Thursday, January 20, 2022 at 10:50am
When it comes to interior design, it’s VERY common to get overwhelmed. Even the savviest of design enthusiasts can crack under pressure, which is why hiring an interior designer might be the best thing you’ll ever do. When you weigh the benefits against the stress and potentially costly mistakes of doing it all yourself, you might decide it’s worth it. But how do you know if you can afford it? 🤑
Before you hire an interior designer, it’s essential to understand the costs involved, so we’ve broken down everything you need to know:
How Much Are We Talking?
The best answer we can give you here is, well, it depends. The costs of hiring an interior designer will vary significantly based on where you live and the scope of your design needs. While it’s wise to shop around, it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for and experience MATTERS.
Designers usually charge one of two ways: a flat rate or an hourly rate, and how high that number goes will largely depend upon their experience. A junior designer commonly charges $100/hour, while the most experienced designers can go as high as $500/hour. Typical rates are $150-$200 per hour unless you live in LA, NYC, or a large metropolitan area where you’ll undoubtedly pay more.
If they charge a flat rate, the size of your home and the number of rooms involved in the project will determine the final cost. Single rooms usually start at $2,000 but can go as high as five figures, and an entire home’s design will begin at $10,000 and only goes up from there. Ultimately, the flat rate is determined based on the number of hours your designer estimates the project will take.
Keep in mind that price shouldn’t be the only determining factor in your search for a designer. You want to find a perfect fit for you personally- one who matches not only your design style but your communication style, too.
What’s Included with an Interior Designer?
Consultations, complete room designs, finishing touches – a designer can offer it all. There’s quite the spectrum, actually. For example, if you want to consult by the hour, even on just one piece of furniture, you can! Let’s say you can’t decide on a sofa, side chair, or even a rug- an interior designer can help be your tiebreaker.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can have a designer create a whole new look and feel for an entire space. In this instance, a designer would consult with you to understand what you like and what you don’t, as well as the mood or feeling you want for the space. They will then come up with options and ideas based on the info you provided. Keep in mind that it will take longer if you’ve got a larger or unusually shaped space.
A designer is also a FANTASTIC resource for selecting finishes, whether flooring, cabinetry, or countertops and backsplashes.
Will My Designer Buy My Furniture?
It’s your choice! You can ask your designer to present several options for each piece of furniture you need and then purchase them on your own, or you could have your designer pick and purchase them for you.
Buying on your own gives you freedom and flexibility as well as power over your final decisions.
When the designer purchases for you, they usually get discounts that you don’t – perk alert! Don’t hesitate to set a budget and give them the reins! It saves you time and energy and presents the option for custom furniture commissioning.
While it’s true that costs can quickly add up when using an interior designer, it’s worth noting that you are far less likely to make costly mistakes and regret your design decisions.
No matter the size of your project, here’s our advice: “Do it right, or do it twice!” ✔️
We have a few other juicy little resources that will help get you to your design destination; check them out:
How to Start a Project, The Project Management Guide, and the Example Punch List– all in The Library!
Oh! And if you’re looking for some LEGIT designer-approved decor and furnishings, you should pop on into The Store!
Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 12:12pm
You’ve probably heard of a ‘Lookbook’ before, or at least one of its many iterations. Maybe for you, it’s a binder, a dedicated album on your phone, a Pinterest page, etc. A Lookbook is the standard file where all the design-y things you’ve gathered are collected and compiled. Regardless of the form it takes, we’re willing to bet that it’s been a design dumping ground for a while. Just sitting there, looking pretty. 😉 The question is, have you been able to put any of that juicy design inspo to good use?
Sure, having inspiration is one thing, but organizing and turning it into an actionable design plan is another. No worries, our fellow design hoarders; you’re in good company. You can use our system to distill down all your design inspo into a solid style story. Are you ready to take that Lookbook from a far-off fairytale to your day-to-day reality? Good.
Starting from scratch? No problem at all; keep on reading, and you’ll learn how to start with your best foot forward.
Let’s get it into gear:
Regardless of budget or the scope of your project, you need to have a strong sense of your design style and how it can best represent you at this point in your life. With this understanding comes the ability to create a design that will accurately and clearly communicate to others information about you, your lifestyle, and what you love.
However, without a clear vision, it will be as if you’re walking in the dark without a flashlight. 🔦 Sure, you’ll end up somewhere, but it may not be where you wanted. With this step-by-step system, not only will you have a flashlight to illuminate the path, but you’ll also have a compass that guides you to your desired design destination. Say that three times fast lol. 😁
You cannot make solid design decisions without first understanding your style preference and knowing what’s included in that palette. The best way to start is by gathering images of spaces, furniture, art, colors, or anything that moves you.
Time to get your inspo on…
Possibility Pinned Down
In case you haven’t already, do yourself a solid and get set up with a Pinterest account. Seriously, like right now. Here’s how to do it:
Creating a Pinterest Account
- Go to www.pinterest.com
- Click on sign up, give them an email and password, or you can sign up with Google or Facebook (we suggest using a code name for privacy)
- Boom! You have a Pinterest page where you can begin to upload any imagery to separate boards, any or all of which can be kept private if needed.
The sheer volume of design-related content on Pinterest is bananas, so there certainly won’t be an issue of being unable to find things you LOVE. In fact, for most people, the problem is loving ALL.THE.THINGS. But don’t worry, we want you pinning with reckless abandon! The brilliant aspect of the Pinterest algorithm is that as you pin images, it begins to show you more photos in a similar vein, helping you flesh out your design style in greater detail. It’s like this amazingly yummy trail of design breadcrumbs. Enjoy! 😋
PRO TIP: Remember to include images of the exterior of your home in your Lookbook. Factoring in the architecture of your home is essential when forming a style statement. Not feeling the design direction your home’s exterior is pulling you in? That’s OK! You can incorporate a style that will blend with the exterior statement in a way that still feels like you and expresses your design style. It’s all about pulling it together, and you’ll be a master of the mix in no time.
Once you have your Lookbook filled to the brim, you’ll be able to begin the process of discovering the design style “cohesive thread.”
Let’s start unraveling…
1. Create Categories
Our first step is to sort the images into categories. It can be any kind of category, such as by space (bedroom, kitchen, patio), furniture pieces you’d love to have, colors that move you, the bedding you want, etc.
2. Repetition Review
Once you’ve broken out your inspo into the various categories, begin reviewing all the images and make a list of the things you see that are repeating elements.
Let us help you out with a few examples:
- All white spaces
- Mid Century Modern furniture
- Natural textures
- Ornate crown molding
- Bold graphic art
- Specific types of patterns
- Mixed metal finishes
- Amount of items (minimal vs. heavily decorated)
Once you have your list, see if there are repeating elements that appear together in the same image, like:
- All white spaces and Ornate crown molding
- Bold graphic art and Minimal decor
- Mixed metal finishes and Natural textures
Now, categorize these images by room/space; “living room,” “kitchen,” “primary bath,” “backyard,” etc. Create separate Pinterest boards for each space and organize your images accordingly.
3. Design Direction
From here, you’ll want to refer to the Design Style Spotlights to begin to categorize the various style directions (yes, there’s likely to be more than one) that you see on your boards. Add the style names to the titles for each board, for example:
Living room / French Contemporary
Powder room / Traditional
Guest bedroom / California Coastal
Primary bedroom / Scandinavian
Once you’ve put a name to the style face, you can use this search term on Pinterest to find additional images that are even clearer representations of your style statement and gain a better understanding of how the space could come together for you.
Got it? Good. Let’s keep that momentum going…
4. Details Defined
You can now build “final boards” for each space you plan to work on. To do so, isolate all the elements that will be on your list to renovate or change, things like:
- Kitchen cabinetry
- New window treatments
- Bathroom tile
- Updated bedding
- New dining room furniture
Create a new board with the space label, adding “final” afterward. (e.g. Living room / Final)
Let’s use a living room refresh as an example scenario:
- First, you’ll bring down a few favorite images from your living room board by saving them to the new “final” board.
- Pick one with some element that you’d like to have in your new living room, and click the edit symbol (the pencil). This will bring down a dropdown option indicating the board name and section.
- Create a section labeled with the important element in the image, i.e., sectional, fireplace stone, coffee table, etc., and then save the picture to this newly created section.
You can repeat this process for every element of each space you’re planning on designing, giving you a specific road map to the items you’ll need to create your new space! To take your design from the digital dream world to everyday reality.
Oh, just wait, it gets even better…
One of the grooviest things about Pinterest is the thousands of vendors/retailers that include shortcut links to their products from the pinned images.
For instance, let’s say you’ve got your heart set on a specific sofa you found during your inspo hunt.
The pin will often include all of the product info and a link straight to the product page of that particular vendor’s website. This will help streamline your product selection budget formation and enable you to solidify your final choices.
No matter the project, from foundation to finishing touches, you now have a system for taking your inspiration from Pin to plan! By the way, if you’re wondering what design style matches the vibe you want for your space, then be sure to check out our Style Vibe Quiz!
May all your design dreams come true! 🪄
Monday, May 31, 2021 at 10:53pm
Anytime we have a significant project like a bath and kitchen remodel and sometimes even painting, we need to hire professionals. But how do you do that exactly? Should be no biggie- they’re all basically the same, right? If only that were true…
Word to the wise: there’s a better way to go about it than just picking one from the bunch and crossing your fingers! Of course, the simpler your project, the less you need to worry about it, but if your project is more complex (anything that involves mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or structural changes), then it’s STRONGLY suggested that you use these guidelines when hiring someone.
SIDE NOTE: The majority of agencies to which we will be referring are US agencies, so if you are in another country, you need to make sure you check in with your governing municipality or contractor’s licensing agency for information.
How Do You Find a Contractor?
The number one way to find a pro is through word of mouth- if someone has had a good experience, referrals are natural and offer unique and honest insight into a particular contractor’s work ethic.
Online Professional Lists
You can go to online resources that offer lists of approved professionals, like the exclusive Lisa’s List!
Another great resource is speaking with the vendor directly- they accrue many names of professionals who could complete various types of projects.
Of course, they can’t ALL be dreamboats. While conducting your initial search, you’ll want to keep a sharp eye out for these MAJOR warning signs. Your hiring process should be cut short if you come across any of the following:
No insurance or license
Unable to provide references
They have changed business names several times
Their bid is way too high or way too low
They ask for cash
They ask for full payment upfront
They don’t sign a contract
They tell you that permits aren’t necessary
What Do I Need to Ask For?
You need to have the contractor provide you with the following items:
- A copy of their license
- A copy of their worker’s compensation insurance (if they have employees)
- A copy of their liability insurance
- In the US, your municipality may require an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certification
- List of references*
*By the way, it’s a good idea to have a few prepared questions to ask them. Let me help get you started:
Interview Questions for References
- What about the work that they did that made you satisfied and want to be a reference?
- Did they deliver the project on time, and/or was he over budget? If so, why?
- If/When you disagreed, how did that get resolved?
- How quickly did they resolve the punch list?
- Would you hire them again, or would you look for someone else? If so, why?
Be sure to document all the answers in case you need to refer back to them! Of course, references aren’t the only ones you’ll need answers from…
You may have already discovered this, but there really isn’t a lot of good information out there as to what to ask a contractor, and it’s absolutely critical to get the answers you’ll need to feel comfortable with them working on your project. Don’t feel bad if you’re feeling lost- these aren’t things the average person would ever know! You’re here so you can lean on our experience, right? And we’re about to show up for you big time! Here you go:
Contractor Interview Questionnaire
- What is your availability?
- Do you have any examples of similar projects?
- Are you ok with going through a bidding process?
- Are you comfortable with mutually established benchmarks for payment?
- I’ll be working with a benchmarked payment schedule. Are you familiar with that?
- Do you have any outstanding liens to any of the work you’ve done and/or impediments against your license? (You should still verify this on your own.)
- I’ll require an insurance indemnification rider; are you familiar with that? (You want their insurance to cover everyone who is employed by them.)
- Do you have any questions about the scope of work or the critical path schedule?
- Who will be on the job site, yourself or the job foreman, and when will I meet them? (If there are multiple trades involved)
- I would like to see an in-process job site. Can you provide me with an address and a date within the next ten days?
- I’ll be buying all the finish materials, and I will need you to provide all of the rough materials. Are you familiar with that? (Ex. drywall, support posts, pipes, etc.)
- I need you to pull all the necessary permits. Are you familiar with that?
- Will you be hiring any finish subcontractors, and if so, I would like the first option of refusal on their work. Are you familiar with that? (A contractor is a company hired by you directly, whereas a subcontractor is a professional who provides services on a project that was hired by someone other than the homeowner, usually the contractor.)
- Are you comfortable signing a lien waiver? **
We want to talk more about this one because it’s a biggie.
Contractors typically work in one of two ways. They either have an entire crew that works underneath them and are on his payroll. OR, he will be responsible for completing the basic rough framing and perhaps another specialty like plumbing, but for the rest, he will hire subcontractors. Remember- you need to make it clear to him in an interview that if he is the type who doesn’t do it all in-house, you’ll have to approve any subcontractor.
Because you will be paying the subcontractor, they need to sign a lien waiver to you at the end of the project (this is in addition to the one from the contractor.) It says that all the materials that they provided were COMPLETELY PAID FOR. This is a non-negotiable! Trust us, things can get pretty dicey, so make sure you’ve got it.
Narrowing it Down
After your interviews, you are probably going to narrow it down to the ones who made you the most comfortable when answering your questions and, of course, met all of your requirements.
It’s not a bad idea to have a second meeting to review the details of the scope of work and the schedule because, at this point, you’re ready to ask them to bid on the project. You’re going to give them a delivery date that you want the bid to come back to you (minimum of three-day bid turnaround, so an expectation of 5-7 business days is reasonable). If there is a massive difference in bids between contractors, you will want to discuss this with all of them.
Once you’ve made your selection, it’s time for the onboarding process. It’s at this stage where he will provide all the documents and review with you what’s called your contractor agreement. A contractor’s agreement is basically the terms of work that they will be signing off on.
Scope of Work Review
After you’ve made your material selections and they’ve come back with pricing, it’s time to once again review the scope of work. Your scope of work will include every finalized piece of material, so there won’t be any misunderstandings, and your priorities are crystal clear. Expect to see line items for rough materials, labor, and project management, but you need to really dig into their pricing to verify who is buying and doing what. Here’s why:
Let’s say the bid total included costs for natural stone tile; however, your plan is to purchase the tile separately, so the bid didn’t need to have that additional material cost and should be adjusted.
Establishing a Payment Schedule
This applies to labor only, and you’ll work with contractors to establish a mutually agreed-upon set of payment benchmarks based on work completed/inspections. Setting up and following through with a payment plan not only can keep your project from going off track, but it can also help toward completing the project on time, avoiding unnecessary disputes, and even staying within the overall budget.
There are several varieties of contracts that will inform your payment schedule. Let’s take a peek at some of the most common types:
Deposit and Final Payment
Most common in smaller projects, an initial deposit followed by a final payment may be all that’s necessary to keep everyone satisfied. The deposit may cover permits, materials, and labor, with the final payment wrapping up any other expenses.
This payment scheduling format is most common in mid-sized or large projects. Under this payment schedule type, payments will be made at specific checkpoints throughout the project.
Checkpoint types include:
1. Time-based Payments
With time-based payments, the payment schedule divides the contract total into equally distributed payments. Typically, monthly payments are established with set due dates. Under this contract type, payment amounts and intervals are made very clear but may require adjustments if change orders and/or delays occur. This payment schedule works best for really large projects or new builds, as they can take well over a year to complete.
2. Milestone-based Payments
Milestone-based payments outline that a payment is due when specific phases of the project are completed. For example, an amount could be due when the contractor finishes the final clean-up of the property or when the flooring installation wraps up. This payment schedule works really well with more extensive renovation projects that can be broken down into a series of smaller projects. This type of payment schedule is best for renovations due to the set timeframe, and the payments made at certain milestones will help keep the project moving along.
3. Completion-based Payments
When a contract uses a completion-based payment schedule, payments are due at regular intervals based on the progress of the project. For instance, payments may be scheduled at every 10% interval of the project’s completion. Keep in mind, however, that determining a project’s completion percentage can be a real challenge. This payment type will only work well on projects that have clear, itemized budgets or schedules of values.
PRO TIP: Hold a percentage back for the punch list. What’s a punch list? When your project is 85-95% complete, you will walk through the space and inspect EVERYTHING for appearance and functionality. As you do, you’ll make notes, take photographs, and use blue painter’s tape to mark any flaws or issues that need to be fixed. This list of to-dos is called a punch list, and be warned now- it takes an entire day to create! Take a look at this example punch list to see what we mean! Check out the Example Punch List in The Library!
Think of it as a scorecard, and if your contract doesn’t get an “A,” he doesn’t get paid! Our recommendation is to do the punch list on your own and then communicate it to your contractor once it is complete.
How ya feeling? Confident? Good! You should be! By straightforwardly approaching a general contractor with your requirements, you position yourself as an informed consumer, and believe us, your position is much stronger when you set this precedent in the beginning. With all this inside information you now have in your back pocket, you are miles ahead of the average homeowner! Now go get ’em, Tiger! 🐯