Planning Guidelines


The first step in an interior design job is to establish the goal of the project with the client. If the job is residential, the interior designer should meet with the residents, even if the residents are working through an architect. For contract jobs, there will be creative and technical people responsible for various aspects of the project. Designers should make sure and meet with these people before the project begins to align everyone with the vision of the job. Once the overall goal of the project—including budget parameters and timeline—is identified and understood, it is imperative that the designer maintains ongoing communication with all parties as the job progresses.

Key Points

The following steps are loosely in chronological order. All design jobs are unique so for many jobs steps may be done simultaneously for various phases of the project.

  • Review the Space – With the client’s aesthetic goal in mind, visit the space. Take measurements, determine the source(s) and direction of natural light, make a sketch and take photos of the space for later use.
  • Create Design – Using paper, photos and swatches, design the space. Generally, it is best to offer a minimum of three options, including costs, for wallcoverings, flooring, fabrics, furniture styles and window treatments for clients to choose.
  • Budget – Once a design is selected, a complete detailed budget for the job should be established before the job begins. Make sure costs are clearly understood and communicated throughout the job, especially if changes are made midway through the project. Although clients often give total or overall budgets, break down the budget with specific allotments for costs of goods and labor. Include the payment schedule for goods, labor and design fees. Monitor budgets continually throughout the project to avoid overruns.
  • Schedule – Also before the job begins, make sure to develop a detailed timeline, including when products will be delivered and installed. Any delays or changes in delivery or installation of goods may affect costs; work with the client to make changes as needed.
  • Hire help – Develop and keep a pool of qualified contractors to execute the design. For best results when hanging wallcoverings, hire professional wallcoverings paperhangers, versus general contractors. Many professional paperhangers specialize in residential jobs, contract jobs or certain types of papers. Keep a file of paperhangers and their specialties.
  • Review – Throughout the job, the interior designer should be checking on progress, solving problems, maintaining budgets and communicating with clients.
  • Final Run – When the job is near completion, the designer should walk the job with the contractors to verify work and get any special information. Once the designer and contractors have finished and approved their inspection, the interior designer should walk the job with the client and point out special features, answer questions and leave instructions (from manufacturers) on how to maintain wallcoverings, finishes and other products. Make sure records of the products used, including warranties, are recorded and filed.


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