MAKING A HOUSE A HOME often comes down to embracing personal tastes and implementing design elements that make a space truly individualized. In many cases, defining this style is easier said than done. Hiring a trusted interior designer is a pragmatic first step in transforming a theory into something tangible, but it’s not always easy. Lori Ressa-Madrid, interior designer and owner of Lavender Fields in Port Jefferson, has three tips for ensuring the right hire for the job.
1. Define Expectations
Get on the same page with a potential designer. Someone’s interpretation of “rustic chic” may vary greatly from another’s take on the style. This is the time to make sure expectations align. Start with an over-the-phone consultation, suggested Ressa-Madrid. “This is important for the client and the designer. Sometimes you can tell you don’t hit it off or the job is not right for either of you before going any further.” Channel your inner Barbara Walters and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. For example, “Are you able to work with all styles?” Ressa-Madrid said. Similar to other job interviews, the designer should be ready to show pictures of previous work and offer references rather than simply offering a blanket positive response to your questions.
2. Get it in Writing
Make sure to get a signed contract with everything clearly spelled out before proceeding. “I have seen people get burned because they do not have things in writing,” Ressa-Madrid said. The contract should be very specific on fees, payment breakdown and options, communication, approximate install dates, contractor hiring and paying, and cancellations. “One question to ask about schedule is, ‘Will you check in weekly during the project?’ For example, if cabinets are being ordered, what will the timeframe be? If something is damaged, what is the timeframe for replacement?’” The project should fit within your schedule. Ressa-Madrid also cautioned that some designers meet with clients to get the job but are so busy they then delay the project.
3. Beware of External Factors
The fee section should also include the hiring of outside contractors, which Ressa-Madrid has seen a lot of in her 15 years in the industry. Agree on who is responsible for hiring professional carpenters, plumbers or electricians needed to finish the space. Be sure they are licensed and included in the contract if the designer is supplying them.
“Request final approval of all quotes if contractors are required,” she said. Finally, speak up immediately if things are not going as planned. “Texts are really not professional and you should be able to speak on the phone with your designer weekly during the install and construction process.”
Hot Tip: A picture is worth 1,000 words, use photos often. Since the nature of the project is aesthetic, a lot can be considered subjective. To avoid misinterpretations, use visuals to help clarify likes and dislikes as well as guide stylistic articulations more exactly.