Working with Interior Designers | Part I: There’s No ‘I’ in Team

Kylie here this week! Last week we had a great comment on our post, asking about the role of an interior designer when it comes to envisioning the space planning for a new home or the renovation of a home. This is a great question and came at a great time as we feel the need to educate about our industry and what we do! (And what we don’t and can’t do: we can’t finish your house in 60 minutes or less on Waco, TX budgets! Sorry HGTV!)

This is a three-part series about our industry, what we do, what our collaborators do, and how we can help you! Make sure you check out the other two posts in the series:

Part I

There’s a great book by Judy Sheridan called, “How to Work With An Interior Designer”. In the preface of the book, she explains that the vastness of the subject called Interior Design is a difficult process to understand. Hence, the book. What we’re going to do is break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks in the next few posts. BUT if you really want to delve right in, definitely check out the book!

The very first chapter of the book is about WHY you need an interior designer. How can an interior designer help you? I’ll paraphrase a bit of Judy’s book, but also give you an even more in-depth look for those of you who have a more technical background (like my engineer husband!).

Why are you hesitant to work with a designer?

  1. You are decisive. You thrive on making decisions. You like the control of the process. You hesitate giving up that control to an outsider. Remember: a designer is trained to work with you. The best jobs are a collaborative effort. We LOVE decisive clients who know what they like and can make a decision quickly. However, know that a designer will push you a little further to give you options you may not have thought of and/or may tell you that the idea you love isn’t feasible for certain reasons. So don’t get frustrated if you think the designer isn’t listening to you! They are, but they have a duty to present additional and alternate options!

  2. Budgetary concerns. Remember, whatever you’re planning to do is going to cost money. And sadly, it will cost more than what’s portrayed on television. And yes, a designer (depending on the scope of the project) will cost about 20-30% of that total project cost. However, a designer can help you avoid costly mistakes the first time around. And they can help you save money where it counts. Remember the old saying: do it right the first time. Spending a bit more upfront will save you in potentially costly mistakes down the road.

    • I’m also going to ask you to calculate the value of time. There is a concept called the Time Vs. Money Dilemma which states that the “price of anything is amount of life you exchange for it.” Consider what an interior designer does and ask yourself - do you have time to do this yourself or is it worth spending money for hours of free time to spend on something else? Think of what’s involved in choosing just a sofa: go to a showroom to pick out fabrics, call the upholsterer to schedule fabrics to be shipped to them, order furniture, track the fabric shipping to ensure it arrives, did you check that the upholstery was treated properly?, did the fabric arrived damaged?, deal with the fabric manufacturer to get it reshipped, have a CFA sent to your home to check that the dye lot matches the original, decide on a nailhead finish, get samples of the wood legs, track it to the moving facility, schedule the movers to bring it to the home. That’s just a sofa!

    • It’s the same as if you decide to hire someone to take care of your lawn: would you rather spend $50 having your lawn cut, manicured, etc. and get 2 hours back on your weekend?

    • The other thing to do is step back and ask yourself whether tackling a job yourself will produce the results you want. Will you decide on a compromise solution that, over time, will always be a nagging reminder of a poor decision on your part? A good designer can help you through a situation like this. They can help provide alternate options to consider that can work within your budget or look better than you could ever envision!

  3. Fear. Fear of the unknown can be a detractor in calling a designer. Not knowing what to expect with a designer. Not knowing what it will cost and immediately assuming you can’t afford it. And most good designers will tell you upfront if they are a right fit for you. And if they’re not, they will refer you to someone else who might be! It never hurts to reach out and ask!

Those are the three main reasons people hesitate to reach out to a designer. But the other problem is, many people don’t know what an Interior Designer actually does! Well, let’s put that to rest right now and make a distinction between what we do and what architects, kitchen designers, and contractors do….and how we all work together.

high end residential interior design boston

Interior Designers

An interior designer is someone who draws floor plans and is able to source materials/furniture. However, the difference in our floor plans (vs. an architect, for example) is the focus. Whereas an architect will focus on the building itself (ensuring its structurally sound, exterior design, etc.), interior designers are focusing on the overall flow of the interior in terms of space planning and furniture layout. In addition, we’re doing interior elevations to show what backsplash tile you may be using in your kitchen or which direction your subway tile is running in your shower. Interior designers are also pulling together the colors within the space - both hard surfaces and fabrics/upholstery.

In some states, the law requires an Interior Designer to pass the NCIDQ test and become a certified designer (in those states you are unable to call yourself a designer until you’ve passed the test. If you haven’t taken the test, you’re required to designate yourself as a Decorator.) This is a rigorous exam taken over a series of days after a designer has put in two years of professional experience. The awesome news is we are NCIDQ-certified!

Interior Designers are specialists at creating space planning and envisioning for the future when it comes to furniture and “living” in the space!

Interior Designers are specialists at creating space planning and envisioning for the future when it comes to furniture and “living” in the space!

Architects

As mentioned above, architects focus on the overall structure of your home and the building itself, including the exterior design. It’s true that their floor plans may show placeholders of furniture, but that is to show function of the spaces; not the furniture choices themselves. (See Part II about this very important process and why this is imperative!)

Architects must pass several rigorous exams as well as have years of professional experience. If you’re looking to make structural changes to your home, you must engage an Architect as you will need to issue stamped drawings for building permit before starting construction.

You know those homes that you drive by that draw you in, everything looks so perfect, the scale is spot on…you can bet those homeowners worked with a great architect! Shout out to Jeanette Thompson, she personally has had such an enormously positive impact on the curb appeal of our lovely little town of Hopkinton MA!

Kitchen/Bath Specialists

Kitchen Specialists add a whole other layer of expertise to the mix! Kitchen/Bath designers deal with a very specific set of drawings that relate ONLY to kitchens and baths. Many times, they are NKBA certified (there are a few levels of certification within that overall umbrella designation). These designers specialize in the detail drawings of spaces with custom cabinetry and ensure that all of your appliance choices fit within the given parameters. They will source the correct cabinetry (such as inset vs. frameless or type of moldings, etc.). An Interior Designer or Architect will always rely on the Kitchen Specialist to ensure accuracy of millwork details, etc.

Take a look at the two images below. They are of the same bathroom. However, the one on the left is a very sketchy and quick rendering, which indicates how the Interior Designer envisions the space in terms of overall layout, colors, etc. The image on the left was drawn by the Bath Specialist to further enhance the design with decisions on the drawer/door layout, pantry layout, size of drawers, types of drawer fronts, etc.

Example of a very sketchy rendering from an Interior Designer (by Bee’s Knees Interior Design).

Example of a very sketchy rendering from an Interior Designer (by Bee’s Knees Interior Design).

This is the same design taken by the Bath Specialist and figuring out the exact drawer vs. door layout, the exact layout of the pantry, etc.

This is the same design taken by the Bath Specialist and figuring out the exact drawer vs. door layout, the exact layout of the pantry, etc.

Contractors

We LOVE our contractors! Contractors are the unsung heroes of the jobsite and make our beautiful plans sing! They are the professionals reading all of the plans and ensuring the work is completed to everyone’s satisfaction. They are responsible for scheduling all of the subcontractor work (think plumbing, electrical, tiling, etc.). They are also working closely with the building department to get all permits signed off on so that you can enjoy your new space! There are endless challenges, many beyond our control (mother nature) that the contractors must overcome to reach the finish line, a daunting task/process!

A Handy Chart

For those people who like a chart, here are the trades broken down even further! Keep in mind, this is a VERY generalized list. For example, it says that a Contractor does ONLY the construction. Not true - the designers would look to the contractor during the design phase to perhaps give input on some of the finish carpentry, etc. But for a very simplified view, this can give you a great idea of the trades. This is also a good view of what the “specialties” of each trade are. Of course an architect can plan the entire house - but to have a truly perfect layout, you should rely on an Interior Designers very specialized degree for the space plan. Rely on each trades’ specialties and you’re golden!

There’s No “I” In “Team”

A good Interior Designer is not going to pretend they have professional training in knowing every cabinet-face type out there. They rely on their NKBA Kitchen Design colleague. A good Architect is not going to pretend to know that a sectional works better in the living room, which will only work if that half wall between the kitchen and living area is taken down. Therefore, they’re going to rely on the Interior Designer’s input on the space plan.  The Contractor is going to be able to open up that half wall and tell the Architect and Interior Designer to come up with an alternative option because there is a major plumbing line running right through it. Great Kitchen/Bath designers often team with Interior Designer’s to coordinate all the solid surface selections; the white cabinet that pairs well with the quartz countertop chosen. All members of the team work together to create a spectacular final outcome.

Think of it this way: I sure as hell would not want my general practitioner performing open heart surgery?! By having specialists on your team, you are going to have a much better outcome on all fronts!

The same goes for remodeling. When you begin a project, determine what specialties are needed and be ready to hire several specialists for your project. If you’re making a costly investment, you want to make sure you’re doing it right.

Next, we’ll be talking about YOUR project and how all of this fits into your home! And post questions below because we’ll either answer them OR create a whole new blog post JUST for you!