top of page
  • Writer's pictureSarah Pence

Design Secrets Revealed

I read an article recently titled "10 Things Interior Decorators Don't Want You To Know". I prefer to take a different approach in this business by sharing my knowledge so, naturally, I was intrigued.

The article, in a nutshell, basically explains that because interior design is a business that hiring an interior design professional is nothing more than a business deal.

While I do agree that this IS a business, I also want my clients to know that is not JUST a business. It's a relationship. When someone invites me into their home for a consultation or schedules a virtual meeting with me, it's like going on a blind date. We don't know each other, but I'm going to ask questions to learn about you and I hope you'll do the same. In order for this to work and work well, we have to connect on some level. Your home is your personal space, your safety net, and your sanctuary and it is an honor to be invited into that space (even if it's virtually). If we don't hit if off, it's ok not to ask for a second date. If we do, I'm excited about this blossoming relationship and I hope it lasts for years to come!

So what do I "not want you to know"? What are my big secrets? I have none. I want you to know ALL of the behind the scenes work that goes into your design. Here's the top 10 things article says I want to hide and my approach to these "trade secrets":

1. "Professional Connections" - Yes, I have professional connections. Yes, that means I can oftentimes get discounted pricing. No, I am not going to "buy things cheap and resell them at a higher price". No, I am not going to "slip extra fees onto your bill with 50% plus markups on items". In most cases, I simply extend my trade discounts to my clients. The only time I ever to do a "mark up" (straight 20% across the board) is if you are contacting me for a strictly sourcing project and I make every client aware of that before the contract is signed. Hidden fees are not my jam.

2. Budget - "Designers say that they will keep your budget in mind, but they don't." FALSE. Your budget is something I consider every step of the way. Each item I put into your design concept has been carefully curated with your budget in mind. This is why discussing your ideal budget is something I make a point to do before we start your project. Does that mean I will come in under budget on your proposal 100% of the time? Absolutely not. Does it mean I will do hours upon hours of research and price comparing to come as close as possible? Absolutely YES.

3. Preferences - Yours vs mine - whose are more important? The misconception is that I will choose my preferences over yours because I'm the professional. Do I have an eye for design? Yes. Do I know what styles will be best to combine for a cohesive look in your home? Yes. This is why I spend hours educating myself and exploring different decor styles. Does my professional opinion trump your preferences? Absolutely not. Does this mean I won't be receptive to your design ideas? NO! I welcome them and I believe there is always an opportunity to learn more. This is YOUR home and it should reflect who you are. It's not my job to turn your home into MY ideal space. It's my job to help you create YOUR perfect space.

4. The pricing reflects the work. This one is always tough. Do I want to be compensated for my time and effort? Of course. Don't we all? Does that mean the more expensive designer is the best? Nope. Again, there is a wide range of designers who offer different services at different price points. Stay within your budget first (I cannot stress this enough - if the services are out of your budget then how will you afford the furnishings or materials you may need to transform your space?) The most expensive designer may not be the best for the job. The designer who charges less may be just as good or better. When you meet a designer, remember you are interviewing them for a job. If you're not getting the vibe that they are on the same page and you don't mesh well, it doesn't matter how much more expensive or cheaper their services are because you'll be disappointed. Yes, there is some truth to "you get what you pay for" but that doesn't mean you have to break the bank for quality work.

5. You have to do what your designer says. Ya'll. NO! This is YOUR space and YOUR investment! It is 100% ok to say no. You are paying for a service. Period. If you're not satisfied, you've got to speak up! Personally, I welcome any and ALL feedback. I WANT to know if there is an element in your design plan that you aren't loving. I do my best to "get inside your head" and create something fabulous for you, but I'm only human and I'd love to tell you that I can magically produce your exact perfect design 100% of the time, but that's just not the case. Most of the time my clients don't even know what they like or don't like until we start getting into the process. And it's just that - a process. Feedback is ALWAYS welcome and I need that to create the space you dream of and will love for years to come. You make the rules!

6. It's "all or nothing". Another misconception is that I will "sell you" on a package. Do I use package pricing? Yes. Is that the best option for everyone? No. My packages, contrary to common belief, are actually designed to save you money. However, if you only need a few of the services outlined in the package, then I feel it's only right to charge you for those things alone. Packages are great (and a bargain in some cases), but I do things on a project by project basis and thus why I always provide a customized quote. Each project is different and I firmly believe they should be billed accordingly.

7. Your project is one of many and is not a priority. Again, I can only speak to how I do things, but in my case - not true. Do you know why I limit the number of projects I take on at a time? THIS. RIGHT. HERE. I want you to know with 100% certainty that I pour my heart and soul into EVERY project. If I feel I can't do that I will be the first to tell you that we either need to book out a few weeks/months so I can devote the necessary time and effort your project needs or I will simply advise you to find someone else who is able to work within your ideal timeline. Sure, I want your business, but I also want you to be 100% satisfied with your end result. THAT is my priority.

8. You'll have to buy all new things. NOPE. I actually really love the challenge of incorporating items you already own! There's something really satisfying for me to watch a client's eyes light up when I tell them "Oh, this piece is great! We can totally use this!"

9. Your designer will try to sway you in their direction when it comes to making large purchases. Our styles may be very different. My personal style may be the exact opposite of yours but that doesn't mean I'm going to try to sway you to like what I like. This is YOUR space. I consider myself to be a pretty open-minded person and 99% of the time I end up absolutely loving the end result even when it's not my style. Why? Because the best part of any project, for me, is seeing how happy my clients are when it's all done!

10. The budget cannot be tweaked. Again - NOPE. It's YOUR budget. So, if we need to tweak it along the way we absolutely can. This is why I always discuss this as one of my first questions for each client. Sometimes you've got champagne taste on a ice tea budget and I have to break it to you that your expectations are a bit out of your price range, but most of the time I am able to help you decide which items are a priority to you and we take it from there. Sometimes the client has a particular budget goal they set for me, but once we get into things and realize where we can adjust things (like selling that beautiful dresser that is a fantastic piece, but just doesn't fit your home) we end up adding more to the design budget than we had originally planned. Every step of this process can be tweaked. Even the budget.

All of this is not say "PICK ME!" (though I'll be delighted if you do!) I'm sharing this because ultimately, I want every potential client to know that not all designers are created equal. Pick the professional that is best for YOU. If that happens to be me, awesome! If not, I hope the one you choose makes your space everything you've dreamed of and more!




bottom of page