Do I really need an interior designer?

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DIY shows and internet shopping make it seem like anyone can put on a designer hat and, poof!, turn their home into the palace of their dreams. And with some department stores offering “free” design services, you might be wondering just why you should hire an interior designer anymore.

Here’s a simple analogy. Just because you can buy a sewing machine and luxurious fabrics doesn’t that mean that you can design your own clothes and create a fabulous wardrobe. Wouldn’t you rather have the eye of Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan putting together the right look for your body and your lifestyle? Of course you would.

Besides a finely honed design sense, an interior designer brings knowledge of scale, proportion and color to your project. While you might spend hours agonizing over paint chips, a designer can tell right away what shade will work in a room and with your furniture and accessories. He or she knows how to make a house comfortable and reflect your vision as well as how to edit what you have and tell you if your grandmother’s china cabinet just won’t work with the look you’re going for.

A successful interior designer is almost like a therapist in that he or she must get into each client’s head. You, the client, have to be open and honest, sharing what you like and dislike.

The idea of working with a designer is intimidating to many people at first, especially if you’re afraid that he or she is going to saddle you with their concept rather than bring your ideas to life, or that the designer’s tastes won’t match your budget.

On the other hand, working without a designer could involve a lot of trial and error on your part, leading to lost time and lost resources. You might go out and buy furniture that looked good in a store or online only to find it’s a disaster in your living room, whereas a designer would have shown you sketches, swatches and renditions to crystallize their concept for your space before anything is bought.

Yes, there are designers who might want to call all the shots and tell you that you need a $12,000 dining table and that it will take three months to make. If you share their vision and want a unique look, that might be the designer for you. But if you want a $1,200 table and want it in two weeks, you might need someone else. That’s why you shop around for the right designer.

Finding a designer you’re compatible with is a lot like looking for a mate—some relationships work out and others don’t. It may take a couple of "dates" to see if you’re compatible, but when you find the right professional, it’s magic.

Photo courtesy of HGTV Design Star winner, Jennifer Bertrand.