You have finally found your interior designer and have scheduled a consultation  (if not, see ANI blog post .1), so now you want to make the most of your valuable time together. What do you do next? In my 30 years of design experience I know there is nothing better than the client being prepared for the initial consultation in order to make that meeting, and those to follow, as fruitful as possible. A good designer wants to hear your dreams and goals and does not come in and steamroll over them. After all, it’s your space, but it can be enhanced by an outside eye; the designer!  Giving your designer some direction is EXACTLY what is needed in order to have the best job done for you.

Here are a few steps you can take to organize your thoughts and ideas so they can be interpreted correctly.

1. COLLECT INSPIRATIONAL IMAGES – These images can be photos that have really caught your eye, like pages you’ve ripped out or copied out of your favorite style magazine. You can easily go online to houzz.com or pinterest.com to share, pin, and follow your own designer or thousands of others and collect images, ideas, and design concepts that inspire you.

Be sure to share your pages and boards with your designer so they can get an idea of the style direction and vision before they even get to your door.

Even if you’re unsure about an image, but it strikes you, save it and share with your designer.  I have seen lots of seemingly random style images shared with me by a client with no clear vision or reason about the photo, although they all spoke to the client in some way. I can often see the thread of similarities between photos that the client can’t. We can use this insight to benefit the current project.

2. HAVE A FLOORPLAN OR DRAWING – Whenever possible, get a floor plan from the developer or builder. This can save many hours of measuring and research time for your designer, ultimately saving you from those billable hours!

3. COLLECT PAINT SWATCHES – As you go about your workday, consider what colors inspire and interest you. Are you working with a business logo color? Is the design concept inspired from another space you entered? You can go to a paint store, and simply select a few color swatches that speak to you and share them with your designer as your color preferences.

4. LIST OF QUESTIONS – Be prepared with a list of questions, concerns, and ideas that you can share. This is the jumping off point for so many beneficial conversations. If there are others with strong design preferences, a business partner or other, they must be represented so the direction can be talked through at the start of the project, so as not to derail down the road after the design direction has already been made. This is another great cost savings for your business so the design hours don’t double unnecessarily, or good working relationships erode.

5. BUDGET – Some clients don’t want to share their budget for the project. But sharing this is very helpful for the designer as it gives good direction for all the finish and material selections. The interior design fee isn’t typically affected by the budget level so there is no need to hide it. Knowing this up front is crucial in saving many design hours of selecting items that aren’t appropriate for the budget. Often, I think clients don’t share the budget because they don’t have one! Most clients are not in the construction business so they need guidance on establishing budget numbers. An experienced designer can help them get estimates for flooring, new walls, electrical work, windows, millwork, etc. Do this as early as possible in the design process.

6. PARAMETERS – Please let your designer know up front if there are any restrictions when designing. The budget is always a concern, but what about other needs such as project timing, disability, or sensitivity needs? If you have important parameters, your builder and designer need to know this upfront so that they can work together and smarter, to fulfill those requirements.

7. PATIENCE – Remember that the design and building process can be longer, harder, and come with more surprises than expected. That is actually a regular part of the construction process, so don’t worry! Since “the best defense is a good offense” make sure you select a team you have faith in and feel comfortable talking with about every detail, whether it’s the easy fun planning and design or the difficult aspects of the process. Patience is key to producing a functional and aesthetic work space for your business!

With all this said, you are hiring the interior designer for their expertise and design ideas, so keep an open mind to all they suggest, even if it is a different direction than that which you first imagined!