Decorators Want You To Know – Part 3

In our three part ‘Decorators Want You To Know’ series, we’ve asked professional interior decorators and designers what tips they could offer to homeowners considering using their services, that would allow for the best design results. We were astounded and ecstatic by the response from the pro’s, who were crystal clear in their ability to present a much more realistic  aspect of what interior design services actually entail. Understanding better what the decorators and designers actually do, can only serve to better the overall ‘designer experience’ for any homeowner. Here are some tips from the pro’s themselves:

Make Sure You Have a Complete Plan

As a licensed interior designer and a certified kitchen and bath designer, I find many people do not know where to begin their project. It is so important to have a completed plan before you begin your job. This puts the ball in your court and avoids costly change orders. Without a plan you cannot get legitimate bids, which you should do as a check and balance system. Many times a new client will come to me after they have hired a contractor and that is just doing it backwards. Your designer is your representative to make sure the plan is complete and all bids have been qualified. A complete plan should have the following:

  • Planview
  • Elevations
  • Lighting design
  • Material list with all specifications
  • Scope of work

Kitchen and Bath Lighting Plan

The kitchen and the bath are the most used rooms in the house where several activities take place. You will need a layered lighting plan offering general, task and ambient lighting. Not all lighting plans are actual lighting plans. If you have a lighting plan that does not list the lamp that is to be put into the fixture, then you do not have a lighting plan, you just have a hole designated in the ceiling. Each lamp comes with specifications, beam spread, color, and candlepower, so it is measurable. Once again if it’s not planned for you, you will not have what you need. Most every plan that comes across my desk does not have a true lighting plan. Most just have an architect that runs a grid of general lights and calls it a day. Well that is not good enough. Task lighting over counters need to have more candlepower than general or ambient.

Design is a Process

I wish clients would understand that design is a process of communications between all parties. Many times at a preliminary meeting they seem to get anxious and I have to constantly remind them that it is preliminary and we can make changes up until materials are ordered. There might be one preliminary meeting or several to get to the end result. Their expectations sometimes get a head of the process and it’s better to be patient and get it right than it is to rush to order.

Patricia Davis Brown, ASID, NCIDQ, CKD, CBD
OWNER/Patricia Davis Brown Designs, LLC.

  1. You should understand that a successful décor is one that makes you feel the way you were hoping to feel and that projects the image that you were hoping to project. The more clearly that you can communicate what you want to achieve, the more likely the decorator can create a space you will like.
  1. The more detailed the plan–from materials to permits to inspections to sequence–the fewer problems you will encounter and the less likely it will be that there will be cost overruns. Every time that the clients want to make changes in the middle of a project, the more expense will probably be added.
  1. We are not mind readers. The more photos you can share of what you have seen in books, magazines, open houses, model homes, etc. that show elements of décor that you would like in your space, the more likely the decorator can give you what you had in mind.

Pablo Solomon
Artist & Designer
Pablo has been featured in 29 books, dozens of major magazines and newspapers, TV, radio and film. Beverly consults with clients on art as an investment, design for home and office, vintage collectibles and fashion.

“When life looks like it’s falling apart, it may just be falling in place”
by Beverly Solomon in Good Housekeeping, August 2009.

First, I want my prospective clients to know that they don’t need to feel ashamed about the current state of their homes or apologize for their clutter or their “dust bunnies”…or even for needing or wanting decorating help!  I’ve noticed that the people with the most immaculate homes are the ones who apologize the most profusely, but there is no need to do this.  I am in my clients’ homes to help them, and not to judge them!

Also, I want clients to understand that decorating a home, like all creative processes, can be a non-linear process at times–and that’s ok!  Clients often apologize for “jumping all over the place” as they are talking about their homes, but sometimes that is exactly what’s needed for creative problem solving.  For example, maybe the family room feels too crowded and the client is also frustrated that the dining room lacks a sideboard.  Moving the family room sofa table into the dining room to serve as a sideboard can address both concerns.

Finally, with rare exceptions, I have found that most homeowners will need at least 3 years to fully “move in” to a new home, including painting or remodeling it to their taste, furnishing it, hanging artwork, finalizing lighting, rugs, window treatments, and decorative accessories, and creating and fine-tuning organizing systems that work for them.  Embracing and accepting this more realistic timeline can take some pressure off, and sometimes the only way to gather the needed “data” about a house is to live in it for awhile.

Amy Bell
Owner, Red Chair Home Interiors


#1 – We are not driven to use your home as a “lab” to create yet another beautiful photo for our portfolio. Our job is to help you make your home a perfect reflection of your aesthetic needs, wants, lifestyle and functional requirements. Run from any decorator or designer who you sense is trying to railroad you into creating their next masterpiece.

#2 – Our work takes immense amounts of creativity, inspiration, and above all, communication skills. If we can’t uncover and understand what you want and need, then it won’t matter how technically great we are as a designer.

#3 – Contrary to stereotype, our job is not “glamorous,” most of the time. We climb ladders, breathe in dry wall dust, deal with difficult contractors/vendors, and shop until we literally drop. “It must be so fun getting paid to shop with someone else money.” Not so much when you are under time constraints and shopping for ten clients at a time. It’s mostly stressful.

Jill Hosking-Cartland
Owner/Principal Designer

Understanding the entire scope of job responsibilities a designer takes on, enables homeowners a more realistic view regarding what to expect; time-wise,  cost-wise and final results-wise.  We thank all of our participating designers for their candid responses and suggestions and hope that our three part ‘Decorators Want You To Know’ series assists both designers and homeowners in the formula called ‘success’.

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