When You Need An Interior Designer, and How To Choose One

Many people call themselves ‘designers’, and they all could be, but you’ll need to learn a little bit about depth and breadth of skills designers have to make the best choice for your project.

Let’s break down a few of the things a designer does to help outline a few things to evaluate your next professional on the project.

Basic Skill Categories for Interior Designers

Space Renovations

Y You may want a new kitchen, bathroom, or a complete overhaul on everything. Interior designers can model out new layouts, provide 3D drawings to help visualize concepts, and get down to details of finish materials such as tile, countertops, cabinets, and flooring.
It’s key that a designer can do more than pick tile, a cabinet company, and flooring. They should be able to put it all together, allow you to visualize it in a way that helps you decide whether this is the investment you will love. They should understand how it all goes together, whether it’s buildable, and the costs associated.


Y You may have already built the space, but need help getting the finished feel you desire. It may involve determining the ideal selection of furniture, paint, bedding, pillows, rugs, and accessories.
Buying furniture and accessories is fun for the most part, but there are many things to consider. It’s good to know whether a designer knows who you’re buying from, the quality and construction of the pieces, and how it’ll all go together.

For example, skilled and experienced decorators can walk into a showroom and instantly spot a piece and know the history of what the design is based upon. They will be able to surface choices based on design, quality, form, and function.

Style Expertise

D Designers tend to have different design backgrounds, experience, and knowledge of particular styles.
It’s important to understand your style and work with a designer with expertise in the one that you feel are a fit for your space.

For example, there are so many designers that like to say they love mid-century modern, but may only have a limited vocabulary when it involves more than an Eames chair and what they’ve seen on TV.

This particular style, has history, and much of the furniture selection will be sourced from private dealers, vintage shops, and modern specialty vendors. Having connections can be key to getting a prized piece at a reasonable rate.

Here’s a breakdown of what an interior designer does:


Often times you’re living in a home and you want to make it yours. You’ve picked up all the latest design magazines, pinned hundreds of ideas onto boards, and even purchased dozens of things for your spaces. Once day, you may look around and realize that it’s not quite as chic as you knowit could be. You feel like you have all the components, but it’s just not coming together as you would’ve hoped. This is when you can get some professional help from an interior designer.

Designing a space with furnishings can be a daunting task, and it gets even harder when you’ve got many elements going on. Experienced interior designers can take a theme, your personality, space requirements, and curate multiple scenes to make the whole experience easier to enjoy at its fullest potential. They’re there to not tell you what to do, but also to fulfill your vision.

First, you’ll identify what you’re going for such as modern, transitional, mid-century modern (mid-mod), or Bohemian (Boho), to name a few. Then you can look at tastes–what do you like that reflects your personality? Furthermore, you can explore the moods you’d like to create, who and how you’ll be using the space, and budget. From these decisions, furniture selection in a designer’s mind starts to filter pieces that come to mind.

Choosing from thousands of products on the market is time-consuming, and good designers are in-touch with many lines of products, which makes narrowing the selection down easier. You don’t have to end up buying high end furnishings for everything, but the skills of mixing and matching quality furniture selections where it matters becomes an art in itself.

The furniture industry is notorious for ‘knocking off pieces from famous designers and changing a few things to make it their own. A designer with a good eye will be able to say, “So that’s based on a design from so-and-so, but they changed the shape a little bit, and added different legs because it’s cheaper to manufacture it that way. You can buy the original, but it’ll be 50% more.


Many things go into redesigning a space such as desired functionality, style, architecture and engineering, personal needs, logistical behavior of people, climate, budget, and time.

The client intake process should aim to capture as many of these things in a walk-thru and to have many conversations about the most important things that matter. For example, items discussed for a kitchen should be things like:

  • Who’s the cook in the household?
  • What’s your routine?
  • Where do people work, eat, and do homework?
  • What do you love/hate most about the existing space?
Balancing Form and Function

Capturing ergonomics and function come first, and then designers can get a feel for design taste to pull it all together into a cohesive story. Clients should be able to express what they like in terms of materials, moods, and desired functionality, while designers can take the inputs and figure out design choices like focal points on where to draw attention, and what areas to subdue. Fine-tuning the space comes down to color, texture, and coming up with a design that you don’t think about, but rather enjoy.

There are measurements and drawings to be made, structural engineering formulas to be calculated, and sometimes historical research to do. While the fun is all in material selections, there are many tasks behind the scenes to pull things together. And after designs are delivered and approved, we’ve just begun because the next phase of the project is construction and communicating all of the details to the contractor, sourcing materials, and dealing with the constant stream of questions–this is where the rubber hits the road.

Many of these questions can be things like:

  • The material is backordered for months, so what other options are available?
  • Plumbing costs are too high to move the drain, so how should we adjust the layout?
  • How should the shower niche be tiled, or finished around the edges or the surround?
  • How do you want to finish the interior trim?
  • How much overhang is needed for the countertops?
  • Where should fixtures and switches go and what trim plates should we use?


Many great designers only have experience with certain styles. Outside of that, they may not be entirely sure and will need to do a lot of homework.

Experienced designers will have an understanding of what typically goes into a cool Farmhouse Modern renovation, but have they done 100 of these projects? There are varying levels of expertise and experience, and finding a designer that has enough experience to create a space that’ll work is completely up to you. Your expectation to the level of core authenticity to the style you’re trying to achieve may vary for your project.

In our world of mid-century modern, some of our clients come to us with a historic home built by notable designers, and they’re afraid to veer much off the path of what would’ve been there when it was built. They’ll come to us and express desires that they want something fun or minimalistic, and we’ll achieve both an awesome space that stays true to the original architectural theme.

We hope some of these tips help to continue great experiences for clients no matter who they choose in the end.

About Mai Saad

Mai is an experienced interior designer providing high quality residential and commercial interiors across Egypt and Gulf. Mai has a strong eye for pairing the traditional and contemporary, a self-confessed textile fanatic and colour enthusiast she enjoys working in close consultation with the client to create an environment that works perfectly in both form and function.

Leave a comment