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7 Common Mistakes NOT To Make with Your Interior Designer

Learn from these relationship gaffes and ensure a great rapport with your design professional.

By Jan Soults Walker

Knowing where some homeowner-interior designer relationships have gone wrong can help you avoid design delays, detours, and downright disasters. Dodge these mistake scenarios offered by interior designer Jim Powell, principle for J. Powell Associates, Inc. in Vail, Colorado, so you can maximize results and enjoy the design journey.

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Barbara Gilbert

1. You didn't interview your designer in person.

"You really want to make sure you connect on a personal level with your designer, and that begins with a face-to-face interview or two," Powell says. "This person will be very much involved in your everyday life—even right down to knowing which drawer you keep your underwear in—so make sure you get along well and understand one another."

Lesson: If you sense a clash of characters during the interview, walk away.

2. You failed to check references.

"You can't find out everything you need to know about your interior designer during one or two interviews, so definitely follow through and call references," Powell says. "Find out how the process went for previous clients and if they were pleased with the outcome."

Lesson: Obtain a list of references from the interior designer you're considering and call each one.

3. You weren't forthright about your budget.

"Budget is a big issue," Powell says. "You'll get better results if you're honest with your designer from the beginning about what you want to spend. Knowing the limits avoids unnecessary frustration later on when your designer presents wonderful but unaffordable ideas and products. Trust that your qualified interior designer knows how to create the look you want within your budget."

Lesson: Determine your budget from the beginning and present true numbers to your interior designer.

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4. You stayed on the premises during a major remodel or installation.

"During a major remodel, there are lots of physically unhealthy things going on," Powell points out, "from drywall dust to paint fumes, it can make you ill. Then there's the mental anguish of living in the midst of chaos. All of that can add up to straining your relationship with your interior designer. So if it is at all possible for you to move out during the process—or even just during the worst of it—you'll maintain a healthy mind and body for achieving good communication and smart decisions.

"Likewise, on installation day when all these wonderful things arrive in boxes, it takes time for your interior designer to pull it all together. During that process, it may look messy and you can't see the entire picture, which can lead to misunderstandings and unhappiness. So make plans to be away for the day and return when it's all pulled together and gorgeous."

Lesson: Make arrangements to live away from your home during major demolition and construction phases, and spend installation day away to allow the process to happen unhindered.

5. You set unreasonable expectations.

"How do you know if your expectations are unreasonable?" Powell asks. "If you are criticizing every subcontractor, you may be setting your expectations too high and you're making the process miserable for yourself and everyone around you. That almost always leads to a breakdown in communication because the designer and subcontractors begin to anticipate the worst."

Lesson: Check yourself and make sure that the results you are expecting are practical or even possible.

6. You weren't flexible.

"When you have a specific look you're envisioning," Powell says, "keep in mind that the structure and architecture of your home is different, for example, than the photograph you've shown your interior designer. That means it won't look exactly like that, so be flexible with variations and interpretations on the design."

Lesson: Remind yourself that you're paying for a unique design and enjoy the personal character that results.

7. You didn't trust your interior designer's abilities.

"Once you've made the decision to hire your interior designer, allow him or her to exercise what they're trained to do and give you their best," Powell recommends. "Try not to fixate on one particular detail as it can interrupt or even destroy the process. Your designer can see the whole picture, and this is difficult for some homeowners to replicate. So hire this creative individual and let him create."

Lesson: Trust and allow your designer freedom to do what he or she does best, and you'll enjoy the journey as well as the results.

For more home design ideas and advice, check out:

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