How to Choose an Interior Designer

Hiring an interior designer is a must for any large-scale projects; from remodeling a home to building one, an interior designer should be there to help make the interior spaces safe, functional, and beautiful. They’re the experts on making a house feel like home, but how do you choose the right interior designer? 

Before you begin your search, there are a few things you’ll need to know beforehand, including: 

  • How to hire an architect – Your FIRST team member
  • How to choose the right contractor
  • The size of the project 
  • What your budget is
  • What your style is 
  • Do you want to use specific colors (or don’t want a specific color/colors)
  • If you want to bring any specific materials into your home (marble, wood, granite, etc.)

If you have all of that, then you’re ready to begin the process of choosing an interior designer. Here are a few questions that you need to ask yourself and the interior designer before you hire them. 

Question One: Do I Really Need an Interior Designer?

As mentioned earlier, an interior designer’s job is to make every room in your house safe, functional for your needs, and aesthetically pleasing. While you may not need to hire one for a kitchen renovation, you will need one on the team if you’re planning on a major remodel of a home or building a new house — especially if it’s out of state. 

An interior designer will know all of the codes and safety regulations in their area and will be able to bring your vision to life without breaking your budget. They will have access to resources, including local shop owners and craftsmen, and will be able to use products and fabrics that are not available to the general public. This will save you time and stress, as an interior designer will eliminate the extensive research you would need to do to find the perfect furnishings or accent piece. 

A designer will also take some stress off your shoulders during the remodel or building phase, as they allow you to build a stronger relationship between you, your architect, and contractors by spotting design mishaps before they happen. 

On top of all that, they will be able to provide you with the “wow” factor that will make your home feel like paradise. An interior designer’s sole goal is to make the most impactful moment of the process be the moment you walk through the door for the first time and see your new home. If you choose the right interior designer, your home will be exactly how you want it and will be a place of celebration and renewal for you after a long building process. 

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Question 2: What Is The Designer’s Fee Structure? 

One of the first things you should ask your prospective interior designer is what is their fee structure. Be sure to ask how they keep track of your budget, payments, and refunds too! Remember, transparency is key when it comes to your money.

Interior designers typically have two fees: one for design services and another for markup on products. The design service can be billed in a variety of ways — Some may charge on an hourly basis, while others may charge based on the square footage they’re designing. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the common design fee structures: 

Fixed rates: Fixed-rate means you and your interior designer will have extensive talks about the scope of the work to set an agreeable fee. This rate is meant to cover all contingencies and is not meant to change. It is common to pay part of this fee (10%-40%, on average) before any work begins. 

Hourly: The interior designer would be paid by the hour. 

Percentage over costs: This is a popular choice for residential projects. You will be charged what the interior designer pays to the vendors, store owners, craftsmen, vendors, etc., plus a predetermined percentage markup. 

The percentage charged depends on the nature of work and can range from 1% to 40%. This means that the percentage charge will vary depending on the size of the project.

Cost per square foot: The interior designer will measure the space and will discuss a fair price, based on the size of the room(s). For example, an interior designer that uses this fee structure will charge more for a 200-square-foot project than a 100-square-foot project. 

Department store retail price: If your interior designer of choice works for a department store, you can expect the rate to be designated by the department store. For example, a local showroom like Ladlows or Scottsdale Design Center will offer some interior design services and charge a fee to hire their professionals. 

Combination rates: This fee structure is generally reserved for large or complex projects. It combines two or more of the above structures. 

Question Three: Can I Have a Client Reference?

A reputable interior designer should have no issue with providing you with references. They should be able to show you photos, past designs, and might provide you with past clients (if the former client gave permission) so you can make your own decision. 

When it comes to an interior designer, you’re going to want to hire someone who feels like a good and trustworthy professional. Your personality will need to mesh with theirs and you will need to know how they communicate — two things that past clients will know best. If they don’t have any references, it might be time to move on to another interior designer or to do some research of your own. 

Take online reviews with a grain of salt. You never know who posted them or what the intent was behind the review. Instead, ask around to find past clients. Use social media and word of mouth to your advantage. If you find some, or if the interior designer provides references, ask the following questions: 

  • How did they treat you?
  • Were they on time?
  • How did they handle your budget?
  • Did they listen to what you wanted?
  • How did they handle mistakes?
  • Did you trust them?
  • Were you happy with the process?
  • Were you happy with the results?
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Other Questions To Consider When Hiring an Interior Designer

Here is a list of general questions you should consider asking the interior designer before you hire them to ensure you will be happy with their process and the final result. 


  1. Is there a particular style that you like or that you don’t like?
    • Asking this right away can be an easy way to eliminate a few of your options!
  2. How many projects do you work on at a given time?
    • A busy interior designer may not be able to give you all the time you need, so consider one that takes on a handful (or less) designs per month. 
  3. What’s your internal structure, and who would I work with on your team other than you?
    • Know the team and the potential contractors so you can do more research.
  4. How long would you anticipate the project to be completed?
  5. Does our availability line up?
  6. Are you comfortable with pets/kids/allergies to certain materials or fabrics?
  7. What is your project management style?
  8. What will you expect of me during the process?
  9. How do you resolve problems during the project? 
  10. Is your design green or environmentally conscious?


Hiring an interior designer is a big job. If you’re unsure of how to begin, contact Urban Design Associates. Their team will be able to answer all of your questions, set up a free consultation, and help bring your dream home to life.