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Interior Design Timeline

Updated 2/2/22

Hey everyone! When I originally wrote this in 2018, times were different. That was pre pandemic and designers' workloads weren't quite so heavy! Also, at the time I was designing smaller projects with fewer trade sources. As my business and portfolio have grown, the level of work that our firm handles has become much more layered and detail-oriented. This blog post has since been updated to reflect our post pandemic (are we there yet?!) world. You'll see my edits in bold and black.

I don't know where the time has gone--summer is already half-way over! Since becoming a parent, I've found life often works like that--deadlines, holidays, and other events can creep up on you while you're juggling a million balls. If you are planning to redesign your home (or a room in your home) in time for the holidays, now is actually the time to start planning. If you wait until the kids are back in school and you’re replacing your pansies with petunias, it may be too late to have your House Beautiful dining room by Turkey Day.

Now, if you're just looking for a room refresh, you can probably accomplish that with a couple of trips to Home Goods and some online shopping. But if you want a professionally designed, layered, magazine worthy room filled with bespoke furnishings, you'll need a much longer timeline. How long? Let me walk you through the process.

Step 1: Hire an Interior Designer (2 weeks-6 months or more!)

Your first step is to hire an interior designer (you can contact me here). Depending on the size of the firm, the number of clients they currently service, and time of the year, there may be a significant wait before you can even meet for your first appointment. This initial meeting is typically used to discuss the scope of the project and generate some preliminary ideas for the design, including your likes, dislikes, and preferences. Expect to pay a fee for the initial consultation as this has become industry standard. Much of what you are paying for is intellectual property--the designer's ideas and recommendations. There is also a lot of time that goes into preparing for an initial client meeting, including reviewing client questionnaires and researching design ideas. This is part of the groundwork that needs to be done to create an amazing custom room (or home) design.

Pro Tip: Do look at the designer’s portfolio and/or Instagram page to ensure that their style meshes with yours! Because designers tend to update their Instagram account more frequently than their website, Instagram can often offer a more complete picture of a designer’s style.

A whale of a room that I created for a client's young son! See my

Instagram Page HERE for my updated work and to see how we've grown!

Step 2: Proposal and Contract Signing (1-2 weeks)

Based upon the scope determined in your initial meeting, the designer (or firm) will present you with a proposal and contract. Most firms require you provide a retainer or pay 50% of the proposed fee prior to beginning design work. Since the design work doesn't begin until the client provides the deposit and signs the contract, how quickly this is done can affect when the project officially begins.

Pro Tip: Delays in signing the contract may impact when you get into the queue, so time is of the essence!

Step 3: Creating the Design (6-12+weeks)

The length of time it takes to create a design varies based upon the scope of work but should be outlined in the proposal. Designing a single room will take less time than redecorating the Biltmore (NC reference here to my local peeps—The Breakers for my friends back home in the North). There may also be some back and forth as you discuss possible options or fabric selections. If your design includes mood boards and/or 3-D or hand-drawn renderings, this can also add to the time needed. Since designers are typically working on multiple projects at once, this process can take some time to get it right.

Pro Tip: If your designer offers design renderings as an add-on, don’t skip this option, especially for home exteriors and/or hard-finishes (like cabinetry and tile). This is the best way to ensure you’ll love the final product. The small financial investment you’ll make is worth the peace of mind it provides.

Hand Drawn Rendering by Joan Looney

Step 4: Design Presentation and Revisions (1-3+ weeks)

Your design will be presented to you either in person or digitally. If you review the plan and love it as is, you are free to move onto the Procurement and Construction phase. However, sometimes you may want revisions made. Often the designer has some Plan B’s at the ready, so simple swap outs can be made immediately. If changes are more extensive, then additional design time may be necessary.

Pro Tip: The number and types of changes allowed should be outlined in your contract. Typically, any changes beyond what’s specified is billed at the designer’s hourly rate, so do make sure the designer is clear about the look you are trying to achieve prior to creating your design.

A beautifully layered room by Mark D. Sikes

Step 5: Procurement and Construction (8-30+ weeks)

You love your plan, you’re ready to pull the trigger, and it’s time to order! This process differs a little bit depending upon whether your project was designed using retail or trade sources (or a mix of both). Some designers will only use trade-only (available only through the designer) sources. Although I prefer trade-only sources for the multitude of options they afford me, some clients want a design plan they can implement on their own and at their own pace. In that case, I will design using only retail sources and give them photos, links, and details of the choices via my online client portal—then clients can purchase on their own.

For clients who opt for custom and trade-only furnishings, they will be provided with a detailed invoice. Once the invoice is approved and paid, procurement and construction begin. Most custom vendors require at least 8 weeks to manufacture an item, including art and furniture. Custom built-ins, wallpaper, and other hard finishes (such as tile and flooring) may take additional time. During busy seasons (such as the fall when clients are getting their home ready for the holidays), good subcontractors can be booked out for months. For instance, one of my wallpaper installers is currently booking three months out! She’s one of the best in the business, which makes her in high demand. Your designer can coordinate all the details but only if you allow her (or him) enough time to do it right.

Pro Tip: Something else to keep in mind: human error and damage. As terrific as your interior designer is, there are times when things happen that are outside of her immediate control. Merchandise may arrive damaged or wrong. Shipments may get delayed. Items may go on backorder. A good designer will be there to fix all the things that can go wrong, but allowing some extra time for what ifs will help prevent a lot of heartache.

Step 5: Installation (1 day plus)

Yay! After weeks of hard work (on your designer’s part) and patiently waiting (your part), your room is finally ready to install! If you have chosen to do the custom, trade-only route, chances are good that all your items have been sent from the manufacturer to a receiver. The receiving company will unpack, inspect, and assemble your new furniture and décor. Once all your items have been received, a specially trained crew will deliver and install your new furnishings. Many designers will photograph the room either on install day or shortly thereafter.

I hope you found this handy reference useful! If you’re ready for a design plan created just for you, you can contact me here.



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