Guide to the services offered by an interior designer

Page 1: What does an interior designer do?
Page 2: Doing your research
Page 3: What if things go wrong

Hannah Shanks - Editor

So you've signed on the dotted line and you finally have the perfect home. Except that it's nowhere near perfect. The carpet is stained and threadbare and the colour scheme resembles something from an Austin Powers film. What do you do? Well, before you reach for the paintbrush and home furnishings catalogue, why not enlist an interior designer to help you achieve your dream home?

An interior designer is a trained professional who plans and supervises the design of interior decoration and furnishings of homes, offices and other spaces. Most professional designers offer a full, consultancy and project management package, as well as a design-only service. Not only will they draw up the plans, source materials and furnishings, they can also arrange subcontractors to carry out the necessary plumbing, construction and carpentry etc. They supervise the entire process until the curtains have been hung and the sofa has been positioned appropriately.

Sounds expensive. Couldn't I just do it myself?

Well, maybe you could. DIY, make-over shows on TV have convinced a legion of would-be designers to don their over-alls and get stuck in to that loft conversion they've always wanted. Some people have a natural instinct for what looks good, a clear idea of what they want and the time and resources to make it a reality.

However, if, like most people, you aren't abreast with the latest trends in interiors, you're kept busy with your day job and don't fancy the stress of having to deal with plumbers and decorators, an interior designer might be the answer.

A good designer will have spent years studying and practising their art. They have been trained in various aspects of design, art and architecture and can work with a variety of styles. They also have access to materials not available to the public and have good, working relationships with reliable trades people.

These come at a price. Exactly how much will depend on the scope of the project, the quality of the materials used and the experience of the designer. Re-designing your living room, with a fresh lick of paint and some new sofas could set you back 10,000. A complete refurbishment of a large house, meanwhile, could cost you 500,000 or more.

But there are so many designers out there! How do I find a good one?

The best way to find a designer is through word of mouth. Ask friends, colleagues and relatives if they can recommend someone who has completed an interior-design project for them. If you've seen an interior that appeals to you, try to find out who designed it.

Failing that, contact the British Interior Design Association www.bida.org. They have an extensive list of professional, interior designers and decorators. Any reputable designer should be registered with them.

Most professionals will have a degree or diploma in interior design. But while qualifications are important, there are other factors to consider. A good designer will have a personal style that appeals to you, be versatile, welcome your input and be reliable and trustworthy.

Marie Blackman of Nu-ne-lah Design Consultants www.nunelah.com has been designing interiors for 22 years. She says there should be a "synergy between the designer and the client. It should be a collaborative process a good designer will build confidence in the client, who can then make their own decisions".

If cost is an issue, try to find a designer based in your area. Distances can drive up costs as designers and subcontractors often charge for travelling time. But don't base you decision solely on cost. Lower costs often mean a lower level of service. As designer Jane Churchill www.janechurchillinteriors.co.uk puts it: "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."

 
 


Property pros