Alexis Nielsen Interiors

Should You Hire A Designer?

I don’t like HGTV.  Most designers I know agree with me it has done little to advance our profession. No design job is ever that much of a disaster or done that presto quick. The producers of HGTV have dumbed down our trade so much for entertainment that no one watching the show can possibly understand the expertise and effort that went into the renovation or how much time the designer spent planning the project before demo began.

People love to watch a good before/after reno but when it comes to hiring a designer for their own project, they balk. Why? Designers are professionals, like architects, contractors and other tradespeople. Are we necessary? I think so, especially on larger projects. Can you get away with doing a project without a designer? Sure, but why would you want to? To save money? Because you don’t think a designer brings value to the project? I’ll argue that a designer can save you money and bring tons of value. Here’s how:

  1. A designer will properly plan out the project from conception to installation, helping avoid costly mistakes from the get go and save you from having to go back and redo things you thought were being done right the first time.
  2. Most contractors don’t do their own plans, and architects generally like the big picture mechanical and structural stuff, not the little details.  Please don’t think I’m knocking contractors or architects: they are necessary to a renovation project but the designer is the one who bring all the moving parts together.
  3.  A designer will know every phase of the project and what needs to get done before the next phase can proceed, again saving you from doing things in the wrong order and lining up the work so that it gets done in a timely manner.
  4. A designer knows who s/he can bring in to get the job done properly, saving time and money in costly re estimates or low balled estimates that didn’t include the whole picture the first time around.
  5. A designer knows where to go to get the best quality products and some designers including myself will even pass the wholesale savings to you. If you like spending every weekend for the foreseeable future shopping at malls for furniture and looking at fabric swatches and wood stains, then go for it! Otherwise hire a designer to do the legwork for you and save those weekends for your family.
  6. A designer is your collaborator, your consultant and your advocate. We don’t cut corners and we don’t let our contractors do it either. It’s our reputation on the line.
  7. A good designer will sometimes even talk you out of a project if s/he thinks it’s not a good idea, or at least give you options that may make more sense.
  8. A good designer will fight on your behalf to get things righted and righted quickly if things go awry with shipments or construction.
  9. A designer isn’t a commodity. You need to meet with several to decide whom best fits your style philosophy and can help you fulfill your dream.
  10. Designers cost money. But anything worth doing well has a price.

How do you find a good designer? Ask neighbors whom they used. Search for portfolios and reviews. Google local designers in your area and check out their work. Attend house walks in your area.

There are a lot of great designers on HGTV, both on and off the camera. I just wish they disclosed how much time and effort it really took them to get a job done. Then maybe the rest of us wouldn’t have to fight so hard to prove our value.


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