What you must know before working with an interior designer on capella kincheloe interior design phoenix

When I get a call or email from a potential new client there are many things I ask to determine if we're a fit.  Oftentimes, people have never worked with a designer and are calling to get familiar with the basics.  Generally, before you contact any designer you should know a few things to help the process and to provide an accurate picture of what you are looking for.  Here are the top three things you should know before contacting a designer.


How much do you want to spend?  How much do you want to invest in your project?  Sometimes it is hard to know, right?  But if you really ask yourself what you are comfortable spending you should be able to settle on a number.  Also ask yourself if that amount is firm (in which your designer should work in a contingency) or if it is a range.  Ask yourself hypothetical questions and really gauge your response.  When I speak to potential clients that tell me they don't know what to spend, I start by asking them if they want to spend a million dollars on this project (the answer is usually "no"), then I go down in increments from there.  Simply by asking yourself if you are comfortable spending a certain amount should give you an idea of what your budget is.  For example: Would I spend $50,000 on this powder room remodel?  $20,000?  $10,000? $5000? $500?  $5000 may feel too high and $500 would probably feel too low, so you'd probably say that you wanted to spend between $2000 and $4000.  You can also get very specific - would I want to spend $10,000 on a new bed?  $7500?  $4000?  Once you hire an interior designer you can work out a more detailed budget and they can talk to you about what you can get for your budget, but by asking yourself these questions before you hire a designer you will be able to find the correct person for the job and enjoy a smoother process.  Visit this site to see remodeling cost averages by region and project.  Bottom line: Don't contact a designer unless you've thought about what you want to spend.

You may also like: How to Budget Interior Design


There is a range of potential clients, from those that have no idea what they want to those that know exactly what they want to do.  Obviously most fall somewhere about in the middle of that.  No matter where you fall on the spectrum, take a look at different designers' portfolios and ask yourself if you like what you see.  Do you like the layout?  The feel?  The furniture?  If you're digging the overall feel of the spaces, it could be a good match.  This isn't the only place you should look though, because portfolios aren't always a great representation of the designer's style.  So you can look at their Houzz ideabooks, Pinterest page, and even Instagram.  This will give you a well-rounded idea of the designer's style.  Bottom line: Narrow your designer choices by thoroughly researching their styles and make sure you're digging it.

You may also like: Your Style v  The Designer's Style


You designer is there as a guide, but unless you want to give them cart blanche (and are going to be totally a-ok with the outcome), give yourself some time to think about what your expectations are for hiring a designer and the outcome of the project.  This is especially good to think about before you hire someone so that you are clear without letting the professional muddle too much.  Just like you had a list for non-negotiables when searching for a home or a mate, you can also have a list for doing interior design projects.  This way when you contact the designer and tell her that you'd like it done in six weeks or want to install an indoor above-ground swimming pool, she can gauge if your project is the right match for the company.  A question I love to ask and one you can ask yourself is, "How do I want my house to feel?"  Bottom line: If you're not clear about your expectations your (potential) designer isn't getting a clear view of the project.

You may also like: Working with a Designer: Expectations


Working with an Interior Designer Expectations by Capella Kincheloe Interior Design phoenix

The only reason that interior design relationships sour is because of unfulfilled expectations.  Really, it is the only reason that any relationship hits bumps - friendships, family, romantic relationships - all strife is caused by unfulfilled expectations.

As Buddha teaches, if you release your expectations you also release frustration, unhappiness, discontent, anger.  If you expect nothing, then you will never be disappointed.  If your happiness is tied to the outcome or the process and it doesn't turn out as expected, you suffer.

Simple, but terribly difficult.  Especially in something so personal as a home.  This post is extremely timely and ever so personal to me right now because I recently saw first-hand in my own business how different my clients expectations were from my own.  I keep replaying conversations in my head, wondering how I could have set up their expectations better, how I could have communicated the situation better,  if there were signs in their words and behaviors that I should have read better.  This is where interior designers joke about being a part-time psychiatrist.  Because what clients say and do is not always what they expect.

As the client, it is important to be very clear on your expectations so your designer can focus on designing your space and not trying to decode your message and meanings.  Here are some examples:

You say: Red is my favorite color, I'd like to incorporate it in my living room. You mean: I want my walls, carpet, sofa, and curtains to be red.  Your designer hears: She wants a red sofa or upholstered chair.

You say: I have $75,000 to spend.  You mean: I have $150,000 to spend but don't want my designer to spend it all.  Your designer hears: They want to spend around $75,000.  

You say: I'd like to have a place to store my surf boards.  You mean: It is non-negotiable to have a place to store my surf boards.  Your designer hears: Let's see if there is a feasible place to store the boards, maybe we can fit it in maybe not.

You can see in the examples above that the clients expectations are different from the designer's expectations because of vague communication.  So in the first example, the designer may show the client a red sofa and the client tells the designer, I'd like a little more red, so the designer adds in a red chair and the client is still not happy and feels like the designer doesn't understand or listen.

In the second example, the designer is showing the client's items within their budget, but they are unhappy because it is not at the quality they imagine - because to them, their budget is $150,000 and their designer shouldn't be showing them such cheap furniture.

In the third example, the designer doesn't see the surf board storage as important as the client does.  The client is sure to be disappointed, frustrated, or angry if the designer doesn't find a place for those damn surf boards.

As humans, we all expect something.  To a client, spending $5000 on a dining table may be reasonable, but spending more than $50 on a lamp is crazy.  Then that client expects the designer to know or understand the client's money expectations.  A client may have expectations that trying to get it done by Christmas means that it'll be done by Christmas.  The designer expects that the client sees trying as an attempt to get it done but it's likely not going to be done.

Oh so easy for the project to make either the designer or client unhappy because of unmet expectations.  So we know and see some of the traps that can occur, what can be done about it?

Be clear, crystal clear on what your expectations are and what you want.  Sometimes we feel a little icky for asking for exactly what we want.  It can feel demanding or you could be concerned for the other parties feelings.  But it'll be so much better for the relationship and the project if you are clear about your expectations always, beginning, middle, and the end.  Do not be vague.

Be reasonable, if your expectation is that your designer will complete your living room remodel in 4 weeks - let her know and then listen when she tells you that the remodel that you are expecting cannot be completed in that time frame.

Be decisive, make a decision quickly and stick to it.  If you wait too long in communication with your designer, memories fade and new expectations arise.

And if you are up-for-it and more highly evolved that the rest of us, you can be Buddha-like and simply release all expectations.


AUGUST 6 | You're Invited: Modern Southwest Party

All the best ideas for throwing a party with a modern southwest theme.  Think graphic color, inventive cocktails, and re-imagined southwestern food.

AUGUST 11 | Business of Design: Website & Logo

You never get any where without putting one foot in front of the other.  Learn why you need a website and why you might not need a logo.

AUGUST 18 | Six Degrees: Audrey King

You are probably only six degrees aways from the gal behind some of Savannah's loveliest events and styling, Audrey King.  Get to know her in this regular series spotlighting my fellow entrepreneurs.

AUGUST 20 | Book Report: The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson

Purchase your copy now to let me know your thoughts when I do my review of this moody book about styling...or wait to see if I think you should add this to your shelf.


tweet of the month jimmy fallon on Capella Kincheloe Interior Design August 2014


  • I'm tweeting, instagramming, and on pinning now as a single handle: @Capella_Golden (because everything I touch turns to gold.  Kidding! actually it's my middle name)
  • If you're in the Phoenix area, please join me for our monthly Creative Council happy hours.  You can get event info here: Creative Council. Stay tuned for the August date!
  • I tried this for a brunch I hosted this past weekend and let me tell you - everybody loved it.  Loved it.
  • A simple way to free your mind and enhance your creativity.


photographing interiors by capella kincheloe interior design phoenix There is a difference between photographing interiors and photographing people, nature, or even interiors for real estate.  The first professional shoot I was on, I had just started with Michael Smith, I had never been to the house, had never met the homeowner, it was days before Christmas with a decorated house and a family that was packing for a two-week safari.  They left me at the house to help the photographer and after breaking a decorative bulb taking down the decorations and having to move much of the homeowners packing around I didn't endear myself to the client.  Lucky it was just a scouting shoot, which eventually became this spread in House Beautiful.  

I've attended many more interior photo shoots since then, including this one for Architectural Digest.  But they all start long before the flowers arrive and camera arrive.

First, you must decide what you are going to photograph and when is the best time of day to photograph.  Do you want a lot of natural light?  Does the room get blown out early in the morning?  Is the bedroom only going to be light if you use lamps after 4pm?  Does the sunset at 5 or 9?  What rooms are going to be photographed?  What angles?  Do you need a ladder?  Should you make room in the closet for the photographer to squeeze into to get the best angle or the widest shot?  Will you need extra lighting equipment?

(In the title photograph the photographer is covering the skylight - which eventually they went on the roof to cover more thoroughly.)

flower prep for industrial loft photoshoot by capella kincheloe interior designflower prep

After these decisions are made, I typically like to start photographing around 10am.  I find I like bright interiors and this seems to provide the best natural light.  So a few hours before, I bring additional props and flowers.  Sometimes if the shoot is more extensive, furniture will be moved in or out of the home to get show the home at its best.  The flowers should be fresh, but not so fresh that they haven't opened yet.  Sourcing flowers, additional props, and furniture to complete the styled shoot is sometimes done by an additional stylist or the designer depending on how big the shoot is.

Paradise Valley Bachelor Pad Kitchen 01with just two windows in this kitchen/living room we had to play with the light and shades

Floors should be vacuumed, shelves dusted, light bulbs replaced, wax removed from candlesticks, surfaces cleaned of streaks, curtains steamed, pillows fluffed, bed linens smoothed, wires tied to table legs or unplugged entirely, lampshade seams face the wall, rugs stretched.  The camera will see everything.

Once the house looks good, the light is right, and the camera and equipment is set up, you can start taking photos.  But usually these are just test photos - to see how the bowl looks on the table or to see if that chair works in the shot, if the door should be open or closed.  The lens "sees" different from the eye, so what looks good in person may not look right in photos.

Chairs are moved abnormally close to the bed.  Flower heads are twisted, windows covered to prevent weird shadows or shades opened.  Books moved a millimeter, the bowl replaced with a paperweight, pillows manipulated, a cup of coffee casually placed on the table and then pushed left an inch, twist the handle just so.  All while taking several photos in between each adjustment to see progress.  You can imagine that each shot can take 30+ minutes and when you are taking a couple of angles of each room - time adds up.  Shooting a large house can easily eat up 2 days or more.  And then there is post-production.


10 things interior designers won't tell you - use my estimate as wallpaper We are heading into Part 3 today of 10 Things Interior Designer's Won't Tell You.  You can learn more about this series and start with Part 1 here.


Once you've settled on a designer you like and feel you can afford, your first step will be to sit down and go over your budget, with an estimate of how much the job is going to cost. But the fact is, that estimate doesn't mean a whole lot. You're likely to pay 20% more -- at least.

What happens? When designers present their clients with a choice of items -- say, fabrics costing $30 a yard or $50 a yard -- they often don't bother to note that the more attractive option is considerably more expensive than what the budget called for. Some designers will also play to customers' insecurities, assuring them that the job will look unfinished without countless additions and unexpected alterations. "A lot of designers think that if a client says he'll pay $100,000, there's another $20,000 or so hidden away somewhere," notes Joel M. Ergas, a partner in Forbes-Ergas Design Associates in New York City. Caught up in the moment, with the project hurtling toward completion, you may find it difficult to put on the brakes or to switch designers.

You can do a few things to protect yourself. First, before hiring a designer, be sure to ask his references how closely he stuck to his budget. Then feel free at any time to have the designer account for how much has been spent on your job and how that amount compares with the budget. You can also tell the designer that before he spends a cent, you want to see a full proposal with pictures of everything you'll need to buy, and exact prices. Finally, don't just rely on the designer: Keep your own running total of costs. This is a business transaction, after all, not an art project.

Oy, where do I start with this one?  First, I don't do this.  I tell my clients that they must come up with a realistic budget range and always be comfortable spending the money.  More often than not I am saving clients more money than they expected and I always tell them where they can save and where they should splurge.

This isn't one-sided, clients also need to be diligent of their budget because it is their money.  Designers should keep an eye on the budget and select items that can fit in the provided budget, but ultimately it is up to the client to manage their money.  As a client, if you are uncomfortable with an amount or feel things are not going to be in budget, talk honestly with your designer.

If you'd like your designer to not spend a penny more than $200,000 all-inclusive (shipping, taxes, fees, etc) tell her.  Ask her to create a budget showing where the money will be allocated.  If you spend more on a coffee table than what is in budgeted, ask her where you are going to make up the difference.  I find that clients are typically more comfortable providing a budget range for example $60-75K.

Is there a cushion in the budget for the unexpected?  Maybe an electrical panel will need to be moved.  Maybe there are structural problems undiscovered until the walls are opened.  Perhaps the carpet has been glued down and takes a week to remove instead of a day.  These are all things that are unexpected and unforseen and are hard to budget for.  No project ever gets by without some issue or snag.

Interior designers are masters at project management.  They manage a several hundred moving parts for each project, thousands of details.  Something is bound to not go as planned or to be missed.  Obviously some designers are better at this than others, while this is a creative job, at least 80-90% is management of details.  All these things have an impact on the budget.  Perhaps a fabric is backordered and you must reselect, the new fabric is more expensive which effects the budget.  Or maybe you decide that you hate the tile you selected after it comes in and you must pay for the restocking fee.  Shipping is often not calculated until after the piece ships, making it impossible to provide a whole-cost view of that item prior to purchase.

Of my clients in the past few years, none has given me a firm number to work with.  If people are unsure what they need to spend, I have them fill out my budget worksheets.  Usually I get an idea of what someone is comfortable spending and we talk about if their vision for the space matches their budget.  I never want my clients to think that I am pushing them into spending more than necessary or that they are comfortable with.

As the designer, it is my job to look out for your best interest and to be on your team.

For more information about the costs & fees of interior design, visit my resource page.

read the entire series: