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The design team + What questions to ask to get the right interior designer!

Posted on 11 March 2017

To get any project off the ground, you will generally need to enlist the services of at least one design professional. Depending on the scope of your undertaking, you may engage one design consultant, for example a builder or an interior designer, or you may need a whole suite of design professionals.

Understanding the roles each consultant plays in bringing your vision to life and importantly, how they work together will arm you with the confidence to embark on your project.


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I always describe interior design as essentially creative logistics and I liken the process of construction, renovations, restorations and refurbishments to a moving jigsaw puzzle. There are often hurdles thrown at you; planning permission set-backs, funding issues, delays, budget blowouts. However, it is the role of your design team to minimise these risks to enable as smooth a journey as possible.


This chart outlines the various professionals that could comprise your design team.

Each member of your design team has evolved and very important relationships with their own consultants and suppliers to enable their function within the overall project. 


This image outlines the different stakeholders each member of the team may consult with. This list is not extensive!

The above is indicative of many of the stake holders involved in large project, for example a new build. The Project Manager has the colossal task of keeping everyone on track and on budget! Project Managers are not always enlisted however, especially for smaller projects.

Of course, if your project is on a smaller scale; perhaps you are undertaking a kitchen renovation, you may engage only an interior designer to design the kitchen and a builder to implement the design. There begins a close relationship between the interior designer and the builder to ensure the vision is implemented on time and, importantly, on budget.

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Interior designers work in different ways and offer different cost structures. My fee structure depends on the scope of a project. For example, if it is a large project, designing an entire house, I could be working with clients for over a year. This project would call for a project fee, which is a set fee that incorporates all work required during the life cycle of a project. The project is broken down into design phases, which generally marries up with fee instalments. These design phases are detailed within my proposal to clients.


These design phases are typical of a new build or an extensive renovation.

The phases extend for varying lengths of time, again depending on the scale of the project. For a smaller project, let’s say I am working on a bathroom renovation only, I may charge a daily or hourly rate and there will not be need for such thorough design phases.

You also need to think about how involved you want to be with the design. For example, do you have very specific ideas about colour, furniture, and finishes and you just need help to implement your vision? Or, are you in need of an entire design solution?

To help you choose the right interior designer for your project, here are some key questions to ask;

What projects have they worked on in the past and can you speak to a prior client about their experience?

What is their fee structure and how long do they expect the project will realistically take to complete?

Can they work within your budget?

Will they provide you with a detailed proposal and contract that outlines their deliverables to you?

Do they pass on trade pricing or retail pricing to you?

If applicable to your project, do they produce CAD drawings for the builder?

Do they have a dedicated team of suppliers, curtain makers, cabinet makers and upholsterers they work with?

Do they have professional liability and professional indemnity insurance?

I am not an architect, therefore cannot speak on an architects’ behalf, however this article by Houzz may prove useful if you are thinking of engaging an architect. Similarly, here are some questions to ask before your contract a builder. 

Often design professionals will recommend other design professionals that they have worked with in the past and have a solid working relationship with. These collaborations are ideal and if you have design professionals who are willing to recommend their peers, I highly recommend going down this track. Open communication not just between client and design professional, but between design consultants is imperative.

Word of mouth is the best source of referral; this is how I am connected with my clients most of the time. Ask around!


Katie Sargent is a Melbourne based Interior Designer who's  approach focuses on beauty, timeless style and of course functionality -

If you haven't already read katie's last article on How to kick start your design process - check it out HERE


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