large or small. Most designers will take on projects of a certain type and size depending on how busy they are.  You can also find specialty firms that only design specific spaces like nurseries, kitchens, and bathroom remodels, for example. 

It will be beneficial for you and the Interior Designer that you clearly communicate your scope of work and expectations to ensure that you are a good fit for the project. Do you want a full-service experience? Do you need someone to take the bull by the horns and engage all your contractors, be at every meeting, and be at the job site when items get delivered? This is a big value if you are a working professional and do not have time to be on the job site to make decisions or receive deliveries.  Your Interior Designer knows exactly what you want and you hired them to be your advocate when you are not present. Not only is your designer coming up with a unique design that you have approved based on years of experience and your personal working relationship but she/he will also be able to help you execute the design ensuring you are able to get what you want, not be taken advantage of and help navigate the hurdles that come with all projects. 

This brings up the question of pricing. How do Interior Designers charge and where do they make their money? There is no formal rule about how this works in the world of design. Each designer has a formula that works for them but here is a list of ways Interior Designers can choose to bill and profit:

-Hourly: Every aspect of your project will be tracked in the form of time. Most designers will send over an estimated amount of design time they believe your project will take, based on similar projects. This means that if you do want your Interior Designer to be available to come to all your project meetings that time will be accounted for. This is why it’s important for you to communicate your expectations to the firm/ Interior Designer clearly so they can present you with an accurate estimate. For me personally, if we exceed this amount of estimated design time I have a conversation with my client and make it clear that more design time will need to be added in order to get the project completed. This is typically just an estimate for design fees and does not include purchases for items like furniture, accessories, installation, shipping, or delivery. 

-Flat Rate: Some firms will give you a flat rate design fee based on your project scope. This is rare to find but some designers feel good about charging a flat fee for your project based on square footage or scope of work. This is not a method I personally use unless working with a builder directly and have a very defined, limited scope of work. 

-Designer Discount: Yes, there is such a thing as a “designer discount”; no this does not mean you get access to your Interior Designers’ special pricing or “designer discount”. I don’t like to call it a discount because that leads the customer to believe they are also getting a discount when in reality this is where an Interior Designer has the opportunity to bring in some more revenue. The Manufacturers or Trade Partners that your Interior Designer has worked really hard to form relationships with will extend special trade pricing so that the firm is able to make more margin. While some designers will extend part of their discount to the client not all do and it’s not something that should be expected. They have the right to mark up the products they are recommending to clients. This is just like shopping at any retail store. For example, Pottery Barn also gets special pricing which they are not passing along to the public as this is how they generate profits. 

In some cases, it might not make sense to hire an Interior Designer. We are trained professionals and deserve to get paid for our craft, knowledge, and experience just like any other trained professional. If you engage a designer and feel like the pricing is too much maybe consider changing the project parameters in order to get the pricing where you feel you can make it work. Designers will most likely never lower their rate for the same amount of work but they might be willing to work with you if you choose to change the overall scope of work. If you are a fabulous DIY’er and have an eye for design, know what you want, how much it cost, where to get it, and have the time to make it happen then it’s ok to tackle this on your own. If you don’t have time to stress about the details and want someone to do that for you and also present you with ideas and knowledge that are outside your wheelhouse then it might make sense to reach out to a few Interior Designers to see whom you best match with., Many offer a free discovery call so take advantage! 

Dream. Design. Redefine. 

-Niki Milliken

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Niki Milliken

Mom, wife, and design enthusiast living in Rocklin but originally born and raised in the Bay Area. Niki has been creating unique spaces for over 16 years. From mid-century to the modern farmhouse aesthetic, & everything in between, she loves every style, and mixing them together is her specialty. Incorporating found objects and sourcing the right collection of products for a project is where her passion lies. She believes that everyone deserves a space to be proud of and will help bring together a beautiful functional home. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in Interior Design as well as a minor in Art History from CSU Chico in 2006. She began her career designing model homes, moved into commercial interiors, then took her expertise to several well-known manufacturers acting as a material consultant between the manufacture and architects or interior designers. In 2019 she started my own firm to help work towards making all her own dreams come true. She spends her free time designing for Rooms of Hope, a Bay Area non-profit that provides design services to children in need, see more here: http://www.roomsofhope.org.