How to choose an interior design firm

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Know how to choose an interior design firm for an excellent home investment

Hiring an interior designer means opening your home to them and trusting their expertise. Itís an intimate relationship and the result is something you not only pay money for, but will likely live with for years to come.

This is a big decision. Yes, another big decision. Finding your dream home is a journey and moving in is only the beginning.  

Learning how to choose an interior design firm entails both practical and subjective considerations. This is something you have to be choosy about. Donít settle for the first place that falls within your budget. If you donít click with the people youíll be working with, keep looking.

These tips will help!

Narrow the field

You can narrow the field quite a bit ad save yourself a lot of shopping around time by doing a little homework prior to sitting down with potential firms. 

Ask friends for referrals. One of the best ways to find good companies is to ask friends who theyíve worked with and liked in the past. Some of the best firms donít have to advertise at all as word of mouth fills their roster faster.

Other sources for referrals include the National Designers Association, local online forums and review sites. Reviews wonít tell you everything you need to know, but a string of positive ones is a good sign.

Review online portfolios. Design tastes vary widely from one homeowner to the next, and likewise with designer. Go to a firmís online portfolio to see if you like their aesthetic before considering hiring them. 

Know what you want. To know how to choose an interior design firm thatís right for you, you have a general idea of what you want in the first place. The interior decorator you hire probably won't be a mind reader. Start gathering images from shelter magazines, Pinterest and home design websites. Write down what you like and dislike so people you meet with will have a more defined idea of your personal taste.

While youíre building a style collection, start thinking about the scope of work you want done. Do you want to redo the entire home, or start with one room? 

Figure out your budget to help determine the project scope. Call the design association or a few companies to get an idea of what local firms charge per hour, in addition to materials. 

When you sit down

Once youíve narrowed the list to a handful of firms, itís time to set up face-to-face meetings. Make sure this consultation is free (most are but it's a good idea to ask).

Make a long list of questions. This is your chance to cover every base: Ask about education, certifications, past projects, references and other qualifications. Find out an estimated cost, time frame, what services are included with the fees and how the billing works.

Once the practical questions are out of the way, see if your personalities click. Good communication is critical to the process so you need to be compatible. Are you able to bounce ideas back and forth? Do they really seem to listen and respond to what you have to say?

In turn, firms will have a lot of questions for you. Be ready to tell them how the space will be used, how much time and resources youíll be able to invest, who will use the space. The more youíre able to tell them up front, the better. 

The big decision

The final step in how to choose an interior design firm is making a decision. Even if you like the first person you met with, be sure to consult with a few so you can make comparisons. Compare their fees, services, portfolio, experience, the quality of their referrals and who you liked best overall.

Work will begin once you agree to and sign a contract with your chosen firm. The contract will include deadlines, payment structure, spending limits and any other protections for both parties. This marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a productive relationship.

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