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Watch These Missteps When Hiring a Home Decorator

After moving into a new home, your first thoughts probably turn to home decorating.

But if your idea of design is limited to that picture of poker-playing dogs, you might want to consider a professional interior designer or home decorator. If so, knowing the answers to these questions can keep your home decorating projects running smoothly.

The first step is simple.
"Ask people they know to recommend decorators that they have worked with successfully," says Pamela Cole Harris, designer and Budget Decorating Guide for About.com and Home and Garden Makeover.

"Also, check out your local Parade of Homes to look at the designer's work. If you find a decorator whose work you particularly like, interview that decorator to see if their personality will blend with yours."

But beware the top five mistakes people make when choosing an interior decorator or an interior designer (a designation that generally denotes someone with more design education).

  1. Choosing a decorator without getting a recommendation from their clients. Speaking with previous clients will give you insight into their design style, personality and work ethic.

  2. Choosing a designer simply because their services are provided free at a retail store. They may be good, but you need to find out if you like their style.

  3. Choosing an interior decorator without seeing examples of their work. Would you buy a car without knowing what it looked like? It makes about as much sense doing that with a home decorator.

  4. Choosing a decorator you don't get along with. Problems and disagreements will crop up, and if you find your home decorator grating, the problems will seem more difficult and the disagreements will become more volatile.

  5. Choosing a decorator unwilling to use the items you already have in the completed design. "Ask the decorators if they can blend your loved items into the design. If they can't or won't, they are probably not the designer for you," says Cole Harris.

Now you know what to avoid; here's some advice on how to find the right one.

  1. Ask for references from friends and family who've used a designer in the past.

  2. Have an idea of what you want from a decorator before you begin searching.

  3. Check with local furniture stores and design firms. Ask for a recommendation of decorators they use and like -- but check them out before hiring.

  4. Look for a decorator who listens. "I have known decorators who have a preconceived idea of what the room should be and neglected to listen to the homeowner's advice to the contrary. That leads to an unsatisfactory experience for them both," says Cole Harris. 

Make sure you have written contracts for every job, and that you have a clause that allows you to end the relationship for any reason. So if not seeing eye to eye, you can move on to a designer who can truly work with you to make your decorator dreams come true.

Lastly, although interior decorators are not regulated, interior designers may be. "Many states require professional licensing for interior designers and the educational requirements are higher than for an interior decorator," says Cole-Harris. You can check out the regulations for your state at http://www.asid.org/legislation/.

Kathy Wilson is a home and garden writer, author and consultant and is the home decorating expert for LifetimeTV.com. Visit her for more home and garden ideas at http://www.TheBudgetDecorator.com and http://www.TheGardenGlove.com.

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