How to Prepare for a Design Consultation
Interior design scope and costs can vary a lot. Before hiring a designer, you will have a meeting to discuss the project and get a quote. There are three essential questions you should be prepared to answer in order too make the most of that meeting, and to be able to compare multiple quotes.
One: What are your goals for this project?
How you want to use this space will determine where your designer spends their time, what suggestions they make, and will influence each part of the project. If you have a room that functions well but looks dated, I will concentrate on the visual design. But if you need move a wall or a major appliance, or if you need to accommodate special needs or multiple functions in a single space, then I will approach these projects differently.
If you don’t know the answer to this, close your eyes and visualize yourself using the space: what is different? What is the same? How does what you want to do in the space differ from what you CAN do in the space? At this point it is not necessary to have very specific ideas about how you want things to look, but it is important to know what you want to achieve with the project.
It’s OK for your goals to change, and it’s ok to have different goals: a designer can help you prioritize and to develop compromises when they are needed.
Two: What is your project’s total budget?
Projects tend to go between 15% – 20% over budget. The best way to deal with this is to set your maximum budget, and then make the project budget 15-20% less. This creates a buffer for both upgrades and uncertainties. This is much better than assuming you won’t need to upgrade any of your features. Many times small upgrades can have a huge impact on a project.
For example, imagine a house that is renovating to an open-design main floor concept. The family assumes they will keep their recently-purchased kitchen appliances to save a little budget cost. But as the design continues, the designer suggests an upgrade to a more expensive dishwasher because their existing dishwasher would be too loud for multiple uses in the open concept space. The family wouldn’t be able to achieve their goal of having cosy family movie nights while the dishwasher is running.
Any project that involves construction also has uncertainties. It’s hard to know what is behind a wall or under the floorboards. I have seen cases where a bathroom vanity is removed only to discover the wall behind it was never built. Many people experience issues with updating electrical, bringing things up to code, or having to insulate areas that were not planned. When you have a buffer in your budget it is a minor annoyance. Otherwise it can mean ending a project or severely compromising it half way through.
Three: What is the timing?
How soon you need the project complete will affect a lot of decision making. Contractors have busy seasons, so last minute bookings are virtually impossible at certain times in the year and a short completion window at any time can limit who is available. If you are ordering furniture or appliances for your project, expect 6-8-week lead times, especially if you are choosing your upholstery fabric. Even for smaller scale re-design or decorating projects, having a clear end time can affect what you purchase, as your designer plans for things like upcoming art shows or furniture sales.
With these things in mind, it is best to start the design process as soon as possible, and if you are on a tight schedule, be clear with your designer and prepared to look for timing-oriented compromises.
But if you are not on a tight schedule, don’t be afraid to start quite early. The design phase of the project can happen long before construction, which offers many benefits: it will give you time to live with the plans, and have discussions about your goals and budget. Having a complete design before getting contractor quotes is a great way to insure they are as accurate as possible. With good timing, the appliances, furnishings, and finishes can be ordered and on site when construction starts, minimizing delays. A complete and accurate design with materials on site are great for minimizing both the inconvenience of construction and your expenses.
Goals, budget and timing are the foundations of a design project
Bringing clear ideas about each of these to the initial design quote meeting will give your designer the best tools to for making a quote, and for moving forward with your project. Good luck with all your design projects, and if you are in Waterloo Region, don’t hesitate to contact me about your design project!