What should the customer know about your pricing (e.g., discounts, fees)?
My fees vary between a flat fee and an hourly fee depending on the type of project. I typically charge 10% of the overall budget for kitchens and baths, and an hourly fee of $75/hour for decorating, as there are so many unknowns when the project starts.
When I am responsible for selecting and purchasing furniture, fixtures, floor coverings, lighting window treatments and accessories, I charge my net cost plus 25%, which will represent a varying discount from retail for the client depending on my company discount from the wholesaler.
I work with low income clients on a sliding scale depending on their need; and I do several pro bono projects each year.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
I not only take whatever courses come my way, but also teach homeowners courses that will empower them to take on projects that mystified them before.
How did you get started doing this type of work?
I was a clothing designer before entering my field of interior design. I did that work for 20 years, and although successful, I didn't feel fulfilled by it. Moving from the NYC area to San Francisco allowed me to shift gears and consider new horizons. There, I met some really great interior designers who were incredibly generous and helpful, and learned how I could really make a difference in people's lives through this work. I immediately decided to go back to school and get another degree so as to be able to provide the highest level of service in my new endeavor. I've never looked back.
What types of customers have you worked with?
I'm often asked to help with color selection as a starting point, but typically move on from there into whatever spaces need updating, restoring or renovating.
Because I'm very good at designing kitchens that are not only beautiful, but also excellent work spaces, I'm very often asked for that service. My very first project, while still in school, was a high end kitchen designed around a 1930's Magic Chef range in an historically important house in Alameda, California.
As a result of my fashion design background, I'm very knowledgeable about fabric and am often asked to use this medium to create certain feelings, a particular ambiance or to solve an upholstery problem. Color and fabric are of one mind when it comes to these issues and I am a specialist in both areas.
Describe a recent project you are fond of. How long did it take?
My most challenging project ever was a home in Canada that needed an entire re-imagining of space both within and without. The client called upon me to rearrange the entire first floor interior layout, add a sunroom, expand the wrap-around porch, and add a sleeping porch on the second floor. Because the house was nearly 100 years old, and they wanted to use the most energy efficient materials and incorporate passive solar into the design, there were many challenges in creating a good flow while accommodating the dreams they had for their lives and their home. The results were beyond any of our expectations and have not only cut way down on energy bills, but added a new dimension of joy to their lives now that they have plenty of space to entertain their grandchildren.
What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a provider in your area of work?
When looking to hire an interior designer, the most important factor to consider is rapport. Do you feel safe sharing your dreams, desires and needs with this person? Do you trust them to really listen to you? Do you see in the examples of their work a sense of good communication with former clients?
Definitely check references and ask questions like: "How did you feel when working with this person? Did you feel acknowledged? Appreciated? Heard and seen? Did this person demonstrate an understanding of your life, how you like to do things? Did they answer your questions openly and honestly? Do you feel their fees are reasonable, and do you LOVE the results of their work? Do you feel they are knowledgeable about their business? Do they communicate with you clearly?"
Choose someone you resonate with and whom you feel will serve you, not their ego.
What questions should customers think through before talking to professionals about their project?
I would love potential clients to know that working with me can actually save them money. Often, when people think of interior design, they conjure up images taken from Architectural Digest and are immediately intimidated. Although there is definitely a place for that kind of design, my focus is on designing spaces that are truly lived in; sometimes messy but always well organized with a place to put everything away at the end of the day; designed to feel like they fit like a glove; asking to be used, not passed through.
Every item is carefully and thoughtfully considered before anything is purchased. If something already owned works with a little spiffing up, that's always my first choice. "Reuse" is my mantra. If something new needs adding, the client's budget is the first consideration, and nothing is chosen that would send the costs over that budget unless the client drives that choice. My job is to show them what is possible and their job is to make the final decision about how money is allocated.
Also, working with me avoids mistakes. I recently worked with a client who was buying a second sofa and chair because she decided she didn't like the first choice when it showed up at her house. It looked so perfect in the showroom, but didn't work at all in her own living room. The same can be said about color. So many of my clients call me in to rescue them from bad color choices based on photos in magazines. What they don't understand is that every location has different light and light affects color profoundly.