8 things an interior designer can do for you and your remodeling

Anyone who has ever built a home or undertaken a major remodeling project knows how time-consuming and stressful it can be to get through planning, design and construction.

Homeowners have to make hundreds of decisions, and many of them are expensive. Those unfamiliar with the world of construction may even feel like their contractors are speaking a different language.

A good interior designer can help with these decisions, says Houston designer Cassandra Brand of Cassandra Brand Interiors, a speaker at a recent Access Design event hosted by the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Design District.

A cowhide rug stitched into a geometric print sits beneath a custom table designed by interior designer Cassandra Brand. The walls are painted Sherwin-Williams “Peppercorn.”

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Brand spoke about the designer-client dynamic and how designers can be a voice for clients. She offered these eight ideas for the role a designer can play in a building, remodeling or decorating project.

1. Represent yourself

Brand, like other designers, begins projects to get to know clients to understand how they use a room or a home. Knowing even small details can help with ideas for a more functional kitchen or a bathroom that has everything in the right place. When a designer can make a home reflect its owner’s personality and lifestyle, the homeowner is likely to be more satisfied with the finished product, she said.

2. Guide decision-making

Homeowners are expected to choose flooring, wall tiles, hardware, cabinetry, and even know where they want each electrical outlet early in the building process. That doesn’t even include the countless decisions made about furniture, decor, and paint colors.

Brand said she and her peers see the big picture from the start and can be a guide to the order in which decisions should be made and products that fit customers’ tastes, budgets and lifestyles. Since many products are available at a variety of price points, they can guide you to savings and benefits that will help you get the look you want within the budget.

They create a laundry room out of some of the breakfast room, and a stylish nod to the modern colors of the 1960s - when the home was built - comes in orange and gray tiles.

They create a laundry room out of some of the breakfast room, and a stylish nod to the modern colors of the 1960s – when the home was built – comes in orange and gray tiles.

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3. Problem solving

No home building or remodeling project is complete without a mistake or two. What matters most is how a homeowner’s team—the architect, builder, designer, and sometimes even the landscaper—deals with them. They all work together to find the best solution, whether it’s figuring out an electrical problem or getting the right windows. Sometimes, Brand said, problem solving can result in something being even better than it started.

4. Part of a team

Brand noted that home construction projects are truly the result of a team of people with overlapping skills. When the team is hired together at the beginning of the project, a homeowner does not have to go back to make changes.

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For example, if kitchen construction is underway without a designer, a homeowner may have selected cabinets without seeing special options that add function, or they may not have seen a wide variety of flooring, backsplash tiles, or lighting. Ordering new items midway through can potentially stop work. A designer can even offer ideas that a builder might not think of, such as adding outlets for an operational hair dryer in a bathroom drawer or setting up a tech station in a mudroom.

The Youngs' new home in Briar Grove Park has a large living room connected to the kitchen and with a wall of windows looking into the backyard.

The Youngs’ new home in Briar Grove Park has a large living room connected to the kitchen and with a wall of windows looking into the backyard.

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5. Keep the design focused

When homeowners hire a designer and yet start making all kinds of purchases because they find things they like, designers half-jokingly refer to it as “going rogue.” Admittedly, some design projects begin with the goal of an eclectic aesthetic, but often a designer must guide homeowners to furniture and finishes that will have a cohesive look when a room or home is finished.

At the same time, an experienced designer can help a homeowner use beloved family heirlooms that might not seem to fit a new design aesthetic, Brand said.

6. To provide access to unique items

The internet has made home goods accessible to more people, but many luxury products are still available for “trade only”, meaning the general public cannot purchase them without an architect, builder or interior designer. Designers are also constantly on the lookout for customers, so they know what’s new, where to find deals, and where to find things that won’t make your home look like a cookie cutter design. It should also be noted that these things are not always more expensive.

The living room has a great bar with stylish tiles, but with kids at home it's more of a beverage center.

The living room has a great bar with stylish tiles, but with kids at home it’s more of a beverage center.

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7. Avoid costly mistakes

This is perhaps the smartest reason to hire an interior designer. Their ideas can help you avoid bad purchases or mistakes in the decoration of your home. Brand cited a homeowner who launched a new construction project and brought her in for help later. The home’s kitchen island had been built without a table overhang that could accommodate bar stools and make it a place for people to sit and visit or do homework or even for meals. They had to buy a new plate and reinstall a larger counter, which cost them at least a few thousand dollars.

8. Talk about money

One final note, she said, is that clients should talk to designers about money up front. They need to know if a designer charges an hourly rate or a flat fee, and if there are service fees on anything they buy for you. You should also ask how you will pay the designer with a monthly invoice or lump sum.

Project budgets are also important so they know how much you want to spend and can allocate the money to the things needed to complete a room.

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