What To Look Out For In An Interior Design Firm
(Disclaimer: This article is written by gathering genuine feedback from our customers during their own renovation experiences. It is not made with any specific reference to any organisations, companies, or people.)
Choosing an interior design firm to renovate your space can be a daunting process. Oftentimes many would be faced with decision paralysis because there are simply too many companies to choose from! The more you research, the more the companies seem to blend together and you can’t seem to differentiate one from the other anymore. Here are some tips to help you make a more informed decision when choosing an interior design firm.
People say don’t judge a book by its cover, but we should make an exception in this context. When doing your research for an interior design firm, the first point of contact with the company is probably their website or social media platforms. And honestly, you can conclude a lot of things about a company just from these.
For example, their website should look professional, be intuitive, and reflect the style of the company accurately. You could check to see if there is any inconsistency among their various social media platforms and look out for the ease of navigation on their website. Lastly, if they are known for a Scandinavian type of interior design, does their website or portfolio reflect it? Any of these red flags may show that a firm may not have put enough thought into their business, and it would be best to stay away from them. Their attitude towards their own company image would likely translate into how they renovate your home too.
When looking at the works of interior design firms, you should also pay closer attention to the built-in items in the house, as those are the pieces that are custom built by the interior designer. Sometimes a home looks good because of the way it is being furnished, and not by the way it is being designed by an interior designer. A nice carpet, with a matching sofa and a grand light fixture may be all it takes for a living room to look good, but that does not showcase the quality and work of the interior designer. So be sure to take a second look at the built-in carpentries designed by the interior designer.
On a more obvious note, every interior design firm has its specialties in terms of design, and it is unlikely for them to deviate from that since they probably do not have experience in other styles. Hence, if the style of the interior design company is not what you want for your home, we suggest you move on to the next company.
This one is a no brainer, you should try to look for a company with good reviews on renovation sites, but always be critical when reading these reviews. Some of them are too good to be true because it simply isn’t. Your alarm should be raised if the majority of the comments are almost always positive in certain renovation portals.
The hard truth about some (or most) of these renovation portals is that interior design companies are required to pay a sum of “subscription” fee, to be branded as one of the “trusted” companies. The list of measures being taken to validate these companies are often impossible to happen in practice. However extensive their process may claim to be, it is often just a one-time exercise on an isolated scenario. In the event that there are negative reviews about companies that subscribe to these services, they usually get swept under the rug. This is a very real problem experienced by many as seen from public complaints by unhappy clients on social media platforms.
After knowing about this, even though it may be counter-intuitive, companies that do not subscribe to these services don’t seem so bad anymore, ... right? In fact, we noticed that most companies that close down often have affiliations with such portals! Although it may be rare for companies to close down, it is common for them to produce poor quality workmanship using subpar materials. In short, don’t put blind faith in these “trusted” companies by doing your own due diligence.
You may have heard that some companies offer a performance bond to safeguard all your renovation costs, however, this performance bond usually only insures the small initial deposit and not the full renovation amount. Therefore, to be safe, your best bet is to work with a company that you can trust, and not to rely on these misleading claims for protection.
Try to look for reviews from authentic customers that tell you about how the firm manages its time, has reasonable prices, and provides a good experience overall, or even shows you actual photos of the completed house.
In addition, you should not take rendered 3D drawings too seriously as it is designed using software in a simulated environment. The outcomes in real life may not look exactly the same as these 3D drawings.
Some interior designers also use celebrity endorsements to make themselves look superior and to boost business. However, we feel that you should take celebrity endorsements with a grain of salt and look at the company for its merits.
Ultimately the hefty cost of such advertising practices and portal subscriptions would be passed on to the end-user, leaving the company with less budget to work with for your home.
Another important deciding factor would be the amount of experience the interior design firm has. It is best to look for a firm with at least 3 years of experience, or one with an extensive portfolio. Having more experience in the field also allows the designers to best replicate or distill the essence from the inspiration photos that you show them.
Firms with more experience are likely to have better connections and relationships with other industry professionals such as electricians and subcontractors. They also have a reputation to uphold, which means they now have more skin in the game.
You want to make sure you engage someone that you can communicate well with for your renovations. The renovation process takes a long time, and there needs to be mutual understanding and trust between you and your designer, which is hard to build if there is a lack of communication.
The website of an interior design firm could carry some red flags in the area of communications, Do they make it hard for you to contact them? How long do they take to respond, and do they display empathy in their response? All these signals how well they are able to communicate and provide good service to their customers.
When communicating with the interior designers, some may be hasty and try to force a sale through hard selling. In the process, they often neglect the fact-finding process and jump quickly to the solutions. Hence, it is crucial to pick a firm that is able to truly understand the needs of their clients in a consultative manner.
Oftentimes, an interior design firm has its own limitations. As mentioned in “Beginner’s Guide To Home Renovations”, every renovation project is bounded by the 3 limitations of the project management triangle — cheap, fast, and good. Different firms would choose to prioritise the different characteristics differently, where some may value good quality and fast production which forgoes low costs.
It is common for many firms to entice homeowners through renovation packages, “free” gifts, and bundle deals. However, as the renovation progresses, some clients could receive a rude awakening with an additional list of items being omitted in these “packages”. As someone wise once said, “there are no free lunches in the world”. When a firm provides discounts in one area, they would have to cut corners from another area to make up for their losses. Hey, it's just business.
We believe that it is important for you to pick a firm that shares the same priorities as you for the renovation to make the communication process smoother and to level expectations of both parties.
These are just some of the common points to look out for when looking for an interior designer and what we find to be helpful but to each their own. The most important thing is to pick a firm that you like and trust most to transform your dream space. Lastly, always be critical when reading up about the different interior design companies.