Hiring an Interior Decorator

If you have been shopping for items for your home you know how difficult it can be to make a decision. You are scared to choose the “wrong” color of paint. What if the furniture doesn’t fit into the room? And how can you ever choose from the thousands of tile designs and colors for your new bathroom? The answer to making this job easier is to hire an interior decorator. He or she will be able to guide you through the process of making the right choices for your needs and your budget. But how do you find and hire an interior decorator? If you follow the steps below, it will be unlikely that you will be unhappy with the decorator you choose.

Finding a Decorator

  • One of the easiest ways to find a good decorator is to ask a friend whose home you have always admired. Your friend will, hopefully, be honest with you regarding the decorator’s ability to understand her needs, stay within a budget etc.
  • Many decorators belong to professional organizations that offer a referral service. Most of us are familiar with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Their website is www.asid.org. However, there are several other organizations that might prove helpful. Decorators Alliance of North America (DANA) at www.decoratorsalliance.com, is a relatively new organization offering a nationwide referral service. The Certified Interior Decorators International (CID) is another option. By visiting their website at www.cidinternational.org and clicking on the “find an interior decorator” button, you will be able to locate a decorator that serves your area.
  • There is nothing wrong with using the good old yellow pages. Many decorators will advertise in this way. It will not cost you a penny to call and speak with them. This is a good way to tell immediately if you like their attitude and approach. Something you cannot do with an email.

Try to choose three or four decorators to interview. Most of them will gladly come to your home and offer a short, complimentary consultation. This gives you the opportunity to meet them and ask some questions. But what questions? Read on.

Interviewing a Decorator

  • When the decorator visits your home they will most likely bring a portfolio of past jobs. This might be in the form of a photo album, possibly a brochure or even a laptop linked to their website. Take a look at the photos and ask questions about the job. Is the decorator responsible for everything in the photo from paint to furniture, just the furniture, one particular item etc.? If you notice that all the rooms appear to be in the same design style or color you might want to question the decorator. They may specialize in a style that does not suit your needs. However, a good decorator will be able to help you identify your style and create that for you, regardless of his or her specialty.
  • It is important to ask about fees. Does she charge by the hour and, if so, what is the hourly rate and how many hours does she expect your job to take? Does he apply a mark up to purchases he makes for you or does he pass his savings on to you? Depending on the size of the job, some decorators charge a one-time fee allowing you to use them for a set number of hours. This type of fee arrangement can be helpful if you are looking for someone to create a plan for you and you will do all the shopping, painting, furniture arranging and other aspects of your decorating job. Inquire as to how you will be billed. Is it a monthly bill due and payable each month or a deposit required with the balance due at the completion of the job? The most important thing to remember when it comes to fees is to be perfectly clear as to what you are getting for your money. You do not want any surprises when the bill comes!
  • A responsible decorator will have a list of references. Yes, most of these references will be happy clients. Who would use a dissatisfied client as a reference? But a phone conversation with past clients can offer insight as to how the decorator handled a job. Ask about punctuality and ability to meet deadlines. Be sure to ask about any sub-contractors that were used such as painters, plumbers, wallpaper hangers etc. No matter how friendly, punctual and neat your decorator may be, if the trade’s people she uses are not, you will be unhappy. Find out how well the decorator listened and understood their needs. And don’t be afraid to ask about anything that was not satisfactory. Lastly, ask if they would use them again. If the answer is “no”, inquire as to why. The reason could be something small and insignificant but it could also be something important.
  • While it may seem obvious, ask the decorator if they have time for you. Many times a professional will take on a job not understanding your time frame. Make sure he or she knows when you would like your job completed.
  • Don’t overlook the value of common sense or intuition. If you do not “click” with this person, the process of decorating your home will not be a pleasant one. They are going to be involved in your life for several months and it is necessary that you choose someone you feel comfortable sharing your home with.
  • As a final step, once you have chosen a decorator it is a good idea to check with your local Better Business Bureau. This way you can be sure there are no complaints or unresolved issues they are dealing with.

Hiring an interior decorator offers many benefits. You will, hopefully, avoid making costly mistakes. If you choose a paint color you don’t like you can always repaint. But if you purchase an expensive piece of furniture that doesn’t even fit through your front door, you are stuck, literally. With their knowledge and expertise, a good decorator will help you find just the right armoire for your living room or that perfect blue for your powder room. All of this will result in a home you can enjoy and be proud of for years to come.



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