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Art of Design: Consulting With a Designer?

Joseph Pubillones on

Once in a while someone will call or drop by our office to coyly ask how we work. Most folks think of interior designers as a luxury expense, and I'm sure there are some designers that are uber expensive, but most are not. Most designers are working professionals, just like you, that work for a living and are conscious of budgets and expenses.

So... back to the clients that ask. There is nothing inherently wrong in asking a designer how much he or she charges and what the typical fees may be. As a matter of fact, these should definitely be questions one asks a designer prior to any written letter of agreement or contract.

Some also ask if the designer does consulting work. There is nothing wrong with working as a consultant; there are certain situations or projects that justify that kind of agreement.

There is a caveat. More often than not someone will ask a designer this question when they desire to undercut the designer's fees. The thought process is that either they think they can do parts of the project or they may not want to pay a designer's full fee. From time to time, you may encounter clients that want to work long distance on a project and truly want your guidance because they trust you so much. But generally, it is the case of budgetary constraints or simply wanting to get something for nothing. Free advice is great, but wide open to interpretation. This is the scary part of giving advice.

Here is a story to illustrate my point: I can remember going to a friend's house who had asked me what to do here and there, but hardly anything of significance. As I entered the kitchen where everyone was gathered, my "friend" announces me to the rest of the dinner party, and goes on to say to the other guest how lucky she was to have collaborated with me on her home. My jaw nearly hit the closest kitchen counter and as I realized what a trap I had walked into... my anger and rage boiled as much as a New Brunswick stew. Nice PR gesture? Not so much.


No harm done? That's what you think. I was upset, because the impression she wanted to give her guests was that, first she had hired me and second, inherent to that comment that she had spent money with me. Add insult to injury, her home was not representative of my work or design style. All the details and nuances that come with working with an interior design professional were missing, and other design decisions she made without my consultation were inconsistent with the overall design.

So, a word to the wise: hiring an interior designer should not be seen as an esoteric expense. Designers have experience and vision. Their work should add value to any project and ultimately to the comfort of your home, office or business. Consulting is fine for limited decisions, but hiring a designer for your project from the beginning is the correct way. Designers can also save you from costly mistakes. Your interior designer should be a valued member of your team, and appreciated as part of your investment.


Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones, or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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