How to Become an Expert at Choosing an Interior Designer
This topic is obviously addressed to those who have more or less made up their minds to engage an interior designer. While it is good to put the interior designer vs contractor debate past us, the next dilemma is not any less daunting.
It is rumored that there are more than 5,000 interior design companies in Singapore. These range from freelancers and small outfits on one end and giant companies on the other end of the spectrum.
Doing your research online is a good way to narrow down your choices before meeting your shortlisted IDs. If you start by researching for information about ID companies online, you will find useful information about these companies on Hometrust, Facebook, and a handful of other interior design portals. By “useful information,” we are referring to completed projects and reviews.
Reading online reviews is obviously a good way to start. If you google for reviews, you will mostly likely end up on a company’s Facebook review page or their Hometrust review page. The right way to read reviews is to look out for consistency, because that will provide the most accurate depiction of the quality of the company. It’s worth noting that while good companies produce consistent good results, bad companies are even more consistent in producing disgruntled customers. If you come across a particularly nasty review, withhold judgement and see if there are any other reviews suggests a pattern of unsatisfactory service. Otherwise, that could be the work of a particularly nasty customer as opposed to a lousy interior design company. As a rule of thumb, only seek out companies with plenty of reviews online. A company with suspiciously few or no reviews on Hometrust or on their Facebook page might have skeletons to hide.
Good companies earn good reviews, which generates more customers and even more reviews. Bad companies instinctively try to whitewash their bad reputation by disabling their Facebook reviews.
Browsing through completed works is another useful filter to apply. If you’re discerning enough, you could usually make out if a particular ID company is strong in design. The best way to determine that is to look out for uniqueness. Uniqueness refers to the degree of originality in a design portfolio; in the same way we say every individual is unique. That’s what separates good designers from the average ones. Good designers come up with fresh ideas to adapt to the specific needs and desires of every customer, while average designers tend to recycle washed-up ideas.
If you’ve successfully narrowed down your options by diligently applying the filters, you would have narrowed the range of experiences you could possibly have. While chances of your renovation going awry are going to be slim, you will need to meet your shortlisted interior designers to improve your chances of having a great experience.
Meeting your interior designer face-to-face and discussing about your project can be time-consuming, but turns out that it is the single most reliable way of selecting your interior designer. Most people naturally come away from the first meeting with a strong intuition of which interior designer they could see themselves working with, and which are the ones they could not. A fairly accurate way of assessing suitability is to feel if you both have the same frequency. That generally means that both sides broadly understand what the other is trying to say. However, you will need to focus on the right things in order to make an accurate judgment. Most people make bad decisions because they focused on the wrong things.
So what mistakes do most people make? Falling in love at first sight is one of them. Interior designers will by default try to impress you when they meet you, so being able to filter the fluff from the substance is a useful skill to have. The problem is that most people overestimate their ability to discern the good designers from the bad, so they fall back on “chemistry” to make their assessment.
It’s important to make a distinction between chemistry and operating on the same frequency. Most people intuitively overvalue chemistry, without realizing that chemistry is only reliable after a minimum volume of interaction. In other words, you should only be certain you have a particular chemistry with your interior designer if your impression of him grows on you over time. This is a useful method of spotting the salesmen, who are experts at giving an immaculate first impression but ultimately fail the test of time and substance.
Substance is easy to tell, but only if you ask the right questions. A designer who is worth his salt will be able to prove his knowledge and expertise by articulating clear, well thought out responses to your queries. On the other hand, a salesman will try to cover up his lack of technical knowledge by appearing sincere and enthusiastic.
Throughout the process of meeting interior designers, one should try to keep an open mind. Following the first round of elimination, you should meet at least two remaining IDs again before you can come to a confident decision. Almost all good interior designers will take time to offer you proposals that might impress you, so listening to what’s on offer works to your advantage. Just like finding a life partner, keep your options before you decide on the one who you think is the right one for your home.