A floppy haired extrovert prancing around in some outlandish get-up, gesticulating wildly and being highly opinionated in a loud effeminate voice! Now let's throw all those TV stereotypes of what an Interior Designer is like totally out the window, in all my years in the profession I have never come across any designer that remotely fits this bizarre image... although some may have got pretty close (only joking!). On the whole we are surprising normal.
I am now assuming you have done your research and tracked down some names of Interior Designers or have been given some recommendations by others as who you could contact. It's now time to hit the phone and talk with someone about the project you have in mind. No need to have loads of numbers to call just two or three to start is more than enough. You should go straight to the top and ask for the Design Director or Owner of the practice.
Start with a very brief background about your property; size, age, location, condition etc, and then go on with what you are considering as a project and what the main priorities you wish to gain from it are i.e. more space, an extra room, up-grading and refurbishment of existing etc. Once you have passed on this general information sit back and wait for questions to be fired back to you. These again are going to be fairly general in nature just to get an overall feel for what you have in mind and also the time scale you are also thinking of working to.
A realistic time scale is an important issue for everyone here; you would not believe how many first inquires I get from people thinking that it will only take a matter of a few weeks to design and have built their new extension and kitchen! " I need it for Christmas" but we are already into October and have not even made a start yet... it's not going to happen with all the best will in world! It's worth you talking to a Designer just to get an initial feel as to how long the process from beginning to end is likely to take for your individual project - it's likely to be much longer than you think!
The subject of Project Budget may also come up in the conversation you have with the Designer, but to be frank this means very little at this stage. However, if asked by you the Designer is going to be pretty reserved above giving any kind of budget figures over the phone about a project he knows very little about. On the other hand if the question about budget is asked by the Designer to you he is just fishing and trying to establish if there is any miss match in expectations on your part. Most potential clients do not have any real idea of a budget for their project (and why should they), and those that do usually have totally underestimated the likely cost against their "wish list" of all that they want from it. We have to put this subject on the back burner for the present and come back to it at the appropriate stage of the project, and that will be after some Conceptual Planning & Design work has been carried out. Trying to put figures without some form of reference on paper can be just a complete waste of time and can just produces a logjam in allowing the project to progress.
What the Designer on the other end of the phone will be trying to evaluate from the conversation with you is; are they realistic in their expectations, is this a valid project, is this person a potential client or just a time waster! Sorry to be so blunt about it but what the Designer would like to offer you next is a free no obligation visit; if they think there is not the remotest chance of this project going ahead they will not make the offer. It's not that you have to pass some kind of test to qualify but it all boils down to business at the end of the day and how much bread they cast on the water.
Positively moving on - the Designer suggest to you that they really need to visit the property and see it in the flesh and have a much more in-depth discussion with you about your needs and requirement. It will also give them the opportunity to show you some examples of their work and tell you about exactly how they will carry out a project such as yours. Once they have had this meeting the intention will be to confirm back to you their Scope of Work and Fee Proposal (it is extremely unlikely this will be committed to at this first meeting). This should be a total free of charge visit without any obligation to proceed further. If you get a good vibe about this Designer you are likely to say "Yes" and make an appointment for them to come around and met you at your home.
THE FIRST MEETING
This should be a fairly casual and relaxed affair. The Designer will want to sit down with you and tell you about all what they have done for other clients, show you some examples of work and generally demonstrate their talents and experience. It's all done to put your mind at rest that this person knows what they are talking about, and if you feel this is the case then they have done their job so far. The conversation should now move on to "Your Project", giving you the opportunity to expand fuller your thoughts, needs and requirements from the project you have in mind. Why I say "in mind" is that it may well be that your ideas could be turned completely up-side down once the Designer has accessed the overall situation, but let's face it that's why you are talking to a Designer - fresh ideas and a clean pair of eyes! There have been many times when I have visited clients that think they have a clear idea of what they want and how it is to be done and then I go and throw a curved ball into the conversation. It's not to be controversial for the sake of it but to get them thinking in a new way about their project which ultimately leads on to a better end solution.
The Designer would have no doubt been given the guided tour of the house by you pointing out all the issues as you walk around. Don't expect instant solutions to be given by the Designer while you are on your tour, they will be absorbing everything in at a fast pace of knots and making some mental assessments for themselves - this is information gathering! They may pitch-in with some teasers ideas but will keep most under wraps to be pulled out later (after they have been appointed). What they don't want is you taking all there "free" ideas and then saying "Thank you very much and Good Bye" and never to be heard of again - it happens and Designer are very guarded about this situation. So don't expect any free design work, but what they will give you is some good free advice.
They will then talk about how they would carry this project out for you, explaining all the various stages that need to be gone through; depending on the individual requirements these will be tailored to suite, but usually breakdown into these four main stages:-
1/ Concept Design & Planning
2/ Design Development
3/ Detailed Design & Specification
The aim for the Designer is to produce for you a document (Fee Proposal) that outlines exactly what they will be doing in each of these stages and what the associated fee's will be, also an indication of time scale. Hopefully from this you will be able to decide if you wish to proceed. This document is likely to be sent to you a few days following this first meeting.
In my next article I will be talking more in-depth about this Fee Proposal document and Design Fee's in general; the different kinds of fee structures and how they are arrived at. So look out for the third article in this Home Interior Clients Guide series by Christopher R Page.