Working with an interior decorator can be intimidating for some people.  Others just don’t really understands what working with a decorator is like, what to expect, and most importantly how much it costs.  Every project and every client is different.  However, a good decorator will have a tried and true method for ensuring that their work with each and every client achieves the client’s goals for their home.

Most interior decorators will provide an initial consultation, some for free and others will charge a small fee.  The purpose of this meeting is to learn about your interest in hiring a decorator.  It is an opportunity for you to get to know the decorator and for her to get to know you, your home, your style and most importantly, the scope of your project.  During this meeting you should be prepared to talk about yourself, what your style is, what you like and don’t like, the function of your space and what your budget is.  You should also be prepared with questions to ask the decorator in order to get to know her and make sure she is a good fit for you, your family and your home.  Important questions to ask the decorator could include:

     *What is your design style?

     *What is your fee structure?

     *Tell me about your experience, training, education, etc.

     *Do you have references that you could share?

     *Do you have pictures of work that you’ve completed?

     *How do you work with other services providers (i.e. contractors, painters)?  Do you have            people you work with and could recommend?  Are you willing to work contractors,                        painters you are not familiar with?

     *Are you insured?

     *Do you have experience with our particular type of project?

There are several ways that interior decorators charge for their services.  Some charge solely by the hour.  Others charge a flat fee for their services.  The most popular way that decorator’s charge is what is called “cost plus”.  Decorator’s can receive up to 50% discounts through “to the trade only” vendors.  With a “cost plus” fee structure, the decorator typically charges a flat fee for design services and then provides you the proposed furnishings at her cost plus between 20-35% commission.  This fee structure is beneficial to both the decorator and the client because you are able to receive good quality furniture for up to 30% off retail plus any shipping, freight, delivery or applicable taxes.  When you are decorating an entire room or an entire house, this savings can help your project go a long way.  There are also decorators who charge only the full retail cost for the furniture they sell to you. 

Be sure to find out about a decorator’s fee structure during that initial consultation so that you are clear about how you would be billed for your project.

Once you and the decorator agree to a fee structure for your project and you have decided that she is the best fit for you, its time to get to the business of decorating your space.  Some decorators will provide you with a presentation board which should include your floor plan and elevations (scaled drawings of your room decoration), along with furniture selections, fabrics and accessories.  It should also include a preliminary budget.  During this presentation the decorator will reveal to you her plans for decorating your home.  Hopefully she has done a good job of listening to your needs, wants and desires and you fall in love with the plan.  However, this is the time to carefully look over your plan and make sure that you like everything she is proposing.  Do not be afraid to let her know if there is anything about the plan that you are not happy with.  A good decorator will not be insulted by your concerns and will be happy to make any necessary changes to ensure that you are happy with the overall plan.  

Once you have finalized your plan its time to get to the good stuff.   The decorator should provide you with her specifications for each piece of furniture you have selected, along with her furniture acceptance and return policies.  With most decorators there are no returns once you have received furniture unless there is damage to the piece so be sure that she has provided you enough information for you to make an educated decision on each piece of furniture, including fabric swatches and wood chip samples.  It will not be always possible to actually sit down and test out some of the furnishings she is specifying for you so be sure that she provides you information about the quality of the manufacturer, as well as construction and warranty information.  This is why it is so important that you can trust the judgement and experience of the decorator you have hired.  She essentially becomes you judge for quality as well as style, scale and function for your furnishings.

Hiring a good interior decorator can make decorating your home an enjoyable and easy experience.  Choosing the perfect decorator is extremely important to making sure that you get the most value for your money and, most importantly, that you get the space you have always dreamed of.

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