5 Tips for Working with a Designer


*This post is a revision of a post from 2017

Want to work with an Interior Designer?

As we wrap up another year at Paradigm Interiors, I find myself looking at all of our client experiences and planning for ways to make each one better. Reviewing this post was a great exercise in examining our core values. I wrote this post nearly two years ago and much of it is true today. Enjoy the read and by all means, if you want to work with us give us a call!

5 Things to Expect When You Work with an Interior Designer

Olympia Dukakis had some of the best lines in Steel Magnolias. One of my favorites was when she said, “the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize”. It’s hilarious, but I’d argue that it’s probably not just our ability to accessorize that sets apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Designers (and decorators, yes there is a difference!) are great at accessories, but they should be great at a many other things.

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My Personal Experience with Designers

I spent a fair amount of time this week in my own home painting over this sandy, beige wall color recommended to me several years ago by a designer I used before I became a designer myself. When she showed me the color I knew I didn’t like it, but she presented it as my only choice. Not in any overt way. She didn’t say “this is THE color for your den and dining room”. It was just the ONLY color on the board for those two rooms. and she’d never told me I had the option of a revision. I think I was terrified that she’d charge me by the hour to select another color. Although I wasn’t over the moon for the color, I didn’t question her.

I should have.

Slightly disliking that color has festered over the years and now I loathe that color. To say it brought me great pleasure when I managed to cover it all up with a fresh coat is an understatement.

Here are some pearls of wisdom I wish I would have known before that transaction designer-client took place.


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The beige was replaced by Repose Gray in my old dining room.

After the removal of the sandy beige color .

5 things to expect when Working with a Designer

The mental solitude of painting and ruminating over that experience really got my wheels turning about my own client interactions and what I would want them to know…

1. A good designer gives you revisions in the scope of work.

If they don’t offer at least on set of revisions in the letter of agreement, then you may want to reconsider the relationship. I can’t speak for other designers, but we don’t always get it 100% on the first try and often we have a “back-up” in case we don’t.

With a great designer, it’s not his/her way or the highway. They don’t push you into making decisions, they allow you to participate. Trust your gut. If you don’t like something you should speak up!

Paradigm Interiors offers one set of revisions included in the initial work. When I go to revisions I do several things to assure that you will be satisfied. I start by asking questions and clarifying the communication. Then, I offer options. Usually that means more than one backup option. Then, I give a rationale for the choices, why I made them, and why they work with the design plan.

That being said, you also need to trust your designer. You hired him/her for a reason – expertise! Designers should have a keen understanding of design principles and elements, like balance, scale, repetition, and line. When we make a decision for a project, we are considering many factors so that the overall product looks right.

2. Good designers educate.

At the end of the day, you’ll understand why I selected the $45/gallon paint over the $30/gallon paint. A very frugal friend once asked me, “Why would I ever spend $3000 on a bed. Isn’t the $1000 bed just as good?” Maybe. There can be major differences. A good designer knows these differences and can articulate them. The quality and value of products depend on many factors, which should be thoroughly investigated. A good designer does her homework. Rest assured, if I recommend you buy a $3000 bed (assuming it’s in your budget), I’ve done my homework and it IS worth it!

3. They’re not question averse when it comes to cost.

You shouldn’t be afraid to ask why something costs as much as it does!  It could be because the furniture piece is of very high quality. It could be because it’s a brand name. Don’t assume the piece is costly because it is of high quality.

Ask about how long you can expect it to last. I have several lines of furniture that are my “go to” because I know their quality is good. If you ask for something that will lasts decades, I’m going to go select from a line that I know uses better materials and better construction methods in their furnishings.

4. They help you build YOUR style.

You will very likely choose a designer because you love the way their portfolio looks. However, you also want something unique. While some of the top designers in the country have some “go to” items, their work has some variation from project to project. One of my favorite celebrity designers, Anne Marie Barton, says she has a striped fabric she’s used for years. However, if you review her portfolio you will see each project is unique to her client and she can articulate why.

5. They listen. They’re flexible.

And if they mess up they own it and they make it right. We’re all human. We make mistakes, but taking responsibility for them and problem solving is what really separates us from the animals.

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Classically Styled Transitional Bedroom

If you’d like to work with Paradigm Interiors you can schedule your free design style consultation here. If you’d like to see more of our work or keep up with this blog, you can subscribe here and get our free guide “Creating a Beautiful Focal Point with Art”. 


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