In Part 1, I discussed WHAT an Interior Designer does and WHY you might want to use one. Now it’s time to look at WHEN you should engage a designer and WHO you should approach. And no, the answer to the last one isn’t always me!

SO WHEN DO YOU GET A DESIGNER INVOLVED?

The answer is pretty simple; as early as possible. This doesn’t mean you need to be having regular consultations straight-away but instructing a designer as soon as you know you are going to need one a) means you more likely to get who you want at a time that you want them, and b) means that they can offer assistance and advice during the early stages, perhaps even on things you hadn’t considered you’d need help with. They can talk you through the wider process, work with other professionals (e.g. architects), point out potential pitfalls, and generally help to ensure a seamless process with a beautifully designed space at the end. Basically, the earlier you make enquiries, the more likely you are to secure the right designer, with the right scope for you.

If you’re planning an extension you may already have appointed an architect, and you may have a preferred builder. It can be tempting to leave appointment of a designer until you have the rooms ready to decorate. However, if you get a designer involved from the start you may find you get more from the instruction. For example, when the Architect is drawing up the plans, a designer can have conversations with you about internal use and flow which may impact on the space you create. Starting room designs before the space exists has its advantages too. It means, for example, you have answers about electrical layout as soon as you need them. Rushing decisions about switches and lighting when your builder approaches you for answers is never ideal, and can leave you with compromises to deal with during the interior design stage.

The same applies to room design schemes; the sooner the better! Maybe you know you want a room redesigned for Christmas (it’s a common scenario, believe me!). If you leave it until late Autumn not only will you struggle to find time in a designer’s schedule, but you may also be more limited in your furniture selection given the inevitable lead-times (which are often much longer at busy, seasonal times).

Obviously it isn’t always possible to instruct a designer early doors, or perhaps it’s only midway through a project that you realise you need help. Don’t worry, all isn’t lost, a good designer will be able to support you in a project wherever you’re at. It’s just the earlier you get them involved, even just to have an initial conversation to get time booked in for later when you need it, the more you’re likely to get out of the process and the fewer compromises you’re likely to need to make.

SO, WHO SHOULD YOU INSTRUCT?

How do you decide which designer is for you? There are so many to choose from! My first advice would be to see the engagement of a designer as an investment in your home. There will be a cost attached, but it’s a service which really adds value, so try not to be driven wholly by getting the lowest quote. There’s much to be said for you-get-what-you-pay-for. This is an important decision; you’re hiring someone to help you create your perfect home.

Ask around. Word-of-mouth recommendations are great. If you know someone has worked with an interior designer ask them how they found the process, and, more importantly than whether you like the finished result, whether the finished space creates the feel they wanted to achieve. Finding someone local can be helpful, especially if you’re looking for project management work. It means your designer will have an even bigger network of trades and suppliers which you can tap into.

Speak to a couple of designers. By which, I don’t mean call round an endless number of designers. Time is precious and no-one likes a time waster. However, all good designers should be willing to have an initial chat, to tell you how they work and help determine whether they are the right person to work with you. You should get a sense of whether you’d be happy to work with a designer from this initial discovery call. It’s an important relationship so you need to be comfortable working with them. It should also be a fun process so working with someone you feel you can build a rapport with is really helpful.

Have a look on social media. Houzz is a great resource for this, especially if you’re looking for someone local. As are Instagram and Pinterest. When you’re looking at a designer, look at their style, and their way or working; is it a good fit for you? If you’re looking on social media though don’t be swayed by big followings and likes. The Instagram algorithm isn’t generated on whether or not someone is a good designer. Social media will however give you a behind-the-scenes, more personal insight into designers, which when you’re trying to establish a relationship can be invaluable.

Make sure you check out their services. Make sure they offer exactly what you need and don’t be pushed into having more work done than you want to. For example, if you just want a design service and want to do the work yourself, don’t approach designers who only do full implementation service. And if you do find someone via social media, check out their website directly and make sure you look at their actual projects. It’s very easy to post images created or curated by someone else; just make sure you do your homework and check out projects they have actually worked on.

Finally, make sure you check timescales and fee structure early on. You may have found a seemingly perfect designer but if they can’t deliver within your timeframe and budget then, unless you can wait, and/or reduce your scope, they probably aren’t the designer for you – this time! It’s also worth having a chat about the process. Just to make sure you’re getting the right level of support and/or involvement.

Engaging an interior designer doesn’t need to be daunting and the process should, most definitely, be enjoyable.