J. Patryce Shares Tips for Working With a Designer

Joan Enger of J. Patryce Design shared her top tips on how to work with an interior designer — and mistakes to always avoid.

How to Choose a Designer

There are several ways to scout an interior designer, and part of it depends on the scope and budget for the project (some design firms may have a minimum budget or long lead time). Word of mouth is a great place to start, but remember that your aesthetic may differ from your friends’ aesthetic. I would begin by looking closely at designers’ portfolios and Instagram pages. You can tell a lot by the types of projects and imagery they post.

Once you narrow it down, connect with the designer who seems like the best choice via email and include as much detail as possible in your inquiry. How does the designer respond? Is the tone welcoming? Does she or he seem excited about the project? What type of questions does the designer ask? The relationship between a designer and a client is very personal and can go on for months, even years, so the connection is key. Above all else, it’s essential the designer’s aesthetic resonates with you. You need to be 100% confident the designer will deliver your dream home!

How to Determine the Style You Want

There are many visual support tools to make finding inspirational images easy! I am a huge fan of Instagram and Pinterest. You can actually pin from Instagram. Begin by creating online boards by room/category. As you find imagery that conveys your vision, start pinning. That will make it very easy to communicate your vision to a designer. You can also reference shelter magazines (such as Design NJ) and design books. Most print magazines can be found online or scanned and pinned to keep all of your ideas in one place.

How do Most Designers Charge?

Interior designers charge in different ways. Some determine a flat fee based on the projected timeframe/scope. Others bill hourly with a retainer upfront. In addition to either of these formats, most designers include a markup whereby passing along their trade price and adding a fee (somewhere between 25%-35%). Before you gasp, consider that you are gaining access to their wealth of resources and knowledge. A skilled designer should be sharing ideas that you would never have imagined on your own.

Avoid These Mistakes

Once you’ve made it through the selection process, trust and clear communication are key to a successful project. You’ve hired a designer for a reason, and she or he is the expert.

The designer should have a clear understanding of scale and proportion and know how to balance styles and materials. If you can allow yourself to trust your designer’s instincts, it will result in a successful outcome for everyone.

However, if there is a color you despise or the designer sourced a piece you just can’t wrap your head around, open and respectful communication is important before the project gets too far along. Budget is also important. Things typically cost more than you think they will and, as I often say, it adds up quickly. Have your designer provide a budget outline by room/item. I’d rather work with a client who prioritizes quality over quantity. Most designers are happy to do a project in phases if it means they will be given the opportunity to furnish a space correctly.

Photos by Christian Harder