Q: “Should I invest in an interior designer?”
Our décor dreams are complex and marvellous wonderlands, but translating them into workable reality and pulling the look together takes skill. We will always advise you to collaborate with a professional interior designer with impeccable references and certification. And then, once you’ve chosen a professional who best fits your personality and pocket, let them do their job. Décor and design might be your hobby, or your passion, but it’s not your job. These are superheroes with a very specific set of skills (thanks, Liam Neeson). You are paying them to take your pain away and make it all pretty, so that you can sleep at night. Right. Point made.
Who’s who in the décor zoo.
So, before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s make an important distinction. There are interior decorators and then there are interior designers. Interior decorators have the ability to make aesthetic choices and improvements and many of them are self-taught; interior designers are licenced professionals who manage projects involving architecture and construction.
How to get the most out of your partnership? Trust the process. And stay in your lane.
Let’s unpack what we mean by “the process”. We’re proud members of the IID (the African Institute of The Interior Design Professions, which is the only professional body representing the Interior Design Industry in SA); and we have had the privilege to meet and collaborate with some of SA’s most awarded interior designers, so we have enormous respect for their capabilities. We also have a pretty good idea of what’s required from you, the client, in order for them to make the magic happen. Here’s the process cheat sheet:
-It’s your prerogative to interview 5 – 6 prospective interior designers before you commit. Personalities are as important as qualifications and experience, and a ‘good fit’ is vital to your relationship, as well as to the success of the project.
-Make time for your interior designer. Stick to meetings. And once you are in the meeting, try to leave any distractions at the door.
-No project is bombproof. Have patience. Things will go wrong. And allow your interior designer to fix them for you. Teamwork will make the dream work.
-Be reasonable. An interior designer can make the impossible possible, but be prepared to pay for it. And wait for it.
-Ensure your home is clean and tidy when your interior designer comes in. It helps them do their job well.
-Your interior designer has an established network of sub-contractors and artisans. Respect these partnerships: if your interior designer trusts them, you can trust them.
Rather don’t ask for someone you’ve heard about through your friendship group or on Instagram.
-Allow your interior designer to manage all of the people involved in your renovation or build (architect, contractor, plumber, carpenter, tiler etc).
-Be as specific and decisive as possible up front. This is where your passion comes into play: put together your Pinterest mood boards, scrapbook magazine pull-outs and bring these ideas to your first meetings.
-Part two of the last point is: don’t try to copy any one design. Let your interior designer work their magic to create something unique for you that speaks to your personality.
-Don’t restrict your interior designer: give them your tastes and preferences but don’t limit their creativity. Keep an open mind.
-There’s no instant gratification here: lead times are needed when bespoke design happens.
-Retail and trade prices are different: even if your interior designer marks up a piece, you are still getting a better deal than retail.
-Respect business hours. If you absolutely, positively feel the need to be invasive with after-hours requests, table them in an email and your designer can respond in the morning.
-Decide your budget right up front and then be prepared to spend it. Every penny will be well spent in the hands of a professional.
-Certified professional interior designers know current building codes and building law, so trust them to ensure your project conforms.
-Don’t be afraid to reach out to an interior designer if you are just considering a smallish home face lift or one-room reno: while interior designers are qualified to manage a big whole-home build, they also bring all their creative muscle and pain relief to smaller projects and budgets.
Our last word on working with an interior designer:
-Have fun! Leave your stress behind and let your interior designer take the pain away. Allow yourself to be surprised. Be open to the new… and prepare to really live beautifully.