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Top tips on hiring an interiors' professional

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Have you ever watched one of those home makeover television shows, or picked up a glossy magazine showcasing breathtaking rooms and wished you could have someone bring that look to your own home? Guess what? You can. 

A lot of homeowners believe that acquiring the services of an interior designer or decorator is only for the rich and famous, but this is really nothing more than a misconception. In fact, hiring a professional to assist with your room re-model could prove extremely beneficial in saving you time, money and headaches, while also creating the room of your dreams. It's important to remember that interior designers and decorators work for you and towards the budget you set. 

If some professional design assistance might be needed for your next renovation, here are 10 tips for hiring an interior designer or decorator: 

1. Firstly, understand that there is a difference between interior designers and interior decorators. According to Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), "interior design is more than just aesthetics. It's about finding design solutions for interior environments while supporting the health, safety and well being of occupants." Additionally, interior designers are responsible for developing and presenting conceptual solutions then managing the implementation of the entire project, which includes ensuring that the plans comply with all regulatory and legal requirements. Interior decorators predominantly focus on surface treatments, such as the selection of colours and materials and placement of furniture in order to give a room a particular look and feel that appropriately reflects the vision of the homeowner. It's important to consider these descriptions against the requirements of your project. 

2. Review the profiles of design professionals in your area and find ones who have a specialty that falls in line with your project and whose design style is similar to your taste. The IDC has a search engine of its professional members that can assist with locating interior designers in your area, visit www.findinteriordesigner.org. The Canadian Decorators' Association also has a database of decorators that can be searched based on location and services, available at www.cdeca.com/en/find-a-decorator

3. Once you have found a few designers or decorators of interest, contact them to describe your project. Ask for their initial ideas and question them about any similar projects they have completed. 

4. From this initial communication, shortlist a few professionals to invite to your home. Use this as an opportunity to review their portfolios and discuss the project in greater detail including your desired time frame for completion. Ask for references that you can contact. 

5. Be very clear about any existing pieces in the room that you want to keep or better showcase and what items can go. Having this discussed early on will allow for these items to be incorporated into design plans. 

6. Provide your designer or decorator with clippings to illustrate the vision you have for your room and any key pieces of furniture. Consider using online sites such as Pinterest (www.pinterest.com), where you can collect examples of your preferred styles and share them with your designer. Be open-minded to any suggestions or critiques about incorporating your vision. 

7. Know what you don't like. It sounds simple, but letting your designer or decorator know what you do not like for colours or design can be just as important as informing them about what you do like. Take some time to pull together examples of your dislikes. 

8. To get this space right for you and to meet your requirements, a good designer or decorator should ask lots of questions about you and your family, such as if you have any hobbies; how often you entertain; favourite colours; if you have any pets; ages of any children; primary function of the room(s) in question. It could be a red flag if an individual does not ask such questions. 

9. Be upfront about your budget. If there is one thing that could jeopardize your project it is not being open to discussing the budget and your budget concerns with your design professional. Inquire about their fee schedule, any additional costs you will incur in the process (including mark-ups on items purchased and travel time) and the payment procedure. 

10. Before agreeing to anything with your selected designer or decorator, carefully review the contract and verify that it clearly stipulates responsibilities and fees.

By Erin Kelly

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