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What to Expect When Engaging an Interior Designer

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail? Not on our watch!

In any partnership, it takes two hands to clap. The same goes for hiring an interior designer: more often than not, it’s the expectations with which you enter this partnership that set the stage for a tedious yet rewarding process, or a total nightmare.

But if you’re a first-time renovator, how would you know what expectations are reasonable to begin with? Well, that’s where we come in! Read on to find out more.

1. There is no one-size-fits-all

Northshore Drive by Dots 'N' Tots
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View this project by Dots 'N' Tots

Many start their renovation journey with some research online, and by asking for recommendations from family and friends. While these sources are a good/indicative starting point, remember that you’re a unique individual with your own preferences and lifestyle.

A friend may refer a designer because of his strong design ethos that brought your friend’s vision to life; but if the look you have in mind is not aligned with his ethos, he may not be a good fit for you after all.

Pasir Ris Drive 4 by Comfort Home Interior
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View this project by Comfort Home Interior

The only way to find out is to actually speak with the designer, ask the right questions, and assess for yourself. Until then, take referrals with a pinch of salt and keep an open mind – and you might just be pleasantly surprised!

2. ‘Black sheep’ exist – be sure to do your due diligence!

Parc Olympia by Artspaze
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While there is no shortage of established, trusted and qualified interior design firms in Singapore, there are unfortunately some ‘black sheep’ that have given the industry a bad rep. So when you’re going about asking for consultations, be sure to do your due diligence: make it a standard practice to ask about the firm’s accreditations as well as the designer’s experience and portfolio.

Explore: CaseTrust & HDB-registered IDs – Are They Really Crucial?

3. Yours won’t be the only project your interior designer embarks on

Towner Road by BuildBuilt
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Don’t dismiss an interior design firm if they don’t get back to you shortly after you’ve reached out to them. There are times when firms are genuinely swamped due to the lack of manpower or during peak periods where each designer is juggling multiple projects at once (in Singapore, this generally falls between October and the Lunar New Year).

If you really like their portfolio and can afford to wait, just be a little more patient. But if you have a tight timeline, be sure to communicate this right from the start, and see if they are comfortable working with such a tight timeline.

4. Chemistry with your designer will affect your experience just as much as design/price

Punggol Way by Ethan Interiors
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View this project by Ethan Interiors

When speaking with interior designers, assess them beyond design ideas and prices. While these are important factors, it’s just as crucial to suss out their project management, communication style and personality. This will help you get a sense of whether you are both on the same page, and if you’ll enjoy working together in the months to come.

If you encounter miscommunications, don’t like the way they keep pushing for pricier suggestions, or disagree with the designer’s working style in the early stages, it’s best to trust your gut and pull out.

5. There’s an expectation for clients (you!) to know what they want

What To Expect When Hiring An ID
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View this project by Attic Studio Interiors

A huge part of an interior designer’s role is to come up with design ideas vis-à-vis spatial planning; but he/she cannot do so without first understanding what you’re looking for in a home. So, as much as you’re the paying customer, there’s also ‘homework’ to be done on your end for meetings to be fruitful.

To start, have a clear idea of the look you’re going for, or you’ll end up wasting both yours and the designer’s time by going in circles. For example, even widely used terms like “Scandinavian style” have many interpretations, and designers won’t know which interpretations you’re referring to unless you show/tell them!

Do also think about your lifestyle and how you intend to use each space in your home. This will help the designer come up with ideas that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but functional according to your needs as well.

What To Expect When Hiring An ID
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View this project by Ethereall

Not sure where to start? Browse interior design websites or social media frequently to get a firm grasp on what tickles your fancy. Then, show these references to the designer at your first meeting to make it a much more productive one.

Explore: Browse Interior Design Ideas Here

6. There will be things that you’re not 100% comfortable with or certain about

Cantonment Road by Inizio Atelier
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View this project by Inizio Atelier

Don’t let the designer sway you if you don’t feel comfortable about certain proposals. It’s better to speak up immediately than to delay the confrontation as this enables both parties to understand each other better.

Also, never shy away from touchy topics such as budget, after-sales service, hidden costs, and what is excluded from the package – different firms have different ways of charging projects, so ensure that you discuss everything thoroughly. The designer is just doing his job, but ultimately, this is your home. If you’re unsure, just ask!

Start your search for an interior designer here

Tell us your renovation requirements and we can get you personalised renovation quotes from five local interior design firms for free.

Also, when you connect with an interior firm through our free recommendation service, you’ll get to enjoy perks under the Qanvast Trust Programme – including but not limited to, the $50,000 Qanvast Guarantee, refundable deposits, and extended warranties with selected firms!

This article was originally published on 15 June 2017 and last updated on 22 May 2023.

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