Interior Design is a creative, artistic expression that involves people skills. Experience, education, and expertise are all factors that come into play. Therefore, artistic expression and the range of experience are important parameters to be aware of when selecting the right professional to suit your project. The first priority of an interior designer is to simplify your involvement in the process. He or she will consult with you, devise a plan and manage the entire process (should you choose to engage them on this level), which includes purchasing, ordering, supervising contractors, and overseeing your budget in a way that can save you valuable dollars.

Many consumers are intimidated at the prospect of hiring an interior designer. Using a design professional can, and should, be a good experience. Your designer will bring your home continuity, function, and beauty. And it doesn't have to go over your budget. Working with an interior designer can save you money in many situations as the designer should allocate resources wisely, eliminate decorating mistakes and increase the creative thinking about your project. Your choice of a talented professional can shed light on your project and make the experience less stressful by allowing the designer to approach it skillfully with a plan in mind, helping you balance your aspirations, functional needs, and budget.

If you are about to embark on a project and do not want to hire a pro to work with you throughout the extent of your endeavor, a valuable investment would be to engage a professional for a simple consult. A consult is valuable because a well seasoned professional can point out issues that you may be overlooking and even uncover simple design or decorating solutions that can have a high impact for a low cost. An initial consultation with a professional can get you on track and provide you with the guidelines for success – a minimal investment for results that will last a lifetime.

DSA Certified Professional Designers require yearly continuing education courses in order to exercise and improve upon their knowledge base, bringing their clients the most beneficial results offered within the field of interior décor.

Finding the Right Design Professional for You

Do Your Homework - Communicate just what you want. Your designer's goals are to please you. He or she won't be able to create the perfect room for you unless you're able to communicate your likes and dislikes. Before meeting with a prospective designer, collect photos from magazines or on Pinterest of rooms and furniture you like (and those you dislike, as the "dislike" is as valuable as the "like") to give your designer a place to start in creating a design specifically for you. Interview more than one designer until you find the designer that is a good fit for you.

Share Your Vision - DSA designers are trained to help you discover your style through a series of valuable questionnaires, but be prepared to help. Be able to explain to your interior designer the style you want, the colors you like and the activities that will take place in the room. Make a list of the furniture you own that you would like to keep. Think about your preferences for style, furniture, fabrics, materials, and patterns. Communication is critical to the success of your project.

Be Prepared - Decide on a budget. Be realistic about what you are willing to spend on your project. Be conservative. Plan a project with goals and phases for purchases over a few months or years if necessary. Listen to all ideas, but never go against your heart.

Decide if this is the right designer for you - There are many styles of decorating professionals out there and some have adopted different practices that suit their individual preferences. A true professional should screen your project with you at the initial meeting to be certain that you are a good match for one another. During the interview, the designer may prefer to take photos to have a mental record of the area. It may be acceptable to do a brief initial meeting at the design or decorating professional's office or studio. If they have a home office, which is quite the norm for this profession, it allows much more flexibility for them as individuals. When they come out to the job site, they should listen attentively and do a walkthrough. They should be documenting some of the parameters of your project on what may be called a project scope.

Consider this person's regard to time. Were they on time? Did they call you to confirm the appointment? These things will tell you something about their business practices. If possible, viewing past and present projects will also help in your decision to hire the right professional for your needs.

There is the old saying, “don't judge a book by its cover.” However, in this instance, this rule may not apply. If you don't like the way this person conveys their appearance in terms of style or the way that he or she communicates this may have some effect on the way they are able to work with you. You should try to find a designer that you enjoy spending time with and one that understands your needs. Review their portfolio to make sure that they are a good fit style-wise. As an educated consumer, you need to realize that, as in every field, the value of a professional is recognized not only for the invaluable insight they offer but also for their level of accessibility to products and services to offer their client base in their respective fields.

Now What?

Once you've decided on an interior designer, what happens next? How can you be helpful, remain in control and ultimately end up with a design that is pleasing? If you decide that you've found the professional for you, then discuss the next course of action as well as the points involved in protecting and respecting one another's rights from a legal standpoint. The presentation of a Commitment Letter or Letter of Agreement could occur at this time.

Communicate with your Designer - Listen. Talk. Listen. That's it in a nutshell. The designer will discuss the concept of your project and be frank about your budget limitations.

The budget should be discussed - The optimal method would be to work on and discuss a breakdown sheet or project scope together so that both you and the designer can grasp the overall scope of the project. A good designer will present the preliminary budgeting phase to help you comprehend the overall scope of your project and establish a realistic budget. Remember to be a team and speak up if something does not fit your budget or vision. 

Finances - No one likes sticking to a budget, but everyone has one. Make sure you're very clear on exactly how you'll be charged, when your interior designer needs deposits, how you'll be billed, what you will get for your money and when the work will be completed. Will you be charged for phone calls, shopping trips or in-home consultations? Are purchases marked up or discounted?


  • This pro, regardless of credentials, has to possess the right people skills. Are they a good listener?
  • Do you feel a connection with this person and trust them enough to make the right choices for the outcome of the project at hand?
  • Do you feel that this person is honest and will look after your best interests and not make biased decisions concerning your project?
  • Are their designs similar in all the projects that they do?
  • Ask for references. And call them.
  • The worse that can happen is you end up with a name of who not to use.
  • Ask to see a portfolio. However, this should not be the only criteria on which you base your decision.
  • If using a decorator/designer service from a retail store be sure they are not committed only to the variety of products being offered in that store. In other words, can they use outside sources and spend time out of the office working on your project? A savvy pro will want to be out in the field, unlocking great possibilities for your project that may not seem conventional but are very creative.
  • If consulting with too many decorators/designers that offer free advice, BEWARE! Too many chefs spoil the soup. This may become a cause for confusion.
Cost of Hiring an Interior Designer: 

The range of fees for interior design services varies depending on the type of services and primary focus of the designer's practice. Examples are residential, high-end, commercial, and nautical. Some pros may base their fee on the total square footage of the project, ranging between $1.50 and $30.50 per square foot. Get a clear idea about fees upfront by asking how the decorator or designer charges for their services:

These are the most common methods:

  • Hourly Can vary from $35-$350 per hour. This rate may be used for consultations, rearranging furniture, placing accessories, etc. This is largely determined by years of experience, availability, and geographic area.
  • Fixed Also known as “flat fee,” fixed fees may include a cap on hours and sometimes encompass a fixed figure so that you know upfront and without a doubt what you are committed to paying for the design services.
  • Percentage Above Cost Also referred to as “cost-plus,” this fee schedule is calculated at 15 to 35 percent above cost, usually not including delivery and sales tax.
  • Retail List price or  (cost) price presented, which means the pro is presenting selections to you and calculating their mark-up on an individual basis, while often saving you from the industry average markup formula of 2.2 times.
  • Retail Less Percentage List price minus 10-20 percent
  • Combination -Your design pro may have a creative method of enhancing their income, depending on whether or not they are avid shoppers. Clients should realize that in addition to the design fee, some designers also ask to be compensated for time spent shopping and selecting items for the client to consider for their project.
Get your designer's fee schedule clear from the beginning to avoid any misunderstandings. And last, but not least:
Always have a letter of agreement.