For the past year or so, I’ve offered remote interior design consulting services for clients. A couple of recent projects have been conducted remotely, and they worked out really well. The ease of finding products and inspiration via web sites has already transformed the interior design field, creating a dialogue between designer and client that allows the exchange of ideas and selection of products without necessarily meeting in person. Tools like FaceTime, Skype and Zoom and simpler email, texts or phone calls help facilitate remote consulting.
A couple of guidelines for me as the designer:
- Embrace the fact that clients are spending time online looking for ideas, inspiration and products. Several years ago, when websites such as Houzz and Pinterest came on the scene, it was quite an adjustment to accept that clients were moving along at their own pace, collecting ideas and developing project plans in their spare time. Now, it almost seems second nature to discuss ideas and examples seen online.
- Be open to exchanging emails, texts or calls as the principal way to communicate with clients regarding project ideas and selections. One of my favorite projects completed last year was with a client who’d shop online, put together questions and links for me, and who’d look for my confirmation of her selections or suggestions of my own based on her input. We’d talk on the phone or meet in person from time to time to put all of the ideas together, but the bulk of the project was developed via email. We successfully renovated and furnished a master bedroom and bathroom, family room and living room, dining room, plus a total kitchen renovation and renovation of two bathrooms.
A few guidelines for you as the client:
- Keep a folder, whether a virtual folder on your PC or an actual hard copy folder with photos and info, to organize and record ideas that you find. Organize your emails into categories that make sense (for example kitchen ideas, lighting ideas, bed linen ideas, etc.) so that we can discuss and share ideas.
- Be ready to send me photos, videos, descriptions and dimensions of the room or rooms you wish to work on, as well as provide info on your likes & dislikes.
- Feel free to email when it’s convenient for you, but be realistic about timing with regard to replies to your emails. I often send back a quick reply to a client’s email, indicating that I’ve received it and I’ll address it ASAP. That way, the client knows it’s on my radar but will allow time for me to complete the work and research required.
- Understand that even “shopping” online is part of the designer’s consulting services, takes time, and is not insignificant. For compensation, I personally keep very detailed time sheets and keep track of time spent on projects (including shopping online) in 15 minute increments.
- Be open to ideas and suggestions from your designer to make your space personalized and unique. In other words, don’t try to exactly duplicate something you’ve seen on a design web site or a furniture retailer’s web site. Allow your designer to work with the look you’re attracted to but to make it special just for you. After all, isn’t that why you’ve hired a designer?
Trusted relationships with vendors are very important when working remotely. A recent project was with clients who were sprucing up their library and reupholstering furniture. At the time of the project, the clients were both commuting to work, working a full day, and had very little time to meet during regular daytime hours. After an evening meeting to discuss their project, I ordered several fabric samples for the furniture reupholstery, vetted the samples to select the ones I’d recommend, and sent them along to the clients. I arranged for my upholstery workroom to provide pricing, provide requirements for fabric yardage for the items being reupholstered, and pick up/return the furniture. I also arranged to have area rug samples that I’d selected to be shipped directly to the clients’ home. They selected an area rug, shipped the samples back, and I ordered an area rug in the right size and pattern for them. My compensation for the project was based on mark-up of trade prices for the fabrics, reupholstery labor and area rug costs. I was also able to provide custom window shades for the project in a similar way by sending samples for materials, and arranging measuring and installation by my preferred vendor. Everything came together without a hitch.
A great topic for remote design consulting is paint color selection. I interview clients to narrow down paint color options, then recommend colors which can be viewed online or in person via samples. I put together great looking groupings and color palettes for clients’ approval. I frequently help clients pick exterior colors as well. I can request and send interior or exterior paint color samples in various sizes, so that you can view colors in person.
Traditionally, I’d meet in person with a prospective client to discuss their project, get to know each other a little, see if we want to move ahead together, and then begin putting ideas together. However, I’ve already found that remote design consulting can work very well. It will become the norm during the current Coronavirus crisis, and probably beyond, as clients will see how easy it can be. I’m very flexible on budgets and project size, and I tailor my advice and solutions to clients’ preferences. I’m happy to discuss my hourly rate or my fixed fee packages. You’ll find that working with me will be low stress and budget friendly. Please feel free to send a note via my “Inquiries” page. After an initial phone call to discuss your project, we can use FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, email or other tools to have chats and meetings. Phone calls work well for “meetings” too, of course!