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  • Writer's pictureSusan Van Meter

What to Expect when Hiring an Interior Designer

I was talking to a prospective client the other day and they mentioned they did not know what to expect from a professional designer as it's their first time. I realised many of you may have the same query, so I thought this might be a helpful blog topic.

Years ago, if you received a call from a prospective client they most probably had used a residential interior designer before; you had to have a lot of money as residential interior designers were regarded as a luxury and still do in some respects.

Nowadays, due to the advent of reality TV shows and accessibility of product due to the internet creating general knowledge of the subject; more and more people are wanting to create their perfect home with help from a professional interior designer.  

And, you know, it's not easy making the right decisions about space, size, colour or finishes, if you are considering a bathroom or kitchen renovation, you really will need professional guidance to help you make the right decisions, eliminate mistakes and keep you in budget.


You might not realise, but there is a difference between a residential interior designer and an interior decorator. Some qualified designers that have gone to college and achieved a degree within the interior design discipline, can get very upset with wannabes that think they have a good eye and can do the job well. Now, some can, but some can't.  I would always say to anyone that is looking for a designer to make sure they are qualified first. This is easily done with professional interior design associations such as SBID and BIID.

To be a member of one of these professional associations, the residential interior designer would need to be approved as a professional.  A decorator normally deals with colours, final finishes and furniture - a designer will consider more of the technical aspects of a space and make it work; move walls, plumbing, electrical, floor and joinery details, project management, costs, contractors, document the process and deliver the final residential interior project on time and within budget.


So, what should you expect?  I would recommend a face to face meeting, either in person or using a video conferencing app such as Zoom, which is easy to use nowadays. You need to know if you like each other and can communicate well and trust that individual.


We need to be guided by you. The designer will ask you what you are looking for. We have a very helpful questionnaire that is sent and completed electronically. The questions we ask to build a comprehensive picture of what it is you are wanting to achieve for yourself and your family. We will ask you if you have collated images using a Pinterest or have an Instagram account, this provides a visual representation of style, texture, space and colour for us to build our picture.

Pinterest is an efficient way of privately sharing images between client and designer so we can build up an idea of styles you like. I would recommend creating a wish list of your of what you'd like to create. The designer will then take that info on board and interpret this into a feasible design scheme to solve your big, and small, interior design problems.


It's important to let us know your budget. Not all clients want to disclose this because they feel they might be leaving money on the table. That's really not the case. You know how much you want to spend, it's down to us to create a scheme within your budget, this budget can be revised at any time along the design journey and you will always be informed of any increases if they occur.

It wastes your time and ours if you do not have a good idea of how much you would like to spend. If for some reason it's more than you expected it's up to us to explain why.  As a client, you should always be aware of how much is being spent, where it is being spent and when.

Budget control for your residential interior design project
Key your eye on the money!


Good communication is essential in almost every type of relationship between people, residential interior design is no exception. Every aspect of your project will be documented and presented to you for approval. A tender process will be provided for the best building costs from 2 or 3 contractors that we trust and know will get the job done well. Weekly updates will be provided along with bi-weekly budget reports.

Depending on what level of service you have agreed to we will provide you with a colour scheme, layouts, specification of products, elevations, and a 3D visual if this is covered in our fees and your budget.

Moodboards, samples and 3D visuals for you interior project.
Presentation is key!


Most clients expect a visual of some sort, whether it be a coloured elevation or a full 3D visual, these really do help to communicate the end result. These are expensive to produce as they are time-consuming, and there are also different levels of rendering available. We will discuss what type of visual would most suit you and see if this fits in with your budget.


This is another level of service that some designers offer at an hourly rate or as a percentage of the overall build cost. Our clients generally like us to manage the whole design process for them, which removes any doubt and stress from them. We charge 12% of the overall build cost for this service, an hourly rate works out to be very expensive for you.

If we, at SVM Interiors, are acting as the main contractor, that means supplying the builders for you and we pay them, then we are legally responsible for their work. If you are paying them directly the contract is then between you and the contractor and they are responsible to you. The interior designer can oversee the building work, but it is up to the builder to make sure he is on time and budget and the quality is up to standard.

It is always a good idea to make sure the builders come with good testimonials, and go and see a job they have done.  Don't try and squeeze your builder on price and try and save money, within reason, of course, we can always give our clients advice. A Joe Bloggs builder might be cheap and quick but from experience will cause all sorts of problems further down the line.


Give yourself plenty of time to create your dream home. London residential interior design projects always take longer than anticipated, we will advise you how long your project will take by creating a schedule of works against a realistic timeline. Designing your dream home will take time and should not be rushed.

I hope this gives you an idea about what to expect from your professional interior designer and the process?

If you would like to discuss a future project and just need friendly advice, please contact me for a free no-obligation consultation. Click here to schedule.

Copyright Disclaimer: Photos used here are not mine, all rights are reserved to the copyright owners. Sourced from Instagram & Pinterest.

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