There are more than ten things to look for when choosing an interior designer, but these are the most important!

What are the questions you should ask? Do they need a portfolio? (actually they don’t) and if YOU are the interior designer, what should you be asking your prospective client?
Also covered are questions you should ask, note taking and having a clear strategy for the work.

Ten Things To Look For When Choosing An Interior Designer – A Summary

1. Personality – if you are going to work collaboratively with your interior designer then you must both get on and like each other. You must be able to be honest with each other. If you are the designer, this means respecting the clients home and their choices and decisions.  It’s not your home after all!

2. Photographs – much has been said about whether you need these as a designer and whether clients should even bother to ask for them. I don’t think they are imperative. It is much more useful to visit a job that has been done or is even in the process of being renovated to see what is possible and how the designer works.

3. Asking The Right Questions – when will the work need to start, what are the budget constraints, what are the clients ideas and what timing needs to be adhered to.  Your designer should ask these questions and as the client, you should be prepared to answer them honestly.

4. Taking Notes – when choosing an interior designer, pay close attention to how much attention she is paying to you and your property. They should be taking notes and notice. Access to the property, wooden floors and acoustic levels, hours of work that can be completed within the property and neighbours – all this should be noted and recognised.

5. Suppliers – most designers won’t give you a list of their workmen and companies that they source from so you don’t need to ask if you’re the client.  I’ve recorded another podcast on this – listen to this here.

6. Where can I find an interior designer? – recommendation every time. You can go to your country’s institute for interior design if they have one, but honestly, go with a recommendation or failing that, look into a local magazine and see who is featured and who advertises there.

7. Insurance – everyone should have it. Especially any builders that you employ.  Interior designers should have indemnity insurance. I do, but I have, thankfully, never needed it.

8. How Much Do Interior Designers Cost? – this is the holy grail of questions and the answer is not straightforward. Hourly rates, percentage of building costs, stand alone fees that are split into installments – all of these are used and are acceptable, depending on what the designers set up is.  The easiest way is the percentage option, because if you are running hourly contracts then timesheets are necessary.  Make sure that as clients, you have read the terms and conditions and if you are the designer – make your terms and conditions are clear from the outset!

9. Schedule of Work – no, not the builders schedule of work but yours, as a designer. Clients and designers must know who is doing what and who has the responsibility to choose and purchase items. If there is overlap – it just wastes time. Make sure everything is clear before you start. Who is buying, when you are meeting and when and how often updates are needed.

10. Extra Jobs – storage, removals, renting another property, cleaning..even selling old items..all these options need to be spoken about and nailed down before work starts.

Where can I go for more professional property information?

Planning and Conservation Areas

Planning is crucial here and a knowledge of the house and area should also be looked at.  If conservation is important, there are a number of organisations that can help you decipher if you are in a Conservation Area and what your responsibilities are; towards property and external features such as trees.

A good starting point is English Heritage:

If trees are an issue – see this page here:

Listed Building Consent is another topic that can get complicated.  Have a look at these guidelines if you need more information:

Structural Surveyors

There are lots of good reasons to get a structural surveyor.  The first is peace of mind. This is often the most important thing for people buying or renovating a property! But builders, though their knowledge is always beneficial and accurate, they often require a more professional opinion and are loathe to do any work before a surveyor has said it’s safe to do so.  If you would like to read more on what they offer and why they are a good idea, see this link..

Finding a surveyor is best either done through recommendation or by through the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.  Get a quote or two first before you settle on your choice.  Again, like choosing an interior designer, go for someone that is forthcoming and gives you the information in a way that you can understand. Here’s the link to RICS:

Building Control and Planning Applications

Each borough operates its own Building Control and Planning Department section and your plans get submitted to the borough where your property is located. Please visit your borough website for more details as most boroughs have slight differences that need to be addressed during planning applications.

Planning applications can be submitted by you or, as I tend to do, by the architect that you are using for your property design.

There will be more on this subject coming in a future post!

In the meantime,  have a listen to today’s podcast. Happy Designing!


Also in today’s Ask Belinda section of the podcast, we hear from James and Susan in West Hampstead. They ask “How long should it take to renovate a six bedroom property?”

This will depend on the scope of work, but I would estimate about 6-8  months if you are re-plumbing and re-wiring. More if you are adding on a loft or basement.