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  • Stephanie Donnelly

How to Come Prepared to a Design Meeting

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Have you been thinking about meeting with an interior designer for a while now but haven't ever taken the leap? You might be afraid of the unknown, how much it will cost, what the process be like, wondering if it will be a waste of money, etc. These are a few of the questions people typically have before calling a designer. However, the best way to start the interior design process is by arranging a consultation. Consultations are small investments that allows you to get to know a designer and learn whether or not they are a person you would enjoy working with and whom you feel understands exactly what you desire. An initial consultation is a meeting where you and a designer come together to discuss your project in detail and work out whether or not they are a good fit for your project.

This initial consultation is especially important since the designer/client relationship is one where you want to feel comfortable letting down your walls and allowing someone into your personal space. This is why there needs to be a connection and foundation of trust built from the very start in order for a project to take place successfully.

A consultation typically takes place in the space that is to be designed, renovated or decorated, but it can also take place in the office of the designer. During this first meeting, the designer will do a walk through of the space and talk with you about what your desires are for the space, how many rooms are involved, and what the budget is that you have set. Sometimes it is hard to determine what the budget should be, especially if you have never renovated or decorated before. A designer can help walk you through this process in order to come up with a number that is suitable to you and your goals for the project.

A lot of times clients go to a designer because they have a difficult space to furnish or decorate and a consultation is great place to get advice on how to move forward. The designer will need to know more about your lifestyle, who lives in the space and how you all like to live. Knowing your expectation for a timeline is also important.

The sooner you bring on an interior designer the better as there are many factors in a design that can take longer than you expect. This is especially true if you want something custom made. Being able to bring examples of design elements you like and show the designer images of rooms or objects that you love will help them to understand your aesthetic better. One of the best ways to learn what you like and want for your project is to look at websites such as Pinterest or Houzz for inspiration. Listed below are 7 ways to best prepare for your very first design consultation:

1. Know Your Goals

Take some time in advance to think about what your goals are before meeting with your designer. This will allow you to have a direction to give the designer. For example, if you are an empty nester moving from a large home into a smaller home, knowing which pieces are important for you to keep and bring with you on your new journey will help the designer incorporate your past with your future. Alternatively, if you have a young family or are thinking of adding a pet into the mix, your goal may be create an easy to clean, no mess, no stress, family friendly environment that looks amazing at the same time.

2. Come with a Budget

If you invest a little bit of time to take a moment and think about your budget before your meeting, this is extremely helpful to your designer and saves both of you a lot of time. You should have an idea ahead of time of what you want to and can spend so that your project is not over or under designed. For example, a 30k kitchen will look a lot different than a 80k kitchen. Budgets are a tricky topic because a lot of times clients aren't honest about the amount they are willing to spend. Sometimes clients don't realize how much things cost or how far the money can or can't stretch. Some clients don't want to share budgets because they feel like it's a judgement zone which is simply not true. Coming up with a budget for a renovation can be a lot more challenging at times which is why it is important to take some time discussing it with your designer and a building professional.

3. Have a Process for Decision-Making

It is a good idea to have anyone who will be involved in the decision making process for your project to be present at the initial consultation. This saves a lot of time and frustration as the designer will get a much better picture of what needs to be included in the design and can work on keeping all parties happy. A lot of times a designer is asked to combine two seemingly opposite styles or ideas into one seamless design which is one of the many skills a designer can provide you.

4. Have an Awareness of Your Daily Routine

Having an awareness of how you like to live, or how your home could work better for you and your lifestyle can be an excellent source to give your designer invaluable information for how to best lay out the design. Designers want to make your home function as efficiently as possible, so any examples you can provide to your designer for your ideal lifestyle will be very helpful.

Here are common questions asked by a designer to learn more about how you use your kitchen:

  • What do you do in the kitchen the most?

  • What do you cook and what appliances most used?

  • What is your daily kitchen routine like?

  • How much time do you spend in your kitchen?

  • How many people in kitchen at once? Are they cooking/eating/chatting?

  • How much time would you like to spend in your kitchen?

  • Is TV important to you?

Your answers to these questions help provide the designer with the information needed to deliver the best possible design for you and your lifestyle.

5. Be Honest in Sharing Your Habits and Needs

Being open and honest in your first meeting with the designer will allow your designer to be on the same page as you from the very beginning. Keep in mind that this is your home, and this meeting is a judgement free zone. The designer wants you to be happy in your home, so opening up about your coffee addiction or your large collection of wines from your last trip to Napa Valley can allow your designer to think of great ways to incorporate these passions tastefully into your home.

6. Discover Your Style Preferences in Advance

If you take some time to explore your personal style and aesthetic before your consultation, the designer will be able to take what you show them and refine your ideas to suit you home and your budget. Reading between the lines is a designer's expertise, but the more clear you can be with the lines, the better the results become.

7. Bring an Open Mind!

Once you have given your designer a clear direction, keep an open mind and allow your designer to bring some new ideas and solutions to you that you may not have thought of yourself. This is where the foundation of trust comes in. It is always a good idea to research designers long before choosing one or two to meet for a consultation. This ensures that you already know that they have a style that you resonate with, and that they understand the kind of aesthetic that connects with you. The point of hiring a designer is to get something better than what you can come up with on your own. Designers know what is available, what is classic verses trendy, and what is functional. While you have plenty of good ideas, a designer's job is to improve your ideas even further. It is a collaboration process.

Below is an example of a kitchen design that a client originally envisioned along with the design that I was able to collaborate with them on to deliver an even better kitchen for their lifestyle.

The interior design process is a fun and exciting time as well as filled with many unknowns. This is why you have an interior designer to walk with you through every step of the process in order to deliver the best possible design for you and your lifestyle. These 7 ways to prepare for your interior design consultation will help launch you in the right direction and make your interior design process flow even more smoothly allowing you to enjoy the journey all the more. If you're interested in booking your very own interior design consultation with Stephanie, click here!

~This blog was brought to you by S. Donnelly Interiors. Learn more about the interior design project process by following Stephanie Donnelly and her interior design services in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and the surrounding areas!


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