Unless you’ve previously worked with an interior designer, you might not have any idea what the process looks like. So, here’s the complete beginner’s guide to working with an interior designer.
I totally understand when people are hesitant to invest in a design pro – after all, there’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes that it’s easy to be unsure of where your money is going. What does an interior designer do, anyway? How long does it take? And what does the process look like along the way?
Here’s what the 10-step process with Lesley Myrick Art + Design looks like from start to finish for a full-service project (we call this our “Design Comprehensive” package). Of course, each client and project is different and we’ve got different design packages for different needs and budgets; but this is generally what to expect.
The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Working with An Interior Designer
Step 0: Complimentary Phone Consultation
This is the pre-game: we want to get to know you and your project! This free 20-minute call with yours truly is a chance for you to make sure that Lesley Myrick Art + Design is an awesome fit for you. We’ll ask you to share a little about your project with us, we’ll recommend the best design package for you, and you’ll be able to get all of your questions answered. Working together should totally jive and feel great – the complimentary phone consultation is like our “first date”.
Step 1a: Design Jumpstart session
A 2-hour design consultation called a Design Jumpstart will kick off your project. We’ll review your existing floor plan, recommend a new plan (if needed), discuss what type of furniture to purchase, talk about window treatments and finishes, help create a livable budget, come up with a design direction and vision, and answer your design and project questions. The Design Jumpstart is the launching point for you to gather expert advice and resources to continue on your own, or it sets the foundation for our work together.
Step 1b: Signing of Agreement and Payment of Design Fees
At the end of our Design Jumpstart session, a signed Professional Services Agreement and payment for initial design fees will officially kick off your project. Huzzah!
Step 2: On-Site Measurements and Photos
Lesley Myrick Art + Design will take detailed measurements of your home, as well as thorough reference photos. This is also the time that we’ll invite your contractors into your space to take their own photos and measurements and discuss the scope of the project.
Step 3: Design Planning + Concept Meeting
We’ll take all the information discussed in the Design Jumpstart and use it to design your floor plan; choose furnishings, fabrics, and finishes; select appliances and light fixtures; and create cost estimates for every necessary aspect of your design. This is the part of the process where a TON is done behind the scenes, and the client sees very little immediate results. We know it sucks to wait, but it takes time to do this right and make sure every last detail is covered.
Once we have a design direction and some initial selections made, we’ll schedule a meeting to present our Design Concept and get your feedback on where things are headed before buttoning up all the details.
Step 4: Design Proposal Presentation and Collection of Payment
After all the behind the scenes planning is done, we’ll present your design plan and proposal. Payment for all the goods you approve is due and we’ll get busy procuring your items!
Step 5: Procurement
We’ll place all of the orders for furniture, fabrics, appliances – you name it. We manage allllll the tedium of ordering, tracking, receiving, and inspecting your furniture and decor.
Step 6: Construction + Site Visits
It’s go time! This is when your contractors will get started with their work. We’ll pop in for site visits (usually weekly) and be available via phone and email to discuss the project with your contractors and answer their questions. This part of the design project can take a number of weeks – or months – depending on the scope of the project.
Step 7: Furniture Installation + Styling
Contractors are done doing their thing, and now the pretty stuff will arrive! Once everything has been delivered on-site, our team will arrange and style everything for the big reveal. Your home will go from construction zone to finished magazine-worthy space practically overnight.
Step 8: The Big Reveal + Walk-Through
TA-DA! At the end of the day you’ll walk in the door to see your home completely finished. (Cue angels singing.) All your patience will have paid off when you see the incredible transformation! Your home will feel totally amazing. And it’s all yours to enjoy. We’ll also do a detailed walk-through with you and create a punch-list of deficiencies that need to be addressed.
There are always going to be a few minor things to take care of – this is totally normal. Sometimes furniture arrives damaged, or an issue arises with work that’s been done. This is the time to fix those pesky problems and ensure you’re over the moon with your new home.
Step 9: Professional Photography
Your stunning space deserves a moment in the limelight! Right after the big reveal when your home is perfectly styled (usually the next day) we’ll bring in our rockstar photographer.
Step 10: Resolving Deficiencies + Project Wrap-Up
When all deficiencies and problems have been resolved, we’ll officially wrap. Clients will receive a project binder which includes fabric swatches, paint colors, and other useful information to have on hand. And of course, a little thank-you gift from us.
Do you have a question about working with a designer that wasn’t answered here?
This complete beginner’s guide to working with an interior designer is just scratching the surface. If you have a question or are you’re interested in starting a design project (no pressure to marry me, it’s just a first date!) you can book a complimentary consultation call right here.
Ever wondered how to become an interior designer?
(No? Just me?)
I don’t have a definitive guide or handy-dandy checklist for you, but I do have my story about how I became an interior designer, including what was the most useful part along the way – and spoiler alert: it wasn’t design school.
Your story might sound similar to mine.
I’ve always had a creative streak and a knack for the aesthetic. As young as age 5, I asked my dad to rearrange my bedroom furniture since I wasn’t strong enough to push it myself! I had a clear vision for what I wanted my room to look like, and as a teenager I loved to sponge paint my ceiling, cover the walls in colorful magazine ads and Spice Girls posters (hello, this was the 90s), and shop at IKEA for new bedding and pillows for inexpensive ways to change things up frequently on my part-time movie theatre employee’s salary.
Going to school for interior design was always my plan.
When I was in high school, the TLC show Trading Spaces launched and I was HOOKED. Genevieve Gorder, one of the show’s original designers, is still a major inspiration to me. Trading Spaces only fueled my desire and made me focus even more on the arts in high school.
I was a straight-A student, except in math, which I almost failed in grade 12 and had to repeat. (Whatever, Mr. Wozniak. I had better things to do than worry about solving your dumb equations.)
I started in the interior design program at Sheridan College in 2002 and loved it. I kicked ass academically and creatively. But where I struggled was with finding friends.
Don’t get me wrong – I was friends with girls in my program, but things never fully “clicked” and I never felt like I fit the mold of the “typical interior design student”. I was more at home with the creatives in animation, illustration, and other visual fields.
Looking back – hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it? – it was actually a blessing that I stood out. That I wasn’t the same as the others. Because nothing has served me better in my career than having a strong point of view and doing what’s true to me and my vision, instead of what’s expected. #truth
Here’s the thing about going to school for interior design.
Yes, it’s valuable to have a design degree or diploma behind you. Yes, I learned useful technical stuff that I didn’t know before. But interior design is more than just knowing the elements and principles of design. Interior design is a skill that can be honed, but I really don’t believe that it can be taught.
You either have that certain “je ne sais quoi”, or you don’t. You either have the knack for space planning, and choosing color palettes, and creating a vision for a completed space, or you don’t.
Having an interior design degree does not make you an interior designer.
If you have a passion for design, and a natural inclination towards it, you don’t need a piece of paper to tell the world you’re a good designer. You show up, you do good work, you share what you’re doing, you learn as you go, and you get better every day.
So what happened after design school?
I graduated from Sheridan with honors and was hired right out of college as a Junior Designer at Kimberley Seldon Design Group in Toronto, Canada. Working at a small design firm meant there was no hand-holding or busywork – I was thrown head-first into AutoCAD drawings, custom furniture sketches, TV set design, international trips, fabric sourcing, client meetings, and site visits. I FREAKING LOVED IT.
While the work itself was exactly what I wanted to be doing, the environment was a bit like The Devil Wears Prada. You know – high profile position, long hours, less-than-amazing pay, and a slightly demanding boss. I always knew I wanted to start my own business one day, and despite the demands of my Junior Design role I kept my eyes open and learned so much from Kimberley about how to run a business – but even more importantly, how I didn’t want to run my business one day.
It didn’t matter that I was the newest, greenest member of the team. I saw the opportunity to learn from those above me, and paid attention to the ins and outs of both interior design itself and running an interior design business.
This is the most valuable thing I can share about how to become an interior designer:
It’s not about a degree. It’s about developing your natural skills and learning from those who have come before you.
In case you’re curious,
There’s no bad juju between Kimberley and I! While professionally we had our challenges, personally she’s an awesome human and I’ve always enjoyed her company. I’m grateful for the trust she placed in me as a newbie designer and what I learned from her. In fact, I was interviewed on her podcast about what it was like to work with her “back in the day”. Check out the episode here.
So…have you been thinking about becoming an interior designer?
If you’ve just launched an interior design side hustle or have been wanting to take the plunge into running your own design business, I’d love to help. 14 years in the industry has taught me A LITERAL TON and I want to save you some of the frustrations and setbacks I encountered along the way, as well as provide you with invaluable business documents and systems you’ll need behind-the-scenes to run a kickass company.
You already have a knack for interior design –
Here’s how to turn your heart-pumping passion for interiors into a thriving design business. I’m launching a beta business coaching program for new interior designers and am accepting a limited number of one-on-one clients. Interested? Book a complimentary coaching discovery call to see if we’re a great fit.