These Are the 7 Questions Pro Interior Designers Wish You Wouldn’t Ask

published May 12, 2023
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Interior designers are absolute pros at answering questions to ensure their clients are informed throughout the design process. So many different scenarios come up during projects, from product delays to unforeseen construction issues, and designers are constantly thinking on their feet to solve problems and anticipate needs. That’s why they’re equipped with so much practical knowledge that anyone attempting to decorate a space could benefit from.

That being said, there are a few queries that designers wish you would reframe or just not ask at all. These seven questions below made that list, and the answers will give you some insight on how to trust the design process (or think more like a designer, if you’re tackling your own home makeover). 

Will there be shipping delays? 

Truthfully, shipping delays are par for the course these days when decorating, and designer Caroline Kopp of Caroline Kopp Interior Design in Westport, Connecticut, says they’re just one aspect of why a design project can take longer than you might expect, even when you’re working with a pro. “Shipping delays or not, a whole house can (and should!) easily take a year or more from start to finish, particularly if you are working in high-end goods that are made to order,” she explains. 

When product availability causes issues with a project’s timeline, designers can work around these hiccups; just note that expediting things may come at a premium. “There’s a saying, ‘You can have fast, you can have cheap, you can have good — but you can’t have all three,’ and that definitely applies here,” Kopp says.

Can you tell me what my design style is? 

According to designer Jessica Dorling of Dorling Design Studio in Seattle, Washington, clients often have a better sense of their aesthetic than they may initially believe, and it’s all about trusting your gut when it comes to what you like, versus trying to label your aesthetic. “People sometimes think they don’t have a design style, but if you put two mood boards in front of them, odds are they’re going to prefer one over the other,” she says. 

While a designer’s job is, quite literally, to help you refine and focus your decorative vision, it’s always a good idea to do some work on your end finding “swipe,” or images of interiors that visually speak to you, whether on Pinterest, Instagram, Apartment Therapy house tours, magazines, etc. Organize these references however you see fit, but make sure they’re shareable because your designer is going to want to refer to them when pulling together moodboards and room schemes. There’s definitely such a thing as inspiration overload, of course, so don’t find so many images that it’s impossible to pull out the unifying threads that encompass your unique style. And when you do go to search for a designer, these images can also help you play your own matchmaker and make the designer-vetting process — and the entire project — go smoother; it’s a good idea to search for someone who has an aesthetic that somewhat matches the vibe that you’re responding to in imagery. 

Can we copy this color I saw online?

Maybe you’ve found yourself in this situation before: You see an amazing room on TikTok or in a house tour, and you find out the exact wall color. You’re tempted to order a gallon or two of that hue on the spot — or tell your designer that that’s unequivocally what you want for a given room. Unfortunately, copying a color blindly, even one that’s been used successfully in another setting, isn’t always the best design decision for your unique space. 

“Paint responds to light,” Dorling says. That means factors such as window size, window orientation, and time of day will all affect how any paint color appears within your home. However, Dorling offers a helpful step for clients. “Instead of trying to recreate something you saw on Instagram, ask yourself: What is drawing you to this image? A mood? A feel? A memory? Then it becomes my job to honor that, whether it’s paint, fabric, furniture,” she explains. “We can extract that, and that’s what makes you happiest in your home.” 

Plus, as designer Shannon Callahan, director of design at Marc-Michaels in Winter Park, Florida, explains, paint colors are often working in conjunction with other details present in a given room, such as finishes, fabrics, and wallpapers. Let what’s in your space shine by finding something that truly complements it versus, say, picking a certain white because it’s a given paint company’s most popular hue. “I often find when selecting paint colors, the selection comes down to only one or two perfect options that look good with the finishes and fabrics,” says Callahan.

Ultimately, it’s important to value what your designer brings to the table. “When people want to copy what they’ve already seen, a lot of times, they’ll start harping on another designer and how they want their look,” notes designer Maren Baker of Maren Baker Design in Boise, Idaho. “It can make me feel like, ‘Maybe you should call that designer?’ That can be hard to work with.”

The bottom line here? Exact color inspiration is great, but treat it as what it is: inspiration. You have to test shades out in your room and make sure they work with all of the factors mentioned above here. 

Can I share even more inspiration?

While it’s great for designers to have a full understanding of what resonates with a client decor-wise and architecturally, it’s important to note that every idea you share won’t be fully replicable. “I love when a client sends something that speaks to them, but occasionally, things don’t work because of scale or functionality,” explains Callahan. “In the end, it’s their house, but it’s also our job to say when something won’t work.” 

Do I really need window treatments?

According to Kopp, the answer to this one is a resounding “yes” for both practical and aesthetic reasons. “There are many reasons why clients literally need window coverings, to the point that it is painful not to have them,” she says, citing privacy issues, bright sunlight, and unsightly views as some key factors . “Likewise, for a completely frivolous/purely decorative element in a room, curtains are just my favorite for adding softness, luxury, and a polished vibe,” Kopp adds. 

Do you think this all works together?

Clients might not always instantly feel comfortable with what a designer puts together, but that doesn’t mean a setup isn’t working. “Using an interior designer involves a huge investment, and people are still afraid of making a mistake,” explains designer Sarah Storms of Styled By Storms in Maplewood, New Jersey. “Designers often mix unexpected colors and patterns and combinations,” but that’s the beauty of working with a designer. The upshot? If something feels off from a functional standpoint, or if there’s a color, material, or element you really don’t like, speak up. All that aside, have faith in the combinations (and renderings) your designer has created for you. “You’re hiring a professional to see the big picture in a way you can’t,” says Storms.

Why is this all so expensive? 

Designers are often faced with concerns surrounding cost, but explain that ultimately, interior design is a luxury service. “If you want a fully designed room that looks truly finished with fabrics, furniture, carpeting, lighting, and accessories, you’re looking at $50,000 a room,” says designer Colleen Simonds, who operates an eponymous firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Even if you’re doing it yourself with a Restoration Hardware catalog, it is easy to get there very quickly.” 

To get the most for your money, Simons advises clients to take the design process one room at a time, prioritizing areas that will get the most use and what’s most important to their lifestyle. “Think of interior design as a really different kind of investment than your day to day,” she adds. “Pieces for the home can be a lifetime investment. Maybe you’re only going to buy this once!”