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Here's How: An Interior Designer Can Be Helpful in Planning Your New House

James Dulley on

Dear James: I think we have some great design ideas for our new house, but I still wonder if it makes sense to get an interior designer's input early on? -- Angel I.

Dear Angel: Initially, a good architect should be able to provide you with many design ideas based on your budget, lot and specific needs. In the early design meetings, provide as much input as possible. Drive around your area, and take photos of homes you like. Also, bookmark online searches of the exteriors and interiors of homes you like.

With the general design concept nailed down, find a general contractor experienced in building homes of your basic plan. After your initial meeting, it does make sense to include an interior designer. Once construction is begun, it may be difficult to incorporate some interior design features you want.

You may want to discuss some alternative building methods with your contractor. Stick-built lumber houses and concrete blockhouses are common in cold and warm climates, respectively. The newer, more efficient construction methods often produce stronger houses, which allow for fewer interior support walls and greater interior design flexibility.

Your architect, or, actually, the engineering staff, can advise you on what is possible with various construction methods. Large, exposed timber beams or arches often provide adequate strength for longer, unsupported free spans and open room layouts.

With your basic layout and construction concepts in hand, your interior designer can give input as to how to decorate and position furniture in the rooms. Provide the designer with as many catalog photos as possible, as well as photos of the existing furniture and wall hangings you plan to keep from your current home.

This is particularly true for the kitchen and bathrooms so the contractor will know where to provide blocking inside the wall for attaching items and fixtures. Any recessed lighting should also be planned.

Also discuss what activities will occur in each of the rooms. This will be very helpful to an interior designer to determine the type of furniture and its spacing. The foot traffic patterns are also important. The interior designer may suggest changing the locations of openings to adjacent rooms to provide more effective traffic patterns.


Most local architects and builders can provide names of interior designers they have worked with before. The key word here is "designer," not just "decorator." Designers are better trained and provide more valuable input than just a decorator, who can suggest colors and fabrics. Many designers have college degrees in design.

If you cannot find a local interior designer, contact the American Society of Interior Designers at (202)-546-3480 or, or the International Interior Design Association at (888)-799-4432 or Both these organizations have some background literature available.

There are two basic questions interior designers will have for you. First, they need to know about your decorating and interior design budget. Second, they will ask you to prioritize your "wants" and "must-haves." Neither your builder nor your interior designer will be able to provide everything within your budget. Having to make changes at the last minute always makes them more expensive.


Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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