How to Prep Before Meeting an Interior Designer for the First Time

So, you’ve decided to renovate your home. You’ve probably browsed a few interior design portfolios and have made some calls to arrange for consultations. Now you’re waiting to meet a bunch of designers for the very first time—and you’re wondering what to expect from those meetings. How do you prepare? How much should you research in advance? Do you need to bring anything?

We spoke to Lawrence Puah, Design Director of akiHAUS, to get his expert insight on the topic. Read on for his valuable advice—and find out everything you need to know before meeting with an interior designer for the first time.

What are some things homeowners should consider before setting up a consultation?

squarerooms akiHAUS singapore local home renovation interior design makeover look style living room wood feature wall tv planks moody rustic

akiHAUS: There are a few key points you should consider before setting up a consultation with a design firm.

  • The extent of the renovation you would like to carry out—if it involves a complete overhaul, partial renovation or just light refurbishment and styling.
  • Your aesthetic preferences, such as your favourite design styles and features.
  • The amount of customisation, level of detailing and quality of the finished work that you’re looking for.
  • Your budget.

This will help you figure out the type of design firm that’s suited to your project, be it a design consultancy firm that focuses primarily on creating bespoke works, a design and build firm that offers cost-efficient, one-stop solutions or a firm with strengths in furnishing and styling. After all, nothing is more draining than to go from meeting to meeting with designers that may not be what you are looking for in the first place.

Should homeowners already know what kind of design they want before going for a consultation?

Having a general idea of the type of design you like is always good as it gives the designer a basis to work on. That being said, you should keep an open mind and allow your designer to guide you a little as well; this will allow you to make the most of the designer’s abilities.

If you already have a very clear idea about what you want for your home, a design and build company may be the more suitable candidate to help you execute this vision. Just make sure to be as detailed as possible when describing your project in order to achieve the result you want.

Should homeowners already have a budget in mind for their renovation?

squarerooms akiHAUS singapore local home renovation interior design makeover look style bedroom modern grey white monochromatic

Yes. Very often, there is a disconnect between the amount of work that goes into realising a design project and the budget that homeowners have set aside for it. This can result in an unfortunate scenario, with homeowners not being able to achieve their dream home design due to budget constraints. Here are some points you should consider when budgeting:

  • The extent of the renovation you would like to carry out and the type of design you would like for your new home. For instance, a highly bespoke work oftentimes means a complete overhaul of the home, which will definitely cost a lot more than just refurbishing the property.
  • Design consultancy firms tend to charge a design fee for their services, while design and build companies often include that as part of the renovation package.
  • Ideally, get cost estimates from design firms before you even purchase your home. This way, you will avoid investing most of your funds into the purchase of the property and leaving insufficient resources for the design and renovation.

Are there any documents or files that homeowners should prepare in advance?

The scaled plans of the home are the most essential documents, as they show the scale of the space and the location of walls, structures, services, etc. This is crucial information for a productive discussion about the potential design, especially if space planning is involved.

What’s one thing homeowners always forget to do when meeting with an interior designer?

squarerooms akiHAUS singapore local home renovation interior design makeover look style blue chocolate bar style walls storage solution modern eclectic unique contemporary

Keeping an open mind. The purpose of engaging an interior designer is to tap into their experience and expertise. While you may already have an idea about the type of design or layout you would like, it’s good to be open to the designer’s advice. It often presents very different perspectives that address the limitations and possibilities of the design, some of which you may not be aware of or may have missed.

What should homeowners expect from an interior design consultation?

This really depends on your requirements and the scope of work you’re looking for. If you’re looking at a major renovation with spatial reconfigurations, the interior designer should propose space planning solutions that address your needs while taking into consideration the existing layout, structures and services. The result should not only improve the overall use of space but maximise natural light and ventilation as well.

If, however, refurbishment and styling are your key considerations, the designer should help you come up with a plan to furnish and decorate your new home. This includes recommending furniture and decor pieces, suggesting the best layouts for those items and advising you on colours, textures and materials. It should all come together as a coherent and elegant whole that matches your aesthetic preferences.

Do these consultations usually take place in an office or at home?

squarerooms akiHAUS singapore local home renovation interior design makeover look style modern living room monochromatic black grey

It is always more productive to meet at the designer’s office since they will have ready access to drawings, materials, reference images and more during the discussion.

This is especially true for major renovations, as much of the discussion will be based on the plans of the property. Any changes to the layout and elements of the home can be further explored by sketching and drawing on the plans, which is much simpler with all of the designer’s materials and tools on hand.

Can consultations be run online as well? What are the pros and cons of an online format?

Design is very much a visual, tactile and interactive art form that homeowners may find rather difficult to understand in a virtual setting. Design ideas that could be easily explained via instant sketches on the plans of the property and references to materials, drawings and past projects are oftentimes lost in translation in a virtual meeting.

As a result, online consultations tend to take longer and be more strenuous and oftentimes inefficient. You may find yourself requiring another in-person meeting after the online consultation to get a clearer picture of the designer’s ideas. Worst-case scenario, you may even end up with an inaccurate assessment of the designer’s capabilities and miss out on a suitable candidate for your project.

What is one aspect of an interior design consultation that often surprises homeowners?

squarerooms akiHAUS singapore local home renovation interior design makeover look style blue modern dining area room arched curved rounded entrance open space concept

The good: that a capable designer can see the potential in your new home, including design ideas and possibilities you could never have imagined.

The bad: that you have under-budgeted for the project, resulting in a great disconnect between your design expectations and the actual cost.

What kinds of red flags should homeowners look out for in the first meeting?

If you are pressured into signing up with a design firm on the spot during the first meeting, walk away. Renovations are not just a financial investment but an emotional one as well; you should always take your time to find a designer who not only proposes solutions that meet your needs and requirements, but also one you feel comfortable communicating and interacting with.