Preparing for your first meeting with a Design Professional

Before your renovation, tenant improvement, or interior design project can begin, you first need to find a design professional who is qualified, available, and excited to collaborate on the project with you. Presumably you’ve already gotten some names of architects and designers from friends, colleagues, or through internet and instagram searches. Now you are headed into your first meeting, which is typically a free 20-30 minute phone call.

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1. Describe your project.

Be prepared to quickly, but thoroughly describe what you hope to accomplish by hiring the design professional. Is this a full home remodel AND interior design? Does your store need an interior refresh? Are you hoping to build an addition but don’t know if the zoning in your district will allow the size addition you hope to build? It’s okay if you’ve not completely nailed down all the possibilities in your scope, but the more clear you are, the better feedback the design professional can provide.

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2. What is your particular style or aesthetic? Do you have a Pinterest board of inspiration images?

Some design professionals only work within certain design aesthetics and it is important that you find someone who understands and enjoys working in your particular style. Coming to that first meeting with a Pinterest board of inspiration images - but not TOO many images - is your best bet. Even better if you can email the board to the design professional before the meeting so they know what they are working with. The hope would be that you’ve already reached out to someone who you believe matches your style prior to the meeting and you’ve checked this by looking at their work on their website.

3. What is your timeframe to get started and when would you ideally like to have this work completed?

Give your honest answers. A good design professional will be direct and honest with you if your timeframes are unrealistic. Here’s a little knowledge to help get your started: generally speaking, on a smaller remodel or interior design job, the design phases could take 1-3 months; whereas a larger addition, new build, or a commercial project could have a design and permitting time of closer to 4-6 months. And these are just design timeframes. The actual construction can be much less predictable; a remodel can take approximately 3-6 months, while a new build will be a minimum of a year.

4. What is your budget?

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You can’t get out of this one. Your design professional needs to know your budget or they won’t be able to give you an appropriate fee estimate or let you know if what you aim to do is even possible. If your budget is flexible, it’s helpful to do a little bit of research prior to your meeting so you have a decent range in mind. And candor is always appreciated, so if you honestly have no idea and want the design professional to tell you what your budget range should be, given your scope of work, tell them that. I’m always happy to help potential clients develop their budgets if they’ve never undergone similar projects before.

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Lastly, it may be helpful to keep in mind that this is a two-way collaborative process. Not only are you interviewing the design professional, but they are trying to determine how good of a fit they are for your project and how well you’d work together. And that partnership is important, as the design professional will be your primary advocate in ensuring the design vision is carried out accurately.

Preparing your answers to the top questions that your design professional will need to know is the first step toward a smooth and exciting design process.