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  • Andrea Hutchman

What exactly does an interior designer do?

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

You ask? I will answer.

Generally, working with Poppy Interiors will be a wonderful experience, leaving you with a beautiful new space that you will enjoy for many years. Some things to look forward to when working with me (how does this work and what are you doing here?):

Meet with the client in the space. There, we discuss what the client feels is wrong or needs improvement. At this point, you tell me your wishes and dreams for your space. How do you see yourself living in it? I’ll ask lots of questions so that I can get an idea of how you live:

- Do you entertain a lot?

- How many people use the kitchen?

- How long do you expect to live here, etc.

At this point, it’s a good idea to talk budget and project duration. Please remember that good results take time, and good contractors are busy. You have hired me to do the job right the first time, so we want to make choices carefully. You may want custom upholstery or appliances, which naturally take longer, but are worth the wait because you will get exactly what you want. It’s important to avoid making purchases that are “just for now”. Before you know it, years have gone by, and you still hate your sofa! If we do have to wait for the contractor, we will get everything ordered and ready to go (tile, floors, furniture, fabric), so there’s no delay on our end.

After the first meeting, I will email you a contract that outlines what we have discussed. The contract will include my hours (I bill hourly), and any purchases I make (furniture, lighting, fabrics, wallpaper, rugs, window treatments, or accessories) will be charged to the client at my discounted trade rate, plus a mark up of 20%. Before I begin work, I will ask for a retainer to cover the first design phase.

I will probably have to come back to the site and measure everything carefully (after you have signed the contract and submitted the retainer). This usually takes about an hour. I need accurate dimensions to begin designing and making preliminary furniture choices.

Then I will head back to my office to begin visualizing your project. This is when the main thinking about your project happens. These first passes at your project are the most important part of the process. I will draw a floor plan and elevations in AutoCad. These can be used later for the contractor. I will also build a virtual 3D model of your space. I have found this to be very useful in making layout changes and choosing materials. I will also create a mood board of your project, which includes furniture and finishes that I recommend.

At our next meeting, I will show you my ideas. I’ll bring the mood boards, floor plans, and 3D model. This is meant to be an interactive process, so if you think I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere, this is the time to let me know. I want you to be 100% happy with your project. Remember, some changes may seem abrupt when you first see them, but, on reflection, you will find that you like them. It’s good to let things percolate and get back to me once you have considered carefully.

One thing to note: If it’s a matter of “I want my kitchen just like it is, but I need a new countertop,” you probably don’t need a designer.

Once we have had our second meeting, I will make any adjustments you like and present to you an updated mood board. If we are good to go after that, I start the search for a contractor, if needed. If we are making only cosmetic changes, I will create a spreadsheet budget for you and begin pricing all the purchases that will need to be made. Regarding the budget: it is very important that I know what ballpark we are in. It is very helpful to have an overall target I need to hit. That way, I will know what vendors to research.

If we are purchasing furniture and finishes, I will not buy anything until you have approved and signed off on each purchase. Some clients want to approve everything and others only the larger items. Please let me know what you prefer. I try to present you with three choices for any given item. If you don’t like any of them, I’ll get you three more. Something to note: you are hiring me because I have a variety of resources and vendors, both retail and only to the trade, that I can pull from. It really complicates matters if you start hitting stores and showrooms without me — I may have an overall design that will be thwarted by “Costco is having a big sale.” However, I am always open to new vendors and furniture makers, so please point me in their direction, and I will try to include them in your mood board. We can also go to stores and showrooms together.

If we need a contractor, I will contact the people I know and send them the floor plans and elevations that I have created for you. They need these in order to create a bid. I will also create an electrical plan. We will arrange to meet each of the contractors who are bidding. Note: good contractors are very busy and will often say that you will have to wait a few months to start. However, things do change and sometimes they become available sooner. In the bidding phase, I would not eliminate someone just because he is busy during our ideal construction time.

Construction bids take a long time, often a month or more. The contractor will often ask to see the site again in order to include the plumber and electrician and any other subs who need to be part of the bid. During this waiting period, we can hone in on finishes and colors and order any items that have long lead times.

Once the bids are in and you have chosen a contractor, you have several choices:

1) Keep me on to project manage for you. This means that I will be in daily contact with the contractor. I will handle any questions or clarifications, and you will not really need to deal with the contractor at all. I will make all purchases of furniture and finishes and will get everything move-in ready for you.

2) Have me in to consult once a week or so and do the purchasing for you.

3) A combination of the above options that we customize together. In any case, it’s all charged at my hourly rate.

Thank you for reading this! Please ask me about anything that is unclear. I look forward to working with you!


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