Meeting with Decorator

sjhockeyfan325October 15, 2013

I'm meeting with a decorator for the first time in my life on Saturday. This is not the kind of project where she'll select furniture and fabrics from fancy design houses and make her money in the difference between wholesale and retail. Rather, she's more like a "stager-decorator" --- she'll help us pick the big pieces and fabrics from retail stores and even online, help with paint colors, rugs, and accessories, "stage" the condo (which I am TERRIBLE at), lay out where the wall hangings should go, that kind of thing. Whatever's missing -- she'll suggest what we should get and where to get it, or she'll do the shopping for us. She gets paid by the hour, and she's done work I've liked for a friend.

My question is - what should I be prepared with on Saturday? Should I have pictures? Websites? Head to a store with her to show her the kinds of things we like (which is very eclectic)? Any other ideas?

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She'll probably want to talk about your goals - you need to have facts for her:

1 - Measurements of the rooms, including things like the width of each wall space, the width of each window, the height of the window sill, and the location of each power outlet.

2- Pictures: Stand in the middle of the room and shoot a panorama of the room. Shoot, turn, shoot until you have it covered.

3 - Ideas .... make a Pinterest board for each room and throw all the pictures you like of interior ideas, with a comment on what you like about it.

Also have a board of "thing's I really don't like" with the reasons.

With that to work with and discuss, you'll have an easier time.

You won't have her suggesting a 9-foot tufted sofa when you don't have a wall it can fit on and hate tufting because it collects dog hair.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 11:51AM
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sjhockey....I know we dont live in same area, but just curious...if you are willing to much per hour she charges? I really need someone like this to finish off my rooms....I pick out the big stuff OK but get stuck with accessories..what to put where....which is funny because I am a detail-oriented person. I also dont know how to go about finding someone like this. I've worked with 2 decorators in the past but they were bad experiences.

As far as prep--exactly what lazy of styles you DON'T like is very helpful I think. Even a folder with pictures from magazines is OK.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 12:02PM
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Here's what Id suggest:

1. A list of what function you want for each room and who uses it
2. ANy things you do not want to part with?
3. Any thing you always wanted?
4. Approx. total budget, or by item budget (eg, I dont want to spend more than 4k on a sofa, or whatever)
5. Photos of things you like and don't like,and WHY.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 12:13PM
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Really good suggestions. I'm only posting because that word "stage" alarms me a bit. It is, of course, meant to produce a generically attractive, least inoffensive product to offer the general public. Hopefully it's just a word you are using to indicate a limited degree of input and didn't come from the designer. If so, maybe lose it for fear it might influence the direction of design?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 1:20PM
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Rosie, when I use the word "stage", I'm talking about what joaniepoanie is talking about - accessorizing in a way that makes the overall look cohesive. It's my word, not her's.

FWIW, she's meeting me AT the apartment, so she'll see exactly what we have to work with in terms of room sizes, style, flow, windows, etc.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 1:45PM
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joanie, can you click on "my page" and send me an email?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 1:47PM
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FWIW, she's meeting me AT the apartment, so she'll see exactly what we have to work with in terms of room sizes, style, flow, windows, etc.

Do you want to pay her the hourly fee for taking measurements? And for sitting around looking through pictures with you while you decide what you like?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 3:30PM
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I had a decorator come for a two hour consultation...I wanted a game plan for LR, DR and FR---what pieces to buy, where to put them, wall color, etc.i.e.---for the LR get an 84" gold sofa for that wall, then have two chairs floating here with a round coffee table. On this wall a console table with silver lamps....Instead, she spent the entire time on her computer showing me products. We didnt even get to the FR. It was a waste of time and $$. It has made me very hesitant to look into finding someone else..

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 3:56PM
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I've mentioned this before, but I sent Tamara an email asking for an Accessories board with no luck.

I'm in the same situation and I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars to find out something would "look better over there than here." lol.''

I try not to ask those types of questions here, but I do wish we had a place to go to show pictures and ask for help! :)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 4:10PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Most companies will send a "decorator" out for free, but they have a way of getting you to sign. These are not decorators. They are sales! And they know they can get your business if they SPIN it right!

How do I know? In sales and marketing for my entire life! But, one got me recently. I hated what she said, but hubby with the money liked her cheap price, so we went with her... HUGE mistake!

Now hubby pays for a real designer to fix her mistakes. Big money!! We LOVE what the real designer did! He actually listened to us. She bull nosed us into what she was getting paid to sell.

Be careful! Find a good local company with references!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 4:31PM
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I just googled accesorizing a room and photos and got tons of advice sites. Here you go.

Here is a link that might be useful: accessorizing advice

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 4:33PM
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Thanks all. Yayagal and others, I am definitely not going to do this myself. I know my capabilities, and creativity/art/design is not one of them!

Desertdance, she does not work for anyone - just for herself, and she doesn't sell anything at all. She's an advisor, not a purchasing agent!

Lazygardens, yes, I am more than happy to pay for her to take measurements, look at pictures with me, and shop with me. Her hourly rate is very reasonable.

To those for whom the process didn't go well, well, I hope mine goes better :-)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 7:49PM
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I recently hired an interior designer to come over for two hours to walk through my house and offer blunt suggestions on accessorizing, what works, what doesn't, etc. It was worth every penny. she gave me blunt suggestions on items to remove, suggestions on how to prioritize purchases, suggestions on accessories needed, etc. I implemented many of her suggestions right away and was amazed at the difference. Other suggestions I don't have the funds for, but a girl can dream.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 8:37PM
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I can't wait to hear how it goes and what kind of suggestions she gives you.

If they are not going to OK a separate Accessory forum right now, what do you think about starting an accessory thread that would be a forum compressed into a thread? It might be a bit unwieldy, but it is better than nothing, and if it is a success perhaps they will rethink their decision.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 9:28PM
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Well, I work as a decorator in much the same way as you've described so I can give you a few opinions. First of all, if you want to go to the trouble of trying to draw a floor plan with dimensions yourself, go ahead, but don't be offended or surprised if she at least double checks your measurements. I have never had a client create a floor plan for me. Nor do I always create one for every room -- it depends.

If she's a good listener who really wants to decorate the place FOR YOU (in other words, not following her own agenda), she will ask you a lot of questions including all the ones that mtn listed but if she doesn't, definitely offer up that info.

I always take pictures with my cell phone, so I don't think it's necessary for you to provide pictures.

Pictures of rooms you like are helpful, for sure, as well as specific likes/dislikes. What colors you love. What stores you gravitate to. Do you love flea markets, antique stores, Target, Pottery Barn, CB2? Do you absolutely have to find a place to use your Grandma's hope chest? That's the sort of info I look for at a first meeting.

I wouldn't expect to go shopping during the first meeting. This is more of a getting to know each other, laying the groundwork meeting -- at least in my case.

And if you don't already know this, you'll want to ask if she uses a contract, requires a deposit, how she bills, and whether she can work within your timeframe if you have one.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 9:35PM
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Thank you all so much! This is very helpful? I've already been saving pix to a Houzz idea book, so I can generally show her what appeals to us, and I've also told her what stores we gravitate to (as sub suggested). Hoping this goes well. If it doesn't, I have a "second choice" but her hourly rate is quite a bit more (I',ll still do it, though, if the first one doesn't work out).

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 10:54PM
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I'll be interested to see how it goes for you.

Oakley, there isn't any reason for you to hesitate about asking those questions! It's a decorating board, and accessorizing is a huge part of the personality aspect of a home.

Showing the room/area and the things you want to use, or where to start, will elicit a ton of responses that you can consider.
Personally, I love the accessorizing threads :)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 10:19AM
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Yes! I would love an accessorizing forum! I feel this is the weakest area for me, even though I make plenty of mistakes with the other stuff! Several months ago I posted pics of my LR/DR for ideas on accessorizing and didn't get much feedback...maybe a dedicated forum would have worked better.

SJ....will be anxious to hear how your meeting goes! Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 11:06AM
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I think the fact that you saw her work at a friend's house is a good start. Understand WHY you like it and be able to talk to the decorator about it.
I have used decorators twice. Both times did not work out for me.
The last was help with my backsplash. i was redoing my backsplash because my choice clearly was a wrong one. I also wanted help with fabric for window treatments and chair cushions.
She charged $150 per hour but we but a cap on how many hours for the project. She said that if she used less than the ten hours , I would be charged accordingly. At the end she claimed she went over but of course just charged me the set amount.
I did not like any of the fabrics or tiles she picked. She gave three choices, one was a chose that I mentioned I did not want, a tumbled marble.
I used a small company that was located down the street from where I used to work. It was there for years.
Taking a suggestion from my experience, have a cap on the amount of hours for the project.
I also don't like when a decorator asks, what is your budget? I feel that whatever is presented will be at that top price.
I know a lot goes in to decorating, most that I myself will never be able to do or understand.
Good luck and keep us posted.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:55AM
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ellendi, no designer wants to waste their time or your time looking for something a client isn't willing to pay for when it's presented. When designers ask you your budget, sometimes they just want to know if they're headed to Ann Sacks or Tile Outlet of American to select your tile !!

Amazingly, there are people out there that aren't happy if you get them a bargain,........they want a name brand, and so you have to accommodate them. I don't know how else you find your direction unless you ask questions about money. You can always provide a price range instead of one number.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 9:22AM
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Beverly, it's nice to hear things from a designer's perspective. Both times I worked with a designer (or tried to) I got the impression they took one look at my average neighborhood and made up their mind about me and my budget and that was that. The Washington Post does a weekly column where people write in wanting help with a particular room. A different designer each week is featured to redo the room on paper for them. This is good advertisement for designers. Here's what amazes me....they always list the main items, where they are from and cost. Many, many times they suggest items from Target, Pier One, Ikea, and other lower cost stores.....however, the distinct impression I got from my two experiences was that if I was not prepared to spend $10,000 on a sofa it was case closed. This is why the average person who doesn't have a Trump budget is intimidated by designers. While, I am not in the league to spend $10,000 on a sofa, I am also not in the $500 Value City league either. There is also the nebulous charges by the hour. No offense to the honest designers out there...but how do I know if it took you 1 hour or 10 hours to find fabrics or tables for me? I think there needs to be more transparency and also designers need to not be turned off by cllients who may not appear to have an endless budget. After all, while I may live in an average neighborhood, I may have wealthy friends or acquaintences with bigger budgets and would refer them......but that designer will lose potential other clients based on assumptions made about me and my budget because of where I live. I would love to have someone come in and help put the finishing touches on my main floor, but am so hesitant to try it again.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 10:09AM
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joanie joanie, this is why I read this forum, to get a better idea of what clients think, because they're often not very good about telling us.

Designers are presented with an endless variety of concepts and furnishing items daily that they make split second judgements about. The longer you do this, the better & faster you get at evaluating everything. That goes for fabric and homes and people too.

It's hard, as humans, to not make assumptions when presented with a set of criteria. Neighborhood, size of house, value of home, age of residents...etc. No one in business, because that's what half of interior design is, wants to waste time or work for nothing. When working on remodeling or new construction, it often takes the same amount of time to do the $15,000 kitchen as the $50,000 kitchen. So designers, for self preservation, have to determine if the client, or project is worth the time and effort.

Designing is a creative, artistic venture, and like writing, designers can have a creative block about a project. I often don't charge clients the number of actual hours it takes to do the task.........they'd never believe me. So I have to take a step back and charge the value instead of the time. I always figure it works out in the end.

Designers spend a lot of time with clients in stressful situations. Clients are being asked to make decisions about items they perhaps cannot visualize, that maybe cost more than they expected, and at the same time trying to figure out if the DH will like it or hit the roof, or even whether their mother and friends will like her decision. Then there are clients who simply can't make a decision. Lots of very bad behavior can come to the surface when you're with people day after day.

Designers strive to find clients that will be reasonable, not defensive about design decisions they made in the past that are less than successful, open to new concepts, will pay them for their time & effort & are not.........frankly, crazy.

The best show to watch about what residential design can be like, from a designers perspective, is the Bravo show Jeff Lewis "Interior Therapy". Often projects are less about selecting furnishings than dealing with the family dynamics in the house.

This post was edited by beverly27 on Thu, Oct 17, 13 at 15:49

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Well, it's always something. I sent a text to the decorator yesterday to confirm our appt for tomorrow and got back a reply that said essentially, OMG I forgot, and BTW I've decided to stay in Michigan to help my elderly mom. I certainly understand the need to help elderly parents, but geez, I waited 3 weeks for this appt already. Back to square one.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 2:04PM
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Accessorizing is a big part of decorating. Why would people hesitate to ask about accessorizing on a decorating forum?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 2:26PM
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That isn't a good indication of how the ID runs her business. What if you hadn't texted? What if you had paid a sitter to take your kids to the park so you could have uninterrupted time with the ID and then sat at home waiting for a no-show? Not acceptable.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 2:30PM
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Oh my goodness - that is horribly unprofessional. I would not have her back. I hate to pile on, but almost every designer I have worked with has been a complete waste of money. They seem to talk endlessly, on my dime of course, of what they have done for other clients, while not really helping me with my rooms. For example, one designer I had out to work on my 2 story foyer, specifically with a large shelf over the front door. She tells me how she worked with a cellist from the symphony once and he put an antique cello up there with some piles of old music. I told her I don't play the cello, nor do I own an old cello, so what were some other ideas. She said she would have to think about it, I paid her $200.00 for the hour, and never heard back. When I called to ask her what she had come up with, she said I should put something up there from a hobby of mine. I told her I don't really have any hobbies, I have children and a husband, but can't put them up there. She said she didn't really know what would look good. UGH!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 3:20PM
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Glad2be, you cracked me up with the vision of your family posing in the foyer!

I understand wanting to have a conversation with someone because it's fun to brainstorm that way. But, you'll get a ton of suggestions posting about it here, too. Sure, you may pick a low traffic time and not get ideas that appeal to you but you can always revisit the question when traffic is up for more ideas.

Of course, you're doing all of the legwork!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 3:49PM
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I am "divorcing" my designer, but we have some items on order so we have to have some further, but limited, contact. At the last meeting I told her NOT to pick a paint color for part of the room that isn't getting wallpaper. She stopped in to check on something and went on about how she and her assistant had picked out the perfect paint color. Arrgh! I'm sure I'll get billed for that time, but I won't be able to tell since they are not detailed or transparent with their billing. I will not be asking what the color is, as I had planned to do it on my own.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 3:49PM
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I am so sorry to read that so many here have had such dismal experiences with ID's. The twice I've worked with one - well once was a gift of ID time for my mom at her house - has both been very positive. But both have been highly screened, recommended by people I know and whose houses I like.
sjhockeyfan, That's pretty bad. Did this designer give you anything other than an "I'm sorry"? Like a new date with maybe an hour consult thrown in to compensate for your time and the delay? If so, and if there truly was an emergency maybe you will give her a chance. If not, then I too would boot her out.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 4:55PM
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SJ....sorry it was a bust, but agree with's unacceptable she did not contact you earlier...with such a blasé attitude you have to wonder how she stays in business.

Beverly...thanks for the input. I agree that designers need to be told a budget, after all, even super wealthy folks will have a budget and often times are way more penny-pinching with it than average folks. I had a trades person tell me once that a lot of people who live in the best part of town are always trying to get the price down and are the worst at paying a bill...he has to hound them and hound them. And I get that designers don't want to waste time on a client who wants champagne on a beer budget. But I think there has to be a happy medium. Even people on a beer budget may love decorating and want some guidance but are usually made to feel "less than" because they can't afford the higher end brands. My guess is that any of the designers featured in the Washington Post (as mentioned in my earlier post) would not be steering private clients to Target, Ikea, or Pier One like they do in the column.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 5:58PM
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Gad2be, yes, do put your family up there. They can sing for the holidays, lol. Honestly, though, how much can you really expect for $200 an hour??!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 8:37PM
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I'm so sorry, I'm disappointed for you. From reading the comments here, hiring a designer seems to be somewhat of a gamble.
What are you going to do, will you try for another or for now use your own skills and expertise (and advice from here if we can help)?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 8:52PM
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Glad2Be, that's so funny.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 8:59PM
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joaniepoanie probably depends on where you live and the educational level of the designer, but what do you think is an average hourly rate for a designer? $200 does not seem THAT inexpensive to me.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 11:01PM
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" $200 does not seem THAT inexpensive to me."

omg, my sarcasm did not come through??! That is amazing, lol. Yeah, I think $200 per hour is an exceptional wage, not inexpensive in the least! Services should be rendered!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 11:10PM
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I agree with others that using an unfamiliar decorator is a bit of a gamble. I've had wonderful experiences and a few times that were a complete waste of money.

I have used some wonderful, wonderful decorators who did amazing things with a very tight budget. A friend of mine still had harvest gold fixtures in a very small bathroom and had a miniscule budget. A decorator made that bathroom so cute on that tiny budget. I couldn't believe my eyes.

When I meet with an unfamiliar decorator, I like to have pictures of rooms I like, fabric samples if I've found some, a list of things I don't like, and I give them an idea of what I'd like to spend.

Good luck whatever you decide.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 11:22PM
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Snookums.....whew! I thought maybe I was REALLY out of it thinking $200 an hour wasn't very ID I was going to work with was $250...for that she showed me pics of products on the disappointing I am really gun shy to seek help again.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 11:38PM
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Sure makes sense to me! Some perspective:

Here is a link that might be useful: neurosurgeon - salaries

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 11:49PM
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Snook , I got it but I knew there would be questions.
Although there is not a overwhelming consensus on the sarcasm emoticon yet.There is one that was gaining ground but now not so much.You can download it for 1.99.

For now it seems that there is one symbol that comes up a lot.
........... :s .........................

I'll hold judgement 'till I see it on Wikipedia :s

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 12:20AM
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For the record, the going rate for this kind of thing here is $150 an hour (same in the suburbs of NY where another friend used a similar service), but this woman only charged $75. (And as I said I really like her work, so I figured why not save the money?).

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 11:54AM
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Wow...I'm in DC area and the ID charged $250.....would love to find someone for $75-100.... Much more feasible.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 12:12PM
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I need to raise my rates. Starting a new thread on the convo side...

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 12:31PM
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