An interior decorator should be chosen not by luck, but by design

April 04, 1991|By Jo Werne | Jo Werne,Knight-Ridder News Service

How much will an interior designer cost? Must I decorate the whole house at once or will the designer agree to do one room at a time? How can I avoid getting ripped off?

These were among a dozen questions three panels of interior designers explored during a recent daylong consumer open house at the Design Center of the Americas in Dania, Fla. Subject of the panels was "How to Select and Work With an Interior Designer."

A dozen questions were developed by Florida Home & Garden magazine executives.

Here they are, with their answers:

*Do interior designers get a discount on home furnishings and accessories when they buy everything from a trade-only place (such as DCOTA) for their clients?

"Yes, as this building is open only to professional designers and architects, there is a substantial discount from the retail price," said Jerry Cody, owner of E. G. Cody, a showroom at DCOTA. "This discount is passed on to the client. But you have to consider that the percentage of the markup to the client is what you are paying for services. Yes, you get a discount price, but you must also pay your designer a fee."

*If I have a signed agreement with an interior designer regarding the cost of a project and he or she exceeds the budget, do I have to pay the difference? Should there be a stipulation in the contract that designers must consult with clients when they feel the budget can't be met? What is the best way to deal with this situation?

"A designer should review the project with the client as it progresses, and if a client has agreed to purchase an item, he should know what it costs," Linda Behmoires said.

But what usually causes a budget overrun in most cases, Mr. Cody said, "is that the client chooses a more expensive item."

"You need to be honest about your budget with your designer," Chip DuPont added. "A designer does not exceed the budget; you exceed the budget. A designer can suggest alternatives to keep within the budget, but I agree that the client often finds something he likes better and it may cost more than budgeted."

*What is the average price for an interior designer in relationship to the cost of a home?

"The budget set by the client is personal, and has no relationship to the cost of the home," Ronald Piper said.

"Determining the price of a design project is hard," Ms. Behmoires said. "Is it a new house that needs everything or an older home that already has backdrops? There is no set formula; every project is different and costs vary."

*Is it wise to trust an interior designer with everything (including art and appliances) when there are people who specialize in these areas?

"Yes, because we hire other professionals to consult with us," Mr. DuPont said. "When buying art, we make sure you buy from a reputable source. For kitchens, we call in a kitchen designer. By engaging a designer, you keep everything coordinated."

*Do you think the size of the design company makes any difference when choosing an interior designer? (For example, a big-name designer would not have as much time and would probably send assistants to work on much of the project.)

"There are great benefits working with a small firm because the principal can be more personally involved in a project," Alene Workman said. "But there are benefits working with a large firm, too, as there is a pool of many designers and many ideas."

*If I look through a magazine and find different "looks" that I want, is it wise to hire one interior designer to copy them?

"You could ask a designer to copy from a magazine, but the designer would talk you out of it," Mr. DuPont said. "Designers don't duplicate. I would not feel ethical copying another's work."

"A professional designer does not copy anything, yet it's fine for a client to submit magazine articles that illustrate the feeling she'd like to achieve," Mr. Piper said.

*If I am building a home and would like to hire an independent interior designer, should the architect's design professional have anything to do with my interiors (if included in the price?) Is there a conflict of interest here?

"A designer should be involved in a new home from the start because architects and designers see things differently," Ms. Workman said. "For example, an architect may specify 25 high hats in the ceiling of the living room, but a living room should be intimate and different lighting can help convey that."

*When an interior designer works for more than one client, how can I be sure that expenses are not being duplicated, since the designer can charge each client for mileage, telephone calls and the like that are accumulated simultaneously?

"Designers keep detailed logs of how they spend their time so the client knows what's being done for him," Ms. Behmoires said.

"Most clients believe that the time spent with the designer is the only time the designer is working," Michael O'Byrn said. "Many hours are spent looking for the goods that go into the home. There has to be a bond of trust between the client and designer."

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