Decorating a new home or redesigning your existing residence with a different style or color scheme should make you excited about the possibilities. Understandably, however, the undertaking also can be stressful or even intimidating.

That’s why having a professional by your side, to guide the process, can help your ideas turn into the reality you desire.

While some people may “shy away from hiring a professional designer because they are concerned about the price, a designer can help you avoid expensive mistakes,” according to an article on

That being said, it’s important to find the right person. Here are a few issues to discuss and respective questions to ask when hiring an interior designer.

1. Credentials

First off, note there is a difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator. Many states, including New York, require someone to have a license and certification to legally possess the official designation of “interior designer.” Qualifications include passing a rigorous exam given by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification that also covers project management and knowledge of building codes. Those who don’t take the exam can refer to themselves as “interior decorators,” a term not subject to rules. A Washington Post article mentions that “although state licensing is important for large-scale and commercial projects, several local firms said it is less important for residential jobs,” where “personality, taste and the designer’s portfolio are key qualifications.” Be sure to ask your interviewees what academic or professional organization credentials they possess and whether they’ve completed the NCIDQ exam. Read more about New York’s licensing requirements for interior design practitioners here.

2. Experience and Education

Many certified interior designers will have acquired at least a four-year degree, and some even acquire a master’s or doctoral degree. According to an article on Angie’s List, “this formal education provides the interior designer with a solid grounding in safety issues, basic architectural principles and the application of state and local building codes to ongoing projects.” Other interior designers or decorators may have completed training in a specific area through an educational institute or certification program, but it will be less extensive. With or without formal education, many successful design professionals complete an apprenticeship to gain practical experience. You may decide a large accumulation of experience is sufficient in lieu of a formal education. When interviewing, pose questions about the length and quality of their education, and probe for details regarding their hands-on experience in the field.

3. Their style

Just because an interior designer is well-educated or experienced does not mean they are the right fit for your particular project. It’s just as important you hire a professional whose personal style appeals to you or can accommodate your tastes. Ask to see their portfolio, which will give you the best idea of their style and the work they do. If there is a particular interior décor style you favor – such as vintage, art deco, coastal, contemporary, French provincial, Mediterranean, modern, western, transitional or shabby chic – ask the designer if they’ve worked with that style before and request samples.

4. References and Credibility

Before you select a designer, you should ask to see reviews of their work or if they can get you in contact with past clients, mentors or professional affiliates. Hearing positive feedback about your potential designer’s credibility, work ethic or aesthetic choices can help you make an informed decision when it comes to hiring.

There are many other good questions to ask during your interviews, including those regarding payment methods, budgeting, the timeline of the project, and who will serve as the primary project manager. Most importantly, remember the reason you’re hiring a professional is so you can get your decorating done right the first time. Take your time, ask as many questions as you desire, and get to know a few different candidates before making your decision.


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