How to Work with a Decorator


By: Tammy Trippel

Whether purchasing a new home or redecorating an existing one, most homeowners find themselves facing the age-old questions of “Where do I begin?” and “How do I turn this house into my home?”

Strangely enough, when homeowners need work done in the home, professionals are immediately called in – plumbers, electricians, landscapers and roofers.  Why then do so many still shy from using the services of a professional interior decorator when making important decorative decisions and purchases for their home?  Once considered a luxury for only the very wealthy, decorating services are more of a necessity for today’s busy homeowner who simply can’t afford to make costly mistakes.

Selecting the person you want to decorate your home is a combination of compatible personalities and tastes.   During your initial consultation, ask to review peruse the portfolio of the decorator to assure yourself that she is capable of working in diverse styles.  This is also the time to judge whether your personalities are a good fit.  Remember that you will be working together for several weeks, if not months.

Working with a professional designer should be an enjoyable experience.  Since interior decorating projects are highly personal and collaborative, the final results are always much more successful when the lines of communication are open and ideas are freely discussed.  Be candid with your decorator regarding such important elements as priorities, timing, budgets and tastes.  If a style, color or item is suggested that you do not like, feel free to tell him or her.

To ensure that you get off to the right start with your decorator and also get the results you are looking for, keep in mind the following tips:

Be a keen observer.  Consciously make note of what catches your interest as you peruse decorating magazines and/or the internet for interesting rooms and make-over’s.  Start a file of colors, patterns and designs that appeal to you.  You may notice a chandelier, mirror, color combination or window treatment that you like.  Once you clip and track these for a brief period, you will be better able to draw a conclusion as to your personal style; then communicate these tastes to your interior decorator at your first opportunity.

Take an honest inventory of your existing décor to determine which pieces you want to keep.  Assess your furnishings the way you periodically review your wardrobe.  Plan to keep the pieces you truly love and put all others on the “to-be-replaced-eventually” list.

Based upon your initial consultation, your designer will present you with fabric samples, sketches and pictures for your evaluation.  Since professionals have access to a world of options unavailable in retail stores, be reasonable about asking to see more and more of everything available.  Remember that the first two or three designs you are shown will, in the decorator’s opinion, be the best looks for your home.  One of the most important services a professional offers is sparing you the confusion of the myriad choices available.

Trust your designer’s advice and stay focused on the overall design goal.  Once your design plans are finalized, you will quickly derail your project if you begin to question your decisions because you are heeding the outside opinions of neighbors, friends and relatives.  While well intentioned, these people have no concept of the complete overall design and will focus on one phase of the project to criticize.

Give your decorator some latitude to decide for you the small details such as trims, pillows, accessories and botanicals.  Your project will move forward more smoothly if she doesn’t have to get your approval on every button and candle.

The last piece of advice is to give change a chance.  The most dramatic changes usually come from introducing a strong new color or a different pattern.  Don’t panic!  Just remember that all change – even for the better – requires a period of adjustment.  Most homeowners who have redecorated their home will be quick to tell you “I should have done it sooner!”

Tammy Trippel
Decorating Den Interiors