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  • Writer's pictureDann Foley


Updated: Feb 28

For more than 3 decades I have been heading my own design firm.  It is safe to say that I have worked with very type of personality imaginable.  Some clients want to be intimately involved in the entire process, while others want to see a design presentation and then want to be called only when the project is finished.  Either way, the design process remains the same. 


Some projects, just as some clients are more challenging than others.  Ultimately, my job is be a problem solver.  The vast majority of the time the problem solving I am referring to is in the design itself.  Creativity is the key to any successful project but, at its core, the design process is really about problem solving.  Those problems can be related to architecture, space, budget, needs/desires, etc.  In every case it is up to the professional to guide the client through a myriad of options, selections and issues.  Together, we make a client’s dreams come true.


The optimum relationship in design, is a collaboration between me and the client.  We each have specific roles to fill.  I listen to what the client desires most and then help them to see the bigger picture, a wider possible vision and the potential limitations of space and budget (that is where the problem solving comes in most handy). 


Enthusiasm from your designer is everything!  I have been told, many times over the years that the reason a client hired me over other perspective firms, was my enthusiasm for their project.  I don’t go into potential client meetings with the goal of signing them.  I enter each new meeting wondering if we are going to like each other. It is as simple as that.  Find someone you like.  It is like making a new friend, if we like each other, the collaboration cannot help but succeed.


Truly successful designs are a combination of creativity, enthusiasm, team work and hard work.  Your finished home is the vision and goal, from day one.  My work as a designer is intimate.  I have to know my clients deeply to really understand what their world needs to be.  It is that understanding that creates the best home and my finest work.  A home is your most intimate space, it should reflect you, your tastes, lifestyle and your family.


So, how do you find the right designer or design firm to work with?  What are the questions you should be asking yourself and your potential designer?  And, how do you avoid pitfalls in that relationship?  It really isn’t all that difficult but, like anything worthwhile in life, some planning and maintenance is important. 

Try these simple tips to get you where you are going.


Questions To Ask Yourself (beforehand)

· What is it that I hope to accomplish in my home?

You should be clear about what you want. That does not have to mean you know exactly how everything should look but, you want to know what you really like. Your own prior research is paramount.

· Am I ready to be displaced or uncomfortable for the duration of the work?

Everyone is excited to get started but, living with inconvenience and mess in your own home can be very difficult. Think about working in phases or relocating during the worst parts of your project.

· Am I open to suggestions from a designer?

This one sounds simple but, it really isn’t.  A creative process is fluid and it is important to remain open to ensure the best outcome.

Questions To Ask Your Potential Designer (and some red flags to watch out for)

·  Does your designer have a website with clear examples of their work?

In today’s world if your potential designer does not have a website with multiple examples of their varied work and clientele, I say move on. It is wonderful to give someone new a chance but, if you do not personally know them, protect yourself and your investment.

·  What is their experience in the extent of work you are considering?

At this point you know what you are looking for.  Do they have the experience and expertise to help you get the best result?

·  Do they have references that you can contact?

If I cannot speak with references for someone I am about to entrust with my home and my hard-earned funds, then that is a red flag!

·  What is the process:

Ask them what their process is from concept to completion.  Do they have a clear and concise picture of not only the design/decorative piece of the puzzle but, do they also handle the renovations and contracting?

·  Who will oversee the work and the contractors?

This is very important.  I have met far too many homeowners who think because they renovated a bathroom themselves, they can manage a job site.  A general contractor is imperative when renovations are going to take place.  And that person should have direct access to and be responsible to your designer.  It is the designer’s job to ensure that their vision and details are met by the craftsmen.

In the end, the first piece to finding the right designer is, do you like them? And do you believe/trust that they are competent to do your project?  This does not ensure success but, asking questions can.  Every day from the beginning, ask questions, request updates, demand follow-up.  After all, it is your home and your money.


As I tell all my potential clients, “I will give you everything you ask for but, in a way you dreamed possible.”  We pride ourselves on projects that are delivered on time, on budget and with results that exceed our client’s expectations.  That is the experience you deserve!


Live Well.


Dann Foley

www.foleystinnette.comDesigner Dann on Instagram, Facebook, HOUZZ, Twitter.

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