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How To Get an Interior Designer to Help You For Free

Updated: Sep 28, 2018

Showrooms designers can help for free
Get help from a designer-free

If you've always wanted to commission an interior designer but thought that level of expertise was out of your reach, think again. There are a number of ways to solicit the help of a professional with a keen design eye and varying levels of experience and you'll find them in your local kitchen and bath, flooring and window treatment showrooms.

You'd be surprised how many of your favorite HGTV stars are not licensed interior designers. They're people with a natural talent and interest in interior design, a defined vision, trend-setting experts in their field, whether professionally accredited or not. You'd trust Joanna to redecorate your living room, right?

Most of us enjoy watching Joanna Gaines, especially here in Texas. We love a great success story. Joanna Gaines in not a registered interior designer. Does that matter? Clearly not. She's build a multi-million dollar empire surrounding her talents around design. Her hands on experience has led to creative outreach extensions of her naturally inspired drive. Joanna Gains has a cult following and it's well deserved. She's an inspiration to many of us inspiring to spread our design vision.

So how do you find a design professional you can trust? It's easier than you think. First of all, consider setting foot it any number of specialty design showrooms. If you're interested in a new kitchen, let the showroom designers work up a variety of new kitchen designs for you. This is what they do, and most of them love it. Keep in mind, the software they use to create a new design rendering is expensive and "exercising" your neighborhood professional is not cool. If you don't plan to at least consider using them when you're ready to remodel, maybe hold off on that portion of your remodel until you are ready. Most of the contractors and kitchen remodelers I know are happy to stop by, measure your kitchen and run it through their design software. Some charge a couple hundred dollars for the design mockup, while others don't. It's an easy way to get a several ideas on new kitchen and bath remodel ideas. Using the kitchen and bath pros help you just saved you a bundle over what an interior designer would have done. By the way, he'd likely scoot on over to the same design showroom and use their design layouts. Skip the middle man and go straight to the team that will measure, design, and install their work. Since most local retailers carry a variety of cabinets, countertops, and hardware, you will be able to find a design that mirrors what you have in your head, usually there is some starting point. If you're not good with design and have absolutely no idea what you like, setting foot in a designer showroom can be overwhelming at first. Start of fist by feeling the textures of the cabinet doors. People generally can quickly pick out the things they don't like, making the "possibility" category a little more manageable. Once you have a handful of cabinet doors you like the look/feel of, next would be the cabinet style. You could choose a Shaker style or maybe you lean towards a raised panel or more of a European design. Once you have a texture and style, choosing a color can be one of the hardest aspect of designing a kitchen. Hold off on the color portion until the kitchen pros have an opportunity to go to your house, measure and offer design inspiration.

Let's say your in the market for new floors. In my area, there are so many flooring stores. It's not hard to find an expert retailer that is willing to help you find the perfect carpet or tile. It is a good idea to stop by your locally owned and operated flooring store. They should ask you about your goals for the new flooring and work with you to find something you like. I know that when I am working with some homeowners, especially new ones, they often times have no idea what they like. This can extend from flooring ideas to their window treatments. Consulting with an experienced professional can help you narrow down the huge number of products to a smaller, more manageable selection. It can still be overwhelming, especially when it comes to flooring. Do you want carpet, tile, wood, laminate, or stone? Once you've decided on the material, you then have to choose a color. Choosing the right hue of carpet can set the whole tone and color pallet for your home. It's important to get this one right. Working side by side with a flooring retailed should give you comfort knowing that they are well versed in their products and can speak confidently to the pros and cons of every flooring type you're considering.

I always seem to bash the big box stores, while it is really not my intension. We have so many customers that walk into our retail window treatment store that are left frustrated by the big box stores for either the lack of selection, availability of someone that actually knows something about shutters, shades, or blinds, or being able to figure out how to get a quote. I know that when people walk into my store, I am happy to work with them on their window covering and overall design goals. I first find out if they are remodeling or if their house is brand new. That is a huge component. A homeowner moving into a house with no window fashions is a motivated customer. They need to get something up so they have privacy pretty much right after they close on the house.

It's important when working with a homeowner and offering design services that I understand several aspects about the goals they have for their general design and windows coverings. Here's a short list of what I talk with a homeowner about when they have a brand new home. First, I try to find out what the overall feel of the house is. Do they have clean lines and an open concept, or do they have a more traditional home, with darker wood trim and finishes. I always ask for pictures. While most of them are dark, new homeowners often have pictures of the house at various stages of the build process. Once I have a feel for the type of home they have, let's call it modern/contemporary and traditional. There are a lot of design option between modern and contemporary but let's start there. Having pictures always helps, regardless of the photo quality. Let's say the house is open concept with light bright colors, light gray and white tones, which is about 90% of what I work with in Texas. I ask lifestyle questions. Do they work from home, like dark bedrooms, have a media rooms, do they have a view they'd like to preserve, are they interested in "smart home" alternatives, do they have young children and pet, where safety is a concern The answers to these questions helps me to narrow what window treatments I recommend and for what room.

It's not surprising that people walk into my full service showroom thinking they want builder type faux wood blinds, but walking about with an education on window treatments and what they can do to the beauty of a homes interior.

When working with a new trade, albeit kitchens, flooring, or a window treatment company, give them a call before you visit the store. Ask a few questions to make sure they're a good fit for your needs. Find out if they provide in-home consultations, if they have a showroom where you can actually touch and feel materials, inquire as to what they charge to measure or for their initial design consultation. While they may charge a nominal fee to cover their travel time, it's likely far less expensive than commissioning an interior designer.

About a month ago, I sold plantation shutters to a homeowner that was going to be updating portions of his house over the course of three years. He'd already repainted his main living area walls. He told me it took many trips to the paint store to narrow down the color. He chose, let's call it a "graige" color, hues of both gray and beige. His hardwood floors were original to the house and they were on the more organgie oak side of the color spectrum. The kitchen was disjointed from the house, color wise. During my in-home design consultation, I attempted to find out what the plan was for other parts of the house, like was he going to be doing anything about the hardwood flooring, dated carpeting, or was he just interested in getting shutters. While my scope began and ended technically with window treatments, I wanted to ensure that he was completely happy with whatever he decided to go with. Inquiry on my end seemed warranted and prudent. Turns out, he was going to be replacing the main living area carpeting. I worked with them to help them select a complimentary carpet color that would also work with the color of shutter they chose, keeping in mind key factors like the hard wood flooring that was going to stay, the paint was clearly going to stay as it was just redone. I wish I'd worked with the homeowner at the point he was choosing paint. For his space, I would have chosen a very different color, something that helped to connect the open concept living spaces vs. disconnect them from each other. This bachelor had very little color sense and probably didn't choose wisely. While I was able to bridge the gap between his wall color and carpeting selection, making it a more cohesive living space, I felt confident in the shutter selections I suggest for him. While he paid me only for the shutters, I was more than happy, enthusiastic really to be able to help him unit his spaces again. He is overjoyed as the updates made his house feel less like a bachelor pad and more like a home with high-end touches.

I have found that working with specific trades offers homeowners a well-versed professional that is generally happy to help you even if that scope of work extends past the shingle their brick and mortar holds.

Yes, they want to sell you something, but you're in the market to buy or you wouldn't be reaching out. Consider letting the design pros in specific trades help you make the best design decisions for your new house.

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