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Six Questions to ask an Interior Designer Before Signing the Contract

Thinking of taking the plunge with a mastermind of interiors? Before you get all good and cozy with your favorite designer, be sure you’ve navigated these six questions from James Wheeler of J. Wheeler Designs that will ensure you’ve found just the right match. Covering everything from the design process to glowing references, here are your need-to-know items to tackle before signing the contract.

Finding the perfect interior designer to bring your vision to life might seem simple while scrolling through their eye-catching Instagram feeds and curated portfolios. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty details of project management, timelines and budgets, there’s so much more to the vetting process. That’s why Atlanta based interior designer James Wheeler of J. Wheeler Designs is sharing six questions to ask during the exploration process to help ensure an ideal fit, smooth execution and dream result.

What is your process for designing a space?

This question is critical to ask of a designer at the beginning of the vetting process to ensure expectations are set before the project begins. You might already have an idea of how the design process works, but can easily find yourself frustrated after the work begins simply because your expectations are not aligned with those of the designer. Posing this question at the start of the project will not only help to determine if the designer has a work style that will meld with yours, but it will also ensure that there is a transparent process and communication strategy that will yield a smooth process throughout.

Do you infuse any of your personal style into your designs and how do you work around this if it differs from your clients wants or needs?

Designers are known for their unique, individual styles, which are conveyed throughout each of their projects. It may be something as simple as the art they choose or as encompassing as the overall aesthetic. Ask the designer about the process they would use to get a feel for your style and how they will apply that knowledge to create a design that works for you. It’s important that you have an open and honest dialogue with constant feedback throughout the process. But be open to suggestions. This helps to produce an end result that is meaningful to you; one that reflects your own personal style with a touch of the unexpected that a designer can provide.

Who is your ideal client and why?

Whether or not they want to admit it, every designer has an ideal client. Asking this question will help you gauge if you will be a good fit for the designer. Many designers say their favorite client is one with an unlimited budget that will give them carte blanche to do whatever they want to do! And while this may be the perfect answer for you, others might not be willing to hand over the reigns. Learn who they prefer to work with and why. Then after you have your answer, really ask yourself if you could be a good fit.

How will the timeline be determined and carried out?

This is important as it sets a level of expectation on the front end. When going over the timeline, keep in mind designers have multiple clients and each project takes time to execute properly. Understand the timeline, but stay flexible. Not only does it take time for a designer to pull everything together, but other parties are often involved – manufacturers, electricians, plumbers, etc. – each with their own timeframes. As with everything in the design process, having an open line of communication and setting clear expectations ahead of time are critical to ensuring a smooth process.

Do you have a specific contract that details the terms of your payment for services rendered and each phase of my project?

All projects need to have a formal contract to govern the work and expectations of both parties during their time working together. Ask for a sample contract and payment schedule and protect yourself from the get-go. The designer will be spending your money for a project, so it is important to have this outlined in a legal contract. Additionally, the designer needs to ensure that they will be paid for time and work, too.

Do you have references I can contact?

References are a great way to learn about a designer while understanding their process and what they can deliver for your project. The best way to do this is to talk to a current or former client who has already gone through the process, so ask for a list of clients that are willing to be contacted. Most designers are happy to share references for their clients.

Photography: Rustic White Photography | Interior Design: James Wheeler / J. Wheeler Designs

How To Be the Best At-Home Barista

For most of us, starting the day means having that oh-so-necessary cup of coffee in hand, stat. Wouldn’t it be nice if our local barista was in the kitchen waiting with said cup of jo? Well, that’s totally impossible (unless you’re dating or married to one), but the next best thing? Becoming the ultimate at-home barista. With the help of OXO, you can easily learn how to make the best-ever cup of coffee with these bean to brew steps.

Bean Selection

First things first, find your perfect bean. For the ultimate cup of coffee (and to be the ultimate at-home barista), you’re going to be grinding your own beans. But you might be wondering, where do I start? Think of beans to coffee like grapes to wine. Everything from the region and variety to the season and roast duration all play a part in the final flavor of your brew. Educate yourself on each of these factors and you’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to select the beans that suit your palette.

Freshness Factor

Once you’ve made your bean selection—keep them fresh and happy. The journey to a flavorful cup of coffee includes bean storage and fighting their worst enemies: air, moisture, heat, and light. That’s where an OXO’s Coffee POP Container comes in handy. A unique one-touch push-button guarantees an airtight seal and ultimate freshness, while it’s UV-blocking technology battles light. Not to mention, they’re also stackable for those of us who have a little obsession with pantry organization.

The Grind

Now that you’ve got a way to keep your beans fresh until you’re ready, it’s time to learn the grind. Why not just buy your beans ground already? If you really want to be a kick-butt at-home barista, get your own grind on, folks. Coffee beans contain oils that, when ground release an aroma and can interact with moisture in the environment. Basically, the longer coffee grounds sit around, the less flavorful your cup of jo becomes.

Investing in a grinder like OXO’s Conical Burr Grinder brings you one step closer to the perfect brew every time. Its built-in scale allows it to grind by weight instead of time and gives you the ability to custom measure grounds to create your own coffee ratio, or to use precise, pre-set grams-to-cup ratios. So, whether your perfect cup means give me all the jitters OR I just need a little jumpstart to get going, this is your grinder.

A Tasty Temperature

Now that you’ve mastered the art of keeping your beans fresh and finding your perfect grind, it’s time to get your brew down to a science. It means combining brew time, water temperature and water volume in just the right way. Taking the guess work out of the process is easy with the OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker, which brews at the optimal temperature for coffee as certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The intelligent Barista Brain microprocessor monitors time, water volume and temperature from start to finish, giving you the precision of expertly hand-crafted coffee. In other words, you’ll feel like you just placed an order at your favorite local coffee shop.

Voila! You’re now armed with the steps to becoming the best at-home barista. Get ready for happier mornings, wowed guests and a coffee experience like no other.

Give Your Front Door the Prettiest Fall Makeover with this Easy DIY

Your front door is begging for this pretty wreath. Seriously, it told us. And the best part of this seasonal revamp is it’s 100% DIY. Bare Root Flora is breaking down the basics for a lovely way to Fall-ify your home and it all starts with this feather-infused grand entrance. Get the how-to shot by Tamara Gruner Photography below. Psst… more ways to celebrate Fall right this way.

Like so many others, I find myself irresistibly drawn to the autumn. I’m not sure if it’s the light, or the smells, or the colors and textures, or maybe it’s just the apple cider donuts. But whatever it is, and it’s probably all those things, this bittersweet season—full of endings in so many ways—is the time of year I most look forward to. To celebrate the gorgeous, textural botanical elements fall gives us, I decided to create a number of beautiful fall wreaths and capture the process through the eye of my dear friend and amazing photographer Tamara Gruner.

 I created my wreaths using a mix of beautiful dried (and even a few silk flowers), artichokes, pomegranates, tapioca wood flowers, bittersweet vine, nigella and lotus pods, dried grasses, fall leaves and pheasant feathers, but the beauty of this kind of wreath is that there are so many ways to make it your own. My own front door is sheltered but if you want something that will stand up to more direct exposure to the elements, I’d recommend using silks—there are some incredibly beautiful and realistic ones out there.


A wreath form — I used Victorian birch, but grapevine is a wonderful option as well
Dried pods, berries, grasses, flowers, feathers—anything with beautiful, varying textures
Hot glue pan and glue
Small zip ties
Ribbon or wreath hanger


To begin, lay out your wreath form. Choose how you want to position your wreath—there may be a side or orientation you like best and want to incorporate into your design. Here, I wanted a little extra color and movement in the wreath form so I added some bittersweet vine, one of my fall favorites, into the wreath using tiny zip ties. (Choose a color of zip tie like brown or dark green and once you trim the ends, they’ll blend right into your wreath form.)

If this is your first wreath, I’d recommend planning out your design by laying out all the elements first, before committing to the permanence of hot glue! After zip tying on my vines, I started by placing my larger, more focal items on my wreath, here, my artichokes, lotus pods and pomegranates.

Because I like asymmetry, I like to cover only a segment of my wreath, leaving some negative space for the eye to rest. After I placed my larger items, I laid out the flowers I used to create my base layer. I happened to find some gorgeous silk hydrangea that I loved but I also used some dried hydrangea florets as well.

Then, because depth is such an important part of a beautiful wreath, you’ll want to begin to layer in some of your smaller textural items. Here I used nigella pods, wheat and dried grasses. To accentuate the line of the birch branches, I also tucked in some gorgeous pheasant feathers, which feel quintessentially autumnal to me. Remember to create depth by layering items, and by varying the placement of your botanicals.

You’ll want your wreath to be beautiful from every angle that it’s viewed, so place some items deep inside the frame of the wreath, some on top, and some on the outside frame of the wreath form.

Once you’ve laid out all your elements, take a photo so you can recreate your design as you begin to glue all these elements. You can certainly glue as you go, but I find I like to have a visual plan in place, at least in the beginning!

After securing all your botanical elements with hot glue, hang your wreath with a gorgeous ribbon. Then, I find it helpful to sit down with a plate of apple cider donuts to really enjoy the fruits of my labor!

The Ultimate Fall Bucket List
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The Ultimate Fall Bucket List
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Photography: Tamara Gruner Photography | Florals: Bare Root Flora | Scans: Richard Photo Lab

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