Design professionals with fabric swatches in home office.

Do your homework before your first design meeting, and have examples of design styles you like. (Getty Images)

Whether you’re involved in a large scale renovation or simply redecorating a room, making sound decisions can be a difficult task. Maybe you’ve gone to the paint store only to get more confused by the thousands of colors, brands and formulations. Clearly in over your head and desperate not to make a mistake, you’ve finally decided bite the bullet and consult a designer.

Now the fun part begins, but like many situations involving your home, it is always best to do your homework. Inviting a professional into your home can be a vulnerable feeling, and it is likely the designer feels the same way.

Have a phone conversation prior to your appointment to become familiar with each other. It's likely that the designer will want to determine the scope of your project before your meeting. This is not because a higher value project is more important, all projects are important. Your designer wants to know the scope because it will help him or her decide what materials will be needed for the first appointment, the most efficient place for the meeting to take place and how long that meeting should be.

For example: If the main reason for your appointment is paint selection, the designer will need to make sure they have all of the appropriate paint decks, and should elect to have that appointment at a time of day when the natural light is best.

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Here are some tips and suggestions for helping your designer help you.

Ask how to prepare for your appointment. Doing so indicates your seriousness about your project. Let’s face it, we’re all busy people with busy schedules – nobody wants to squander their time, so being prepared will help you stay on task and get the most value for your money.

Your designer may send you a list of questions to consider regarding your space. Give them serious thought before the appointment, which will help narrow down the type of project for the designer and your expectations.

Treat the appointment like a business meeting – let the designer know ahead of time if you have any pets, and consider enlisting the help of a babysitter if you have young children. Try to allow for an uninterrupted block of time to avoid losing traction and reduce stress down the line. Preparation sets the stage for successful collaboration.

Do your homework. The single best way to convey your design taste and the results you’re hoping for is to collect inspirational photos from magazines or online. Collect as many as you can to give your designer the best possible starting point.

Content-sharing website Pinterest is a particularly effective tool for gathering all your inspiration and ideas in one spot. This online tool allows the user to search its extensive database for inspiration photos by category. If you’re remodeling your kitchen and you want to browse through cabinetry, simply type it into the search bar, and you’ll be provided with endless pictures that have been posted from manufacturers, magazines, designers or consumers.

Pinterest’s program is smart, so it will start to learn the types of posts you are looking for, and will start to fine tune your choices a bit. You can very simply build idea “boards” by room or category to store all of your inspiration. When you have your meeting, you can access your Pinterest collection with your designer, and shared so they can assist in the progression of your project.

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Be prepared to answer questions. Your designer will ask you about your personal style, likes and dislikes, desired functionality for your rooms and items you’re willing to get rid of. You may feel as if you are the one being interviewed, but your designer also wants to make sure the relationship is compatible and that your expectations can be realized.

For a designer, a job is not worth getting if there is an obvious possibility it could end badly. Designing is a very personal experience, and it’s important the client is satisfied with the experience as well as the design result.

Be prepared to discuss budget. This is the part that no one really likes to talk about, but products and services cost money. The goal of any interior designer worth hiring is to please their client while feeling personally satisfied with the results. Be honest about what you anticipate spending.

It’s not unreasonable to want to build a design plan including products or renovations that may take place over a period of time. Perhaps you’re only ready to spend a certain portion now – being transparent with your designer about your intentions will enable them to advise on the most conservative approach in terms of scheduling and budgeting these projects over time.

Discuss timing. Does your designer have the ability to do your project in the amount of time you’ve allotted?

It’s likely your designer has specific days and times they allot for out-of-office appointments. Determine if this will work for your schedule, and communicate any special needs ahead of time, like a need for evening or weekend appointments.

It’s also a good idea to assess the amount of appointments needed to complete your project and discuss scheduling at the end of your first meeting. This will ensure your project maintains an appropriate pace.

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Expect to pay for your appointment. Gone are the days of the free consultation. A working initial appointment is a far more effective way to begin your project. Everybody needs to make a living – clarify the fees associated with your meeting and look forward to kicking off your project with a designer that will transform your space into something beyond what you could have imagined.

Tags: real estate, housing, home improvements


Melissa Adams Gruber is the owner of Adams Interior Design, located in Dutchess County, New York. A creative soul since childhood, Melissa enjoys a successful career in home interior development and design. A full service firm, Adams Interior Design creates stylish and comfortable spaces.