Practical advice from Laliberte Interiors.
- Begin with a portfolio. Take a look at the designer’s work; do you like it? Some designers work only in one style, while others, like us, have a wide palette and work with the client to reveal their unique personal style. I recommend carefully reviewing each designer’s body of work and only contacting the ones that have at least 3-4 projects that you love.
- Area of service. While a lot of design firms say that they work around the world, I recommend finding a designer who lives and works within a 40 minute drive from your residence. I say this because local designers have a large network of local professionals that you’ll be using to implement the designs. It take years to build this team of trusted and reliable professionals, all in specialized trades, which reflects in the finished product of your home. For example, we serve Northern NJ and Manhattan, where we have connections with vetted contractors, painters, specialty finish artists, millworkers, metal fabricators, white glove delivery service, and many more. Working with a designer based in your area will save you time, money, and stress.
- Designer’s personality. Before choosing what designer to go with, try to talk to them. Figure out if you like them and your personalities mesh. Do you hold similar values? Would you feel comfortable working with them? Be sure to ask them what their design philosophy is and see how that aligns with you. You will need to be in close contact and share personal details with your designer for many months, so it is important that you connect with them.
- Price point of the projects. Make sure to pick the budget for your home design very early on. Are are you looking to decorate your home on a Lower budget level, Medium, Premium, or Extreme Luxury? Not all design firms openly share their price point, so pay attention to the language they use in project descriptions. You want to make sure that you are working with a designer who is matching the budget you want to follow. For example, we work with quality American and European brands with lots of custom and in-house designs made with safe and eco-friendly materials, so our price point is Premium.
- Design Degree and experience. It’s easy - a professional with a degree in Interior design or Architecture has more tools than a self-taught decorator. In my personal opinion, the designer must have at least 10 years of practical experience to design and successfully implement large complex projects. If you are looking for a decorator just to choose paint colors, draperies, and pillows for your living room, knowledge and experience are less important, and you can just go with talent and good taste. In our studio, all designers have a degree in interior design or interior architecture, and have at least 10 years of practical experience.
- Clear and structured process. This can be a complex process, so it’s really important that your designer is guiding you through it. It is so helpful if the design studio has the process published on their website - this means that your project will be moving forward in a smooth and timely manner. If there is nothing regarding the process on the website, ask about it during a discovery phone call. The lack of a defined process and project phases is a red flag of unprofessionalism.
- Learn how they present their ideas. During the discovery call, ask what you will see at the presentation. Drawings to scale, hand-sketches, old school mood boards, or photorealistic 3D illustrations? The last is best - that way, you can really get a sense of what the completed project will look like.
- Implementation responsibility. Figure out who is responsible for the implementation of the project, you or your designer. If the designer, that means that all of the purchasing of furnishing will go through the design firm. They will be solving all of the logistical issues and challenges, and you won’t need to lift a finger, only enjoy the result - your stunning home. If you are managing the implementation yourself, make sure you are up for the challenge. You will need to plan for a lot of time spent daily, be ready for unexpected issues and difficulties, and that the result might not turn out as good as you’d like as you aren’t a professional.
- Design fees. Unfortunately, our community doesn’t have a standard way of pricing and charging for services. Some companies prefer flat fees and don’t offer flexibility, others charge hourly. A reputable design firm usually will cost 15%-35% of the total project cost. We use an hourly method with preliminary analysis and an estimate of how many hours it will take to arrive to a full presentation - I find this method the most transparent and flexible.
I hope this information was useful to you and will help you find the best designer for your project. Enjoy the design process and watch your dream home shift to a reality. If our approach seems suitable for you, send us a project inquiry through the contact form and we’ll contact you within one business day.