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Store Design Consultant vs Independent Interior Designer: Is There A Difference?

When I first started my business back in 2007, I didn't necessarily find instant success. I had been laid off from a lucrative job with a national homebuilder, which I later realized was them trying to cut costs due to the looming recession.

I decided to take on a full time job with a design retail company while I side-hustled my design business.

I learned so much working for this company. My role was a design consultant and was about 75% design and 25% commission sales for furniture. The design aspect involved going to clients' homes to assess their needs and specify the right design and products for them, but we would also just sell a sofa or a table or some lamps if that's all the client needed.

What we offered was pretty unique. The company was a part of a franchise started by an interior designer, and they operated by a strict formula that she developed over her design career. From sales, to client relationships, to how the designs were conducted and the tools we used, to the vendors and back office - everything was detailed in our operations manual and we were trained like navy seals. haha.

For a long time, I thought that most larger retailers operated in the same way, but if you are ever in the market to design a room or a few in your home, you will find that there is a difference if you go the retail store route versus working with an independent designer.

There are definitely pros to working with a large retailer. The design consultants are usually very knowledgeable about the products they sell, and can help you make your selections from their available products.

There may be some drawbacks however, depending on who the retailer is, and therefore it is helpful to understand the differences between a store design consultant and an independent interior designer, to make sure your goals will be achieved from the time and money you spend.

Typically store design consultants don't visit your home to see the space that they are helping you select furniture for, so there may not be a design plan to make sure scale and proportions work, or even if the sofa will fit through the front door! Selecting furniture for your home is more involved. It is not just choosing pieces that look great in the store, or feel comfortable. The rest of the space and your existing pieces need to be considered.

In most cases, you almost have to already know what you want before stepping foot in a larger retail store. Again, there may not have been a detailed needs analysis and site assessment to be able to curate exactly what you need and what will work best. If you are a savvy shopper, very decisive and know what you want, this might be a good route for you. But if you find that you get overwhelmed with making lots of decisions, then know what could be involved.

Another drawback can be the range of products to choose from. Big furniture retailers will usually limit their product offerings to their line, or a very small selection of product lines. Of course this doesn't mean that you can't find some great pieces, but it is important to know that there may be some limitations, especially if you love more unique or exotic pieces.

Customization of the products may also be very limited. Fabric options will likely be limited to their line, when in reality, working with an independent interior designer means that there are literally thousands of options available to you.

Store design consultants are usually very sales driven, versus being design driven. Some are trained in interior design or have some experience, so there are exceptions to this, but often an interior design background is not a requirement for the job. There are a lot of situations where you will find a new designer who is just getting started with their career and gaining some experience at a large retail store. It is wonderful to access their knowledge, often great technical skills, and enthusiasm, while helping to support their budding career.

Before you get started with shopping for furniture for your home, ask yourself a few questions, and be very honest with whomever you choose to help you with such an important investment of time and money.

1- Is it furniture you need or do you need a designer to help you with a plan before making purchases?

2- Do you need more than just furniture? What about paint, wallpaper, draperies, art, flooring, repairs etc? What about the rest of your home like the kitchen and bathrooms?

3- Are you and your spouse on the same page about what you want?

4- Are you and your spouse on the same page about the budget?

5- Are you decisive or do you need to see tons of options before making a decision?

6- Do you love having the ability to customize or go fully custom?

7- Do you like more unique or exotic things?

8- Do you love antiques or supporting local artisans and small businesses?

9- Do you have measurements and photos of the space to communicate with your design consultant? Did you measure hallways and doorways?

10- Will you be working with multiple stores and consultants? If so, who will manage all that is involved?

11- What about deliveries and installation? Will there be a designer onsite to help?

12- Do you have the time and energy to manage the process?

Remember this! Haha. Forever funny!

Our design process is pretty seamless and we take pride in managing all the details so you don't have to. We have several posts right here on the blog about the way we work. HERE is a recent post about our process, which can be summed up in 12 steps. Check it out and drop us a comment.

We are updating our shop page with new and exciting products. Be sure to check it out HERE

Reach out to us and we would be happy to answer any of your pressing questions about our design services. At the very least, you will leave just a bit more educated about what to expect, but ideally you will get real solutions and your dream home realized - without the hassle.

Schedule a free Discovery Call below

Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!


This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using any of the links, we make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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