In my opinion, the client-designer interview is the most important step in your home design project because selecting the right interior designer for your home project is vital for your project’s success. So, to help you facilitate this process, I’ve outlined the best way in my experience to interview an interior designer in this post, with a comprehensive list of 40 important questions to ask during the interview, PLUS a bonus list! Let me know if you’ve found it helpful in my comments section below, I’d love to read your feedback!
I call my client-designer interview my “Initial Consultation”. I use this time specifically to generally review the client’s plans, visit the project site, and discuss the work that is being proposed for the home. It is also used to review my design fees and services, explain my design processes, and answer questions. Once I’m able to get a good sense of the work load involved for the project, I can then give estimates for my fees as well as recommendations on methods to proceed and general verbal timing schedules for the work. Some designers charge for this meeting and some don’t. For more detailed information on interior designer’s pricing and fees, check out my related blog post on How to Work With An Interior Designer: Pricing-What To Expect And What To Know.
Another key factor to consider during the interview/initial consultation, are the personalities of all involved. This in-person meeting allows everyone to get a feel if they would work well together or not. Most of my design projects last several months to a year. You can expect to be communicating several times per week, sometimes daily, with your designer, so you definitely want to hire someone you like working with! If there are other members of the team involved such as architects, contractors, and trades people, (which there usually are), it’s also good to make sure everyone is on the same page and can work well together.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, trust is a critical component of a designer-client relationship. You need to be able to trust not only in their design skills, but also around all monetary issues. The interview will give you a sense of the designer’s personality and trustworthiness. You should feel free to ask for a few recent references to call. You can ask for these either before, during, or after the interview. The references can help you confirm your feelings about the designers you’re considering for your project. As a bonus, I’ve added a list of important questions to ask the designer’s references when you call them ☺ see below. The more details you get about a interior designer you’re considering to hire, the more equipped you’ll feel about making the best decision for your home project.
Now you know quite a bit about what the interview/initial consultation consists of and what this time should be used for. What the interview time should NOT be used for is to glean lots of design advice, ask for design plans in advance, paint colors, furniture sources, or any other design related ideas for your home. These are the expert skills and sources that good designers have worked long and hard for years to hone and aquire, and it’s what you’re hiring them for! Please don’t expect to “test” a prospective designer during the interview as to what they would do in your home. You can view their portfolio to see if you like their work, call their references, and ask lots of questions about their process to ensure you’ll be a good match. A good, experienced interior designer may give you a tip or two, but then would let you know that they need to follow their design process first to give you any real design plans or advice. Lots of thought, creativity, and expert planning goes into great design! This work would begin once the designer’s contract is agreed upon and signed.
Ok, so here is my super comprehensive list I’ve compiled for you of important questions to ask your prospective interior designers during your interview, as promised! Feel free to pick and choose which ones you feel would be most helpful to your specific home project…
Important Questions to Ask During Your Interior Designer Interviews:
How much experience do you have for the needs of my project and how many similar projects have you completed to ours?
What is your total interior design experience?
Did you attend design school and/or previously work for other interior designers to gain experience?
What is your availability to start and finish this project within our time frame?
Do you feel we have a realistic time frame schedule for the proposed work?
Can you help us create a time schedule for our project and keep us on track?
Can you describe your design process?
How long does it typically take for you to complete your initial design schemes?
If we hire you, what do you need from us for you to start your design process? (i.e.: architects plans, access to the house, photos of styles I like, items we’re keeping to use in our house, etc.)
What specific interior design services do you offer and what are your fees for them?
Do you charge for travel time?
Do you charge a commission for purchasing items for my home and if so, what is the commission?
How do you bill me for your purchasing commissions?
What is your process for making purchases for me?
How do you bill me for any other design fees you may charge?
How transparent are you with billing: will I get to see invoices directly from vendors/stores on my purchases, or go you generate your own invoices?
What forms of payments do you take?
What are reimbursable expenses to me?
If the designer works hourly, ask for an *estimated ball-park of total work hours after your interview/initial consultation so you have some idea of what they’ll be charging you. *Please note this is just a ball-park figure to help you budget and set some expectations. If the scope of work changes once the project gets underway, you should expect this figure to change accordingly.
Do you require a minimum budget?
What happens if I make some of the purchases for my home myself?
Do you offer budgeting services?
-If you offer budgeting services, how do you charge for that?
Based on your experience, do you feel our budget is realistic for our scope of proposed work?
How often do you stay within budget and on schedule on your past projects?
Will I be working with you directly or will I be handed off to a design associate?
How many other projects will you be working on while also working on my project?
Are you available evenings and/or weekends for meetings if necessary and if so, do you charge extra for those times?
How reachable are you during the day and will I be able to text/email/call you on your cell phone, etc.?
Are you planning any long trips/vacations during our proposed project schedule?
Do you have your own team of contractors and trades people?
What is the payment process for working with your general contractor and other sub-contractors?
Do I need to use your contractors and/or trades people or will you work with mine?
Do your contractors guarantee their work and are they insured?
Are your contractors familiar with my town’s permitting processes, regulations & fees?
Do you charge a percentage of construction costs and if so, what is it?
Can you give me a few recent references to call?
If we decide to move forward with your services, when can I expect to receive your contract?
Bonus List of Questions to Ask Your Prospective Designer’s References:
What was the scope of work the interior designer completed for you?
Was the designer easy to work with?
Was the designer easily reachable and did they respond to your emails/calls/texts quickly?
Was the designer professional by being on time, reliable, and always presenting themselves in an appropriate and professional manner?
Did you find you could be open and honest with the designer?
Did you feel the designer got your style and selected products, colors, and finishes that you loved?
Did you find that the designer’s billing and charging methods met your expectations or did you have any surprises?
Were there any disagreements, arguments, or mistakes that occurred during your project and if so, do you feel the designer resolved the issue(s) in a professional and agreeable manner?
Were you happy with the designer’s overall design plans and selections for your home?
Do you feel the designer made appropriate design choices for your budget?
Did the designer stay on schedule and within your budget?
Did the designer work with your contractor or their own?
If the designer used their own contractor or trades people on your project, how did you like their work?
Do you feel the designer used his/her time efficiently when working on your home design project?
Are you happy with the overall outcome of the project?
Would you hire this designer again for any future projects?
I hope this helps you feel more confident and prepared going into an interview with your prospective designer(s)! Please share your experiences with any interior designer interviews, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!