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How to choose the best interior designer for the job

Great! You’ve decided you need to hire an interior designer because you need someone to bring your vision of your dream home to life! However, you soon realise that choosing the right interior designer is almost as tricky as deciding what you need done in your home in the first place. How do you know which interior designer will be the best one for the job? 

While there may be many interior designers out there, there are a few key skills and services that will distinguish a good interior designer from a great one! Here are a few key pointers to keep in mind when choosing the right interior designer for you. 

1. Are they a member of the IID?

Homeowners who hire a professional to handle their renovation and design projects put a lot of trust in the pros they select. 


One of the easiest ways to identify whether or not an interior designer really is a professional is if they are a member of the African Institute of the Interior Design Professions (IID)! It is the only professional body representing the interior design industry in South Africa. If the interior designer of your choice is an IID member it is a sure sign that they are a professional. 


By being an IID member, an interior designer needs to meet certain educational and business requirements. This indicates their status as a business professional with valuable industry skills that you can rely on.


2. What are people saying? 


Reputation, reputation, reputation. What are past clients and suppliers saying about the designer?

With social media and a brief internet search you should be able to find reviews about your designer online at any point. If you really can’t find anything online, you can ask your designer for references or testimonials to find out what their past clients are saying about them! This should give you a very clear and honest indication if their experiences were pleasant or not. 


2. Concept Design (Begin with the end in mind)

Step two of the design process is the concept design. We use all of the information that we gathered in the first step to put together a moodboard for your project.

A moodboard allows us to visualise your space and it gives us greater clarity of what you do and don’t like. It enables us to (as Steven Covey put it) “begin with the end in mind” and ensure a natural flow throughout the design, from one space to the next.

Once we have a moodboard in place we will also roughly begin with a furniture layout plan and space planning to show you exactly how we can utilize your space. Space planning will furthermore allow us to ensure what furniture sizes will work in the space. 


3. Portfolio & experience

What does the designers recent projects say about them? Have they worked on projects similar to yours?

A good portfolio speaks volumes! Consider your personal style and that of the interior designers. You should discuss your decor tastes with an interior designer and be specific about what it is that you want. 

A good interior designer should be able to adapt their design style to suit what you are looking for. Some designers have a signature look which may or may not match up with yours. Be sure to identify this before hiring them! 


4. Determine your budget

Determine a working budget before you hire an interior designer. This will give your designer a clear idea of what they are working with and it will eliminate some designers immediately. Be aware that some designers will not take on small projects / budgets.

You should also find out about your interior designers’ pricing structure before hiring them.

Here are a couple of pricing structures to be aware of: 


  1. Fixed or flat rate for all services rendered.
  2. Hourly rate
  3. Cost-plus – a designer will purchase materials and furnishings at cost and will mark them up (at a percentage negotiated with the client).
  4. Or any combination of the above.

5. Follow your gut

When meeting with a potential interior designer remember that you’re not the only one interviewing during this process! It is likely that both you and the interior designer is looking for a comfortable fit! If you get a long great and feel that you can work well in a team with each other, it is usually a good sign that you are on the right track to choosing the designer for you!

It’s not always necessary to overthink it. If it feels like a good fit, it often is! Keep an eye out for when it just feels right and go with that person.



Here are some IID recommended questions to ask an interior designer before hiring them!
What is their fee structure?

  1. Do they work with a contract?
  2. Do they have a service level agreement?
  3. Which geographical areas do they work in?
  4. Do they work nationally and internationally?
  5. What is their background and where did they train?
  6. What current projects are they working on?
  7. What projects are you able to view?
  8. Ask for client references – Ensure that the designer has a good track record with their clients.
  9. Do they personally oversee each project?

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About Ilsa van Niekerk

Ilsa is a qualified and experienced interior designer in Ballito,  South Africa. She graduated with her degree in Interior Design from the University of Pretoria and is the owner of Interior Edge with over a decade’s worth of experience in the interior design industry.

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