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Finding A Designer: Experience Match

You stand in your home and look around…. It’s rough around the edges, it doesn’t really meet your needs, and it doesn’t reflect who you are—at least not the image you want to project. You need a professional…but who? Part II of our series “Finding a Designer” is Experience Match.

However you find a prospective architect, interior designer, or interior architect, you want to assess the following for each firm:

1. Comparable clients and references.

  • Has the designer worked with clients similar to you and on projects of comparable size, scale, and/or type?

  • Can you see before/after photos, peruse a construction plan, or view a 3D model? May you speak to past clients about their experiences or read a variety of client testimonials?

2. Schedule.

  • Can the firm speak to you about schedule? If they promise you a fixed schedule without finding out a lot more detail about your project, the estimate is probably meaningless.

  • They should be able to list various key factors that affect schedule and how each helps determine a reasonable estimate of how long your specific project should take.

3. Range of experience.

  • Does the firm have experience seeing a project through from conception to fruition? Can they walk you through all six project phases in chronological order? Hint: Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documents, Bidding/Negotiation, Construction Administration, and Punchlist.

4. Budget.

  • How can you be assured that your budget will be respected and adhered to? Who takes responsibility for keeping an eye on the bottom line—is it you or the designer? (If the designer doesn’t think this is part of their job, run away and look for someone else!)

5. Contractors.

  • Does the firm have a contractor or network of contractors and tradespeople that they can bring with them to work on your project?

  • Better yet, do you get a choice of working with one of those contractors or another one altogether? It says something very important about a firm that they have developed a strong relationship with a team of builders, electricians, plumbers, etc. This network is critical. However, you should also be afforded the flexibility of working with whomever you feel most comfortable.

6. Vendors.

  • As with contractors, the firm should be well connected within allied industries: cabinetry, stone, glass, flooring, plumbing, tile, lighting, furniture, windows, wallpaper, etc. When you hire a firm, you should also be hiring an entire network of resources.

7. Communication and Organization:

  • Your designer must be a good communicator and expertly organized. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of details with even a modest-size project. You need a professional who can stay on top of all of this and who will keep you in the loop. For starters, you can ask, “How will I be involved during the course of the project?”

Ultimately, you want to feel comfortable with whomever you choose to work on your home. Residential design and renovation is an extremely intimate process, so it's important to ensure that you've found the right person and that you're working with the right team. And if you missed our first post in this series "Finding a Designer," please read through Style Match.


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