Friday, June 10, 2011

"I wish you could come to my house!"

When people first hear that I am an Interior Decorator, the most common response is "I wish you could come to my house!"  To which I instantly reply, "I can!". I hand them my card, invite them to call and then often that is where the conversation ends. I feel sad because most times I know those people really would like some decorating intervention but just don't think it is accessible for their home or their budget. 

I think the number one reason people do not hire a decorator is the misguided notion that only wealthy people work with a decorator. So this blog is my attempt to get my bull-horn, stand up on a milk crate and dispel some of the misnomers about working with a decorator. In fact, I'll give you a little glimpse of what I do when I take on a new client to take some of the mystery out of it and show that working with a decorator is more accessible then one would think!

Step One: The introductory phone call. When a new client first comes to me, they explain their project, their ideas, their wishes, their past experiences, their marital problems, troubles with their in-laws, etc....(I kid about the last few but truthfully, the relationship between client and decorator does get very personal after a while. In fact, I am considering getting a backup degree in psychology!!) In this phone call I also explain a bit about the decorating process and how I work with my clients and of course, the budget.

Step Two: In the second step, I come to meet the home for the first time. (And I say 'meet the home' because the home and I become very, very close over the process of decorating!) I take measurements and photos of the space in question along with some adjacent spaces as well. The client fills out a comprehensive questionnaire at this meeting or prior to it so we can get on the same page style-wise. At this point, I lay out a plan of action along with introductory ideas of which direction we should head-in to achieve the desired outcome.

Steps Three, Four and Five: These usually include a series of shopping hours, in which I shop both retail and trade-only vendors to find pieces needed for your space. Here is where one big myth will be laid to rest: as a decorator- I don't ONLY shop at high-end vendors. I shop everywhere from Target, to Pier 1, to the Salvation Army to get you the piece you need at the price that works within your budget. I also receive trade discounts at most of the places I shop and ALL of those discounts get passed along to the client. (Not all decorators work this way but this system has worked best for me and my clients!) I have had many clients say that the discounts they receive through working with me offset my fees...there you have it: (almost!) FREE DECORATING!

The Final Steps: Of course, there are many factors involved in determining how long the project lasts and how many steps are involved but the final step is usually when I add my "Wow Factor!" Once all the major players have been addressed (paint, flooring, furniture plans, window treatments, etc) I shop the market for some very special accessories (artwork, pillows, accessories, etc) and then I come into the space and arrange them. This is usually where we have a big Oprah-moment- as the client comes home and is over whelmed with emotion over the results. They cry, I cry, we hug and then we move on to the next space that needs decorating. (Ok, that might be an over-dramatization- but you get the idea. My clients are very happy but since they have seen the transformation over time, we don't always end up in the 'ugly cry')

So what does it cost? This varies greatly on the project. However, I can tell you that I charge either by the hour or occasionally I charge a flat fee per project. Some projects are very small: I come in and assess what they have, what they need and select a few paint colors. Some projects are much larger in scope: I work with clients over the course of a year moving from one room to the next.

I think the most important take-away in all of this is that everyone should live in a space that they love. If you have difficulty achieving it yourself- seek the help of a professional. Even just a one-hour consultation might set you on the right track. And it might be more reasonable than you think! Visit Homestyling101

Above I included some photos of my top-secret books and folders where I hide all my ideas. There is also a shot of some of my fabric and carpet samples. Below is the quote that sits above my desk. It inspires me as an entrepreneur, it encourages my clients to take risks and perhaps it will inspire you to take action and make your home the home of your dreams

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is." H. Jackson Browne


  1. So helpful . . . great clarification of how an interior decorator/designer works -- just branching into this area myself (from staging), so I appreciate the education! I'm trying to figure out whether to pass on discounts I receive and how much -- maybe I'll do what you do and charge an hourly fee instead. Would love to see photos of your work here as well.


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