I Was Wrong And I Admit It

Dear Sweet Friend,

Happy Halloween! What are you going to dress up as?  Anything?  Me, I'm dressing up as an interior designer.  No, seriously.  I am.  Oh wait, that's what I am ALREADY.  But recently I had a good friend tell me -- well, admit to me, really --- that she knows what my title is, but has no idea what it means or what I do for people SPECIFICALLY.  Yes, she admitted that to me.  And it was kind of a big wake up call for me, because here I was just assuming that everyone already knows what I do, and how I do it.  I guess I was wrong.  It wouldn't be the first time!  (My husband would be proud of me for admitting that!)


So, I wanted to take a moment today to define just what interior design is, what I do, and how I do it.  I also want to talk about why I think that professional design is something everyone can afford, no matter what your income is.


Q: So, what IS Interior Design?

A: Interior designers don’t just offer their opinions on fabric swatches and paint colors, they can help you utilize your space better and provide advice on how to make life easier with a well designed space. They can use what you have or figure out what you need. They make sure that your space reflects your style, not theirs. If there is a space in your home that feels cramped, stressful, or too full of stuff, you might consider letting someone in your home to figure it out for you. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to see how the space could be used differently. You can absolutely afford it! (Keep reading to find out how much it will cost) Most designers will be happy to give input on a small space as well as start something more time consuming. If all you need is a few tips on color and rearranging, they’d be happy to help.

Q:  Brooke, what DO you DO as an interior designer?

A:  I help people.  Plain and simple.  That's what I do and why I do it.  I just love to help people.  I help them solve design dilemmas.  I provide a designer's eye & neutral perspective on a space, listen to YOU on what your goals & desires are for the space, and then I put together a plan for how to achieve what we've discussed, and I carry out the plan by providing you with a team of my trusted trades people who can build, assemble, hang, install, etc. whatever we need for the project.  I oversee it every step of the way you so don't have to worry about a thing.

Q:  But, really, HOW do you do it?

A:  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  The same goes for interior design services.  It's one step at a time.  All the way to the finish line.

Selection of colors and materials for design and home renovation
Selection of colors and materials for design and home renovation

6 Myths about Interior Design

1 - I can do the same thing as a designer

Not true.  Most designers (myself included) were born with an innate sense of balance, color, symmetry, and a "feel for design". Most people weren't rearranging their parent's house when they were six, like I was, or drawing up possible plans for additions to the playhouse at age seven. Design comes naturally to some people, and if they're lucky, they go to school and study it to become a professional. It takes literally a lifetime of experience to be really good at designing the interior or exterior of a home, and it's not something you can just pick up by watching a couple of YouTube videos. Hire a pro!

2 - They cost too much

This might be true if you're trying to hire Nate Berkus, but for the most part, local designers can be really affordable! I encourage you to "save" for an Interior Designer just the way you would for a new car.  Yes, it might be a little bit of an investment, but if you plan for it in advance, and save a little every month, you WILL be able to afford it. A good rule of thumb for estimating the cost of your designer is to expect their fee to be about 15% of the construction budget. If you want to work in phases to keep the cost down, they often can do that as well if you just ask!  I love how a fellow Interior Designer describes how much it will cost to decorate your home. I love how she lays out what interior design will cost:

"But imagine walking into your doctor and before describing any symptoms or problems with her you asked what the cure was.  Or imagine you are buying a car and the first question you ask the dealer is “how much?” before talking about what you need & want.  The doctor will be unable to cure your illness and the dealer would want to ask several qualifying questions before knowing what type of car you’re looking for."

-Capella Kincheloe

Click here to see her awesome post on cost. She lays it out really well.



Sketched Bedroom Design

3 - They just decorate

I disagree.  A true interior designer / decorator will look at the whole picture, often taking into consideration the architecture of the space. They will know where the load bearing walls are, which ones can be moved, and which ones would cost a lot more to move. They will have knowledge of local codes and ordinances so that any remodeling you do will pass inspection and increase the value of your home when you go to sell it. If you have remodeling work done without getting the proper permits, then your home may not reflect its true value when it comes time for a bank value assessment, and you won't be able to list it for as much as you'd like to. Trust me, I have seen this happen!

4 - My space won't be my taste

It sure will!  A good designer will design the room(s) to your taste, preferences, and family values. Ask to see some of their work before hiring them.

5 - I have kids, I can’t have designer things

I have two kids under four years old, and trust me, I know how to design around kids!  Maybe it means you can't have a bunch of breakable objects below the three foot line in your home, but that's ok!  We can still make your home beautiful by incorporating wipeable surfaces (hello leather!), kid friendly durable flooring, and choosing objects that look expensive but aren't, so that you won't cry if someone knocks them over.  I've been perfecting kid friendly decorating for four years, and I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve now!

Rough illustration of an outline sketch of a living room.
Rough illustration of an outline sketch of a living room.

6 - They will want to replace everything I own

Yes, we may want to move around some things or add a few new pieces, but for the most part we can try to use what you already have, and just freshen it up a bit with some new accessories and punches of color.

I like how the New York School of Interior Design defines what interior designers do.  Check out how they phrase it.  They capture it really well.  http://www.nysid.edu/academics/what-is-interior-design  - Here's an excerpt from their page that I want to highlight:

What is Interior Design?

Interior design is a profession that combines creativity, technical knowledge, and business skills. Interior designers work with clients and other design professionals to develop design solutions that are safe, functional, attractive, and meet the needs of the people using the space.

Interior designers must know how to plan a space and how to present that plan visually so that it can be communicated to the client. They must also know about the materials and products that will be used to create and furnish the space, and how texture, color, lighting and other factors combine and interact to make the space come together. In addition, interior designers must understand the structural requirements of their plans, the health and safety issues, building codes, and many other technical aspects.    

Here’s some of the things that interior designers do:

  • Research and analyze their client's goals and requirements
  • Create preliminary space plans and 2- and 3-dimensional design concept studies and sketches
  • Select colors, materials and finishes
  • Select and specify furniture, fixtures, equipment and millwork
  • Confirm that the space plans meet all public health, safety and welfare requirements, including code,accessibility, environmental, and sustainability guidelines
  • Prepare project budgets and schedules
  • Prepare construction documents, consisting of plans, elevations, details and specifications
  • Coordinate and collaborate with other allied design professionals, including architects; structural, mechanical and electrical engineers; and various specialty consultants
  • Oversee the implementation of projects and serve as a representative of and on behalf of the client
Colored rendering of an interior design.
Colored rendering of an interior design.

I hope this helps to dispel some of the things you might be thinking before hiring a designer.  I know that it can be a little intimidating to pick up the phone and call someone like me, and most people get hampered by fears that their space is too small (not worth a designer's time) or too far gone, and they would be embarrassed to hire a designer (and let someone see their home!?  Too scary!!). They fear being judged or fear looking like they just don't have it all together, and they'd rather not let anyone see that!  But, fear not! I promise I won't judge or make you feel like the design decisions you've made so far are bad. They're probably not!  I urge you to step out of your fear and call me---I promise I won't make you feel bad and I will help you to see the good bones you might already have in your home, and how we can make your space a beautiful sanctuary that you will love for years to come. Promise!  Click here to see the services I offer.

What are some other myths you've heard about interior design?  I'd love to hear them, and maybe I'll include them in my next blog post!

Enthusiastically Yours,