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Archived Decorating Question: Hiring a Pro
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Question: I'm on a tight budget. How can I find an interior designer to help with my project?

Answer: There are many ways to find an interior designer. One is to first find a room (in person or a photo) that you really like and relate to, then find out who worked on that particular room. Some places to look would include: friends' homes, decorator showhouses, new housing tract model homes, furniture showrooms, or pictures from the home and garden section of your local newspaper or magazine.

To do some helpful research on the topic, start with these good articles and links: "How to Hire an Interior Designer", and "Working with a Designer". For additional information and many useful links see the hiring a designer page.

One great way may be to contact a local chapter of ASID for names, or browse their website for tips, info, and referrals. Other ideas would be to check with retail outlets (such as furniture or wallpaper stores) to see if they can recommend good local designers. In addition, many retail furniture showrooms have resident designers on staff. You might call friends or co-workers for recommendations, or contact the design department of a local university, or even look in the yellow pages. On this page there are links for Locate a Designer.

Once you have some names, and since you're on a tight budget, you'll need to communicate your needs (both creative and financial) to your potential designers along with the preferences you have for the job. The more information you can provide, the better the room can be tailored for you. Set up an initial informational interview before you commit to any work. Each designer has different ways of working and various fee structures, whether a flat fee, hourly fee, or percentage of purchases. Make sure you're very clear on exactly how you'll be charged, when deposits are needed, how you'll be billed, what you get, and when the work should be complete.

Since you are working on a budget, ask your designer about creative ways to save some money. Perhaps there is work you can do yourself, such as painting or laying tile. You might work with the designer on a flat fee basis, or have them come in for a few hours to make sketches and offer ideas that you would implement in the future.

You want to feel comfortable about all of the arrangements, financial and creative, as well as the person, before committing to go ahead. Most designers will have a portfolio with photos of work they have completed, so be sure you look at those with a critical eye, to see if the looks they create are the what you hope to achieve in your home.

As always, it is recommended that you accumulate photos from magazines of rooms and furniture you like, since this will give your designer a place to start in creating a design specifically for you. (Make color copies of these if the designer wants to take them, so you'll always have a set.) Refer to them often, as designing is partly a process of eliminating the things that won't fit in, and keeping the goal in mind. See the article on Inspiration and information on clippings and a helpful project design file.

Good luck in finding a great designer, and with your project!

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