Updated: Mar 31, 2019
I have been in hundreds of homes over the past twelve years since founding Casa Vilora Interiors, and I have met with many homeowners during this time. I can tell you that I have heard it all. There are a lot of misconceptions and mistakes about how interior designers work, and what is involved in hiring an interior designer.
Because we are all about transparency and educating our clients, we make that a part of our process from the onset. Our 11 step process makes it possible to concisely explain how we work to our clients and ensures an easy and efficient process.
This article is not as much about decorating as it is about how consumers perceive the idea of working with an interior designer, so please stick with me.
Just this past week I held a live design workshop at my interior design studio titled "Taking The Scary Out Of The Design Process". My goal was to help educate clients who were on the verge of starting a renovation or decorating project, about just what is involved in the design process, and in particular, how my firm brings value to the process.
I find that because there is so much information out there on the internet and on reality shows on television, consumers often have the wrong concept about how this all works. Added to that is the fact that each designer works differently, and most don't discuss the "behind the scenes" with consumers, and that tends to leave an air of mystery and even mistrust amongst consumers. In this post I will seek to set the record straight on a lot of the misconceptions that I see floating around in the world.
Now, I cannot speak for another designer, but I can tell you that as a Design Business Mentor to over 3500 designers all over the world, I have seen and heard it all. I have seen how different we are, and how different our clients are as well.
This is why our 11 step process works so well for us here at Casa Vilora Interiors. It is the framework by which we work with every client, but we build in some flexibility because every project is unique
One thing holds true, no matter how different each project can be, is that if you are getting ready to embark on a project, you cannot go wrong with an accomplished design expert by your side.
Seek the advice of a great designer - even if only on a consultancy basis to get some ideas and direction. It is not as easy as it looks on TV, or even what the internet promised you. There is a lot that goes into a thoughtfully designed space. You can book a consultation with us anytime to understand your options before you start spending money and possibly making costly mistakes
So what are these common mistakes? Well, here goes!
1- Assuming interior design is expensive
Well, I hear this one very often. I know consumers who would love to renovate their home because it just does not function well, and is very uninspiring and bland, but they refuse to even make the call to a designer out of fear that it will cost them an arm and a leg. So most consumers will take on the task of shopping for themselves to save money. That often results in costly mistakes. Retail stores are in the business of selling you products - the more the better. They don't mind selling you a matching set. In fact, it's their goal. They don't often care if they fit in your home or even through the doorways, and they certainly don't have a plan for the big picture. They usually don't factor in scale, balance and proportion, and the design essentials that make a space great.
Here are two slides I presented during my recent design workshop that may explain why interior design may seem like an expensive undertaking looking in from the outside.
The fact is that most consumers go out and buy one piece at a time over a long time, and have no idea how much they have actually spent. They also don't usually create a finished space with all the layers a great designer would. We present you with the full budget upfront with all things considered (including ancillary costs), and that is what may come as sticker shock to a client, when in fact they would be spending more on their own
2-Assuming that all interior designers work the same
I wish I had better news here, but every designer works differently because every one of us is individual. We all serve different clients with their unique needs, and we all have different business models and goals. Some designers only work with certain clientele at a certain budget level, while others serve everyone. Some designers only provide design services, while others also provide products. Some designers share their discounts on the products they specify, while others don't. I believe that each design firm is just looking for the best way to serve their clients, and still manage to run a successful business, and not looking to confuse consumers.
But it can get confusing, so it helps that as a consumer when you are doing your research for interior designers for your project, you know what questions to ask, or at least what to look for on each designer's website, and certainly have a good idea of what you want, or be open to hashing that out with your designer.
These are somethings to ask or look for as you decide what designer you would like to invite into your home for a consultation:
**Consultation fee versus no consultation fee - it is a valid question to ask. We charge a consultation fee because we show up to your home ready to work. You get lots of ideas and direction for your project. We educate you on the process and help you understand the value that we bring in saving you time and money. We explain how we manage your project, the trades and purchase furnishings on your behalf. We want you to be an educated consumer, and so we leave no stone unturned. Typically when a designer does a free consultation, they will not be sharing ideas with you because they are not getting paid for that time. They are usually there for measurements to facilitate a quote. Think about the time you have invested into not getting ideas when that is actually what you need to move forward
**The services they offer - some designers will only take on full service projects. Some will only take on luxury projects with a high budget. At Casa Vilora Interiors, we have flexible design services to accommodate many budget levels - ranging from full service to DIY friendly services. We work with everyone - as long as they have reasonable expectations of what their budget will allow after we have educated them on that, and as long as they are open to following our defined and proven design process
**Do they have systems and processes in place. It is mostly not true that designers aren't great business people, but in some cases it is true. Sometimes being creative and still be successful at business can be challenging. We have developed our 11 step process here at Casa Vilora Interiors that makes the process smooth, easy, efficient and fun for our clients. This ensures little to no mistakes with your project. We run our business with heart, but you can also be assured that we are great at running a business.
**Their signature design style. Some designers only work in certain design styles, so it is important to make sure that style aligns with yours. Here at Casa Vilora Interiors, we love color and a great pattern mix, but we also love working with every client's specific taste. Therefore we don't have a defined design style that we impose on every client. We will help our clients step out of their box, if we see the need to coax them out a bit. This means that we don't worry so much about defining any one style, but instead use your home to creatively tell your unique story. Your style should support your lifestyle, and that's what we endeavor to bring to your project instead of a cookie-cutter, defined aesthetic
**How they bill for design fees. Is it hourly, is it a flat fee or square footage? This is one that is especially challenging for consumers to grasp when it comes to how designers work. Here at Casa Vilora Interiors, we bill hourly. But our system is unique in that we estimate the minimum total number of hours for your project upfront. We take the time to think through the entire process of your project, phase by phase, and estimate the number of hours to complete the project. The Fee Proposal that we send you outlines the estimated number of hours for each phase of the project. This way, you have a clear understanding of how the hours are being used. No surprises! Because it is an estimate, we do reserve the right to bill after we have used up those hours. We will stay pretty close to those hours if there are no unforeseen issues, change orders, or matters outside of our control that add time to the project schedule. We then collect our fee in two installments, therefore our clients are not bombarded with weekly or bi-weekly invoices, and a never-ending timeclock
**How they purchase products on your behalf. Are they purchasing from retailers like you can, or do they have a vast network of vendors with unique and customizable products? Do they have samples that they bring to you or a studio space where you can visit? Do they share some of the discounts they receive from their vendors? Our promise to our clients is that we do share discounts on most products, as long as we are working on a full service project and our discount is more than 20%. This means that you are not paying retail, and less than you would on your own
There are a lot more things to discuss with your designer - How they handle receiving your products, do they have a network of trades people, how do they communicate throughout the process, do they make site visits and how often, and so much more.
Have a frank and open discussion with your designer, and ask a lot of questions to uncover how they work.
3- Assuming that internet pricing is less
The internet has done a great job of fooling consumers into thinking that it's the best place to get a good deal. It is just not true. Sure, you can scour pretty hard and find rock bottom pricing. It can happen, so I am not saying it is impossible, but here's what happens typically
**The online retailers will use dirty tactics of listing a really cheap price on some items to get you to click. By the time you add that item to your cart, you will see that it is "out of stock and will be back in stock soon". They use that as psychology to trick consumers into thinking the prices are less and they are just sold out for now. Most times, they are ordering the product directly from the manufacturer and they are not stocking the product and motivated to move inventory. It is a slimy strategy I see way too often, and consumers are none the wiser.
**The online retailers are usually violating the manufacturers IMAP policy. Internet Minimum Advertised Price (IMAP) is the minimum that a retailer is allowed to sell a product for. This is to keep things fair for all the resellers of that manufacturer's products. Some online retailers list the product for less, therefore violating the policy and creating unfair competition
**Cheaper products usually mean end of stock, faulty, damaged or knock-off goods. In fact the same manufacturer may make a look-a-like product that is of lesser quality compared to the higher-end product. Consumers often think they are getting the exact same product for less
**Sometimes online and local retailers will in fact buy at lower prices because of their volume with the manufacturer. Well, I guess that seems fair. However, volume usually means shipping containers full, which usually means no way of customizing these items. The retailer will only stock colors, styles, trends that they can sell to the mass market. So basically they will stock colors like beige, gray, ivory, maybe navy, because these colors appeal to the mass market. In most cases when you purchase the same product through a design professional, we can offer some customization.
**You are not getting any service with the sale when you buy from the big boys of online retail. They only want to sell you a product. An interior designer is personally vested in your project and want to do an amazing job for you. We have a plan, we make sure all the pieces we specify work with that plan. We make sure everything is handled down to the tiny detail, and that your home will be your unique space - something you will never get from an online retailer. So even if designers sell a product for a bit more, you are getting much more value and satisfaction.
4- Assuming that in store designers are their real designer
I have nothing against in store designers for local big box stores. I think they have a great role of providing their customers with the product knowledge they need to make an educated purchase. But I would caution you to not think that because a store offers in home design services, it means that you are getting good interior design.
I am sure there are exceptions to this, but in-store designers are usually sales people, and their only job is to sell you furniture. They typically will not have you and your lifestyle figured out, and they will not have a plan and the big picture in mind for your project. They usually want to see an open space in a room where they can add a piece of furniture from their store offerings.
Your designer is the person you have a contract with, with a defined scope of work. They will show you a detailed plan from the beginning so you know exactly what you're getting before you begin to make purchases. Usually it's not all furniture from the same catalog. We have hundreds, if not thousands of resources available to us, so you get a custom design.
5-Assuming that all projects are created equal
Your neighbor may have just remodeled her bathroom for $20K, but yours may not come in at that price.
Projects are as individual as people, and no two will ever be the same, even if it is for the same client. There are way too many variables at play for consumers to think that because they did one project 3 years ago with designer Y, that means it will be exactly the same with new designer Z.
This is why communication is so important to us here at Casa Vilora Interiors. We love to talk our clients through the entire process from the very beginning, so they know what to expect. No assumptions that because a former designer, or even a former project that we did together will work exactly the same way.
There are often different vendors involved, different trades people, different products. different time of the year, different timeline and different budget.
The world of interior design does not have to be the wild wild west. We are committed to opening the conversation and shedding light on what the industry is all about. It has certainly changed from when I started as a designer 12 years ago, and we are more committed than ever to take good care of our clients; serving them with heart.
Design is more and more accessible to consumers, but with that comes low quality design being passed off as good design. You can be assured that you will always get the best with us.
We hope that you found some value in this article and learned a thing or two. We are happy to continue the conversation. Book a free discovery call or in home consultation HERE
Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!