Six Questions to ask an Interior Designer Before Signing the Contract
September 28, 2016
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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.
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