How to Find the Right Interior Designer for Your Home

After you’ve purchased a new house, the next step is to make it feel like home. But, designing a space that fits your style and budget can seem like a daunting task. As many homeowners who have enlisted the help of a designer will tell you, hiring an interior designer can save you time and money, and the end result is a home that is uniquely personalized for you.

Selecting an interior designer may seem like a stressful process, but it doesn’t have to be. All that it requires is some initial research and asking a lot of great questions.

After you’ve reviewed designers’ websites, and taken a look at their social media channels, looked at current design trends, you should have a solid list of designers that you want to meet with to discuss the vision for your home.

There are so many talented design professionals in the Chicagoland area, but how do you know who is the right fit for you and your home? Below, we’ll share four steps to take that will ensure you find the right fit.

Designer: Soucie Horner

Step 1: Express Your Style

The words “modern” and “traditional” mean something different to every individual. For example, some think of modern meaning hard lines and bright splashes of color among lots of white space, while others may picture a more Scandinavian style, with warm woods and bright light.

It’s important to show, rather than tell, a designer what you like, because it will provide a clear starting point.

Here’s how:

  •  Decide how you want your home to feel. Do you want it to feel worldly and 
sophisticated? Well-loved and welcoming? Serene and simple? Give some thought to 
this, because it should inform the way the designer creates your space and adds your personality to it.
  •  Find what you like – and what you don’t. Turn to the internet and design publications, 
and start saving those photos! Pay close attention to details you love, and more importantly, the ones that you don’t. For example, you may love a mid-century modern look, but prefer to do without the Eames chair.
  •  Search for your style outside of the home. There are many ways to communicate your preferences that extend beyond the confines of the home. Collect photos of hotels, fashion, travel destinations, restaurants, or other places and items that inspire you; they’ll paint a clear picture of your style.

Armed with this information, you can search for designers that align with your design tastes and preferences. Then, you can take it a step further when you meet and share the descriptions and photos with your potential designer to discuss how they might be able to bring it to life in your home.

Designer: Nicholas Moriarty

Step 2: Set Expectations

There are three major points you will need to address when meeting with any designer that are central to your project: the scope of the project, your budget, and the desired timeline. It’s important that you are honest and upfront about these parameters, as they set expectations for both you and the designer.

  •  Define the scope. Are you looking for help renovating your entire home, or for someone to simply select paint colors and assist in accessorizing? Design projects vary in scope, so it’s important to clearly communicate work you’re looking to have done to ensure success.
  •  Determine your budget. Take a close look at what you’ll be able to spend on the design project from start to finish, including the designer’s fee. And, it’s a good practice to estimate low enough that if you go a bit over the budget, you still feel comfortable with the amount of your spending.
  • Think about your desired timeline. Once your designer understands the scope of the project, they can help layout a reasonable timeline. If you have a deadline or completion date in mind, it’s important to communicate this so they can re-evaluate work involved and timeline to meet your expectations.

Agreeing on the points above help set the foundation and start to a smooth design process. When you find a designer that aligns with your budget, scope, and timeline, you’re on the right path to finding your fit.

Step 3: Seek Solid Chemistry

Though finding the right designer both stylistically and practically is important, chemistry is invaluable to ensure a strong working relationship with your designer. You want to find someone you trust and connect with, because they will be helping to design your most personal space.

  •  Gain an understanding of their working style. You’ll want to get a clear picture of what working together will look like. Learning about things like the designer’s fee structure, communication style, and workflow will help you determine whether your preferred ways of working match with one another.
  • Feel out their personality. Think about the information you’ll be sharing with them in the coming months. Do you feel comfortable being honest and upfront with them? Are you excited to get started working with them? These are good signs that you’ve found a good fit in terms of personality.

With these three key factors in mind, you can make a sound decision when selecting an interior designer for your home. Do your homework, set some parameters ahead of time, and ultimately, see how the conversation feels in person – it will set you on the path to success with your interior design project!

Step 4: Ask the Important Questions

From pre-project questionnaires to sharing inspiration images, every designer has a different way of gathering information from their clients. No matter the method, it’s important that you’re as specific and straightforward as possible during these conversations. If you struggle communicating your vision, bring examples to share as an aid.

Style + Vision

Here are some questions to ask that will help you better determine whether a designer will be able to interpret your style and vision:

  • How will you gather information about my personal style?
  • In what ways will we share ideas throughout the process?
  • How will you come to understand my functional needs?
  • How much involvement will I have in the design process and decision making?
  • What role does your own personal style play in creating a design for a client?


Communication styles, project planning, and setting expectations are vitally important aspects of a successful design project. A home might be gorgeous, but if there are miscommunications and difficulties along the way, it makes for a process that isn’t quite the experience you were seeking.

To learn how a designer plans to collaborate with you throughout the duration of the project, ask the following:

  • What methods of communication do you prefer to use with your clients?
  • How often will we connect, and will we meet in person or speak via phone or email?
  • Will I be working directly with you, or with other team members?
  • How will you handle instances in which I don’t like something that has been selected?
  • Can you please take me through the typical life cycle of a project? What are the phases or steps, and what will be required of me during each of those?

Timeline + Investment

You might feel hesitant to discuss pricing and scheduling from the first meeting, but it should truly be one of the first things you cover in your meetings with designers. It shows that you’re a serious potential client, keeps communication open, and helps set expectations from the beginning of the relationship.

Get into the details of timing and budget with these questions:

  • How quickly would you plan to begin work on my project?
  • What would the timeline look like for completion of my project?
  • How do you manage and plan for delays that might occur?
  • What is your billing structure, and what can I expect to see itemized on my bills?
  • Do you require an upfront retainer to begin work on a project?

All of this will help pave the way in your decision making when it comes to hiring your interior designer. You’ll be happier in the end for having these conversations upfront; design is an experience — one that’s meant to be enjoyed fully!

With these four key factors in mind, you can make a sound decision when selecting an interior designer for your home. Do your homework, set some parameters ahead of time, and ultimately, see how the conversation feels in person – it will set you on the path to success with your interior design project!

Written by @properties
@properties Christie’s International Real Estate is Chicagoland’s #1 brokerage. Through our affiliation with Christie’s International Real Estate, our network spans nearly 50 countries. No matter your real estate needs, we’ve got you covered.