Beginner’s guide to hiring an Interior Designer for your home renovation

Most of us only get one chance to renovate a home, which means that we generally don’t have any experience of choosing or working with an Interior Designer. To help you make your choice with confidence, we have created a beginner’s guide to hiring the right Interior Designer for your renovation.

Understanding the renovation procedure

When is the best time to engage an Interior Designer?

Many homeowners often leave choosing an Interior Designer to the last minute. By doing this you place a lot of stress on both yourselves and your designer and builder to get your renovation done in time. 

Ideally you should have chosen and engaged your interior design firm at least three months prior to the collection of your house keys. This will allow enough time for your designer to create your design plan, help you choose your materials and then to make any changes that are needed before you need to move into your new home.

Should I choose an established Interior Designer or try a Renovation Contractor?

All of us have heard of terrible renovating experiences that encounter everything from delays to over-charging and shoddy workmanship. 

According to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), in 2019 renovation contractors ranked third among the industries against which Singaporeans have filed complaints. 

This is why many people prefer to use an established Interior Designer. These firms can not only ensure you get quality design and delivery, they can also assist with dealing with the various HDB rules and regulations around what can, and can’t be done, when renovating your home.

Interior Design firms like Starry Homestead, are RCMA CaseTrust accredited - a protection that safeguards customer interests such as deposits. Companies under this scheme have better cost transparency, accountability and good business practices. They usually also have clearer documentation of policies on fees and refunds, and dispute resolution methods.

Image Credit: Starry Homestead

Hiring an established Interior Designer is a long term investment which can help increase the value of your new home through clever design. Advice on soft furnishings, furniture and a proven track record provides peace of mind for beginner renovators.

It is unlikely that a contractor will sit down with you to go through your design ideas and concepts, go through material and furnishing selections with you, or provide you with advice on furniture design and even electrical appliances. A contractor will also not usually manage your entire project.

How to choose the right Interior Design firm in Singapore

Do your homework! Apart from getting recommendations from your relatives and friends, attend online and offline exhibitions in order to experience the work of a wide range of Interior Design firms.

Be sure to ask about the various expertise of the firms: Some Interior Designers in Singapore focus on a particular type of design style. Find the designer that you feel comfortable with, and are able to communicate with effectively.

Image Credit: Home By Hitcheed Meet & Greet, November 2019

What to do before you meet your Interior Designer

First of all, create a list that includes your personal lifestyle, requirements, needs and wants. For example, many homeowners have particular preferences like walk-in wardrobes, study areas, or even kitchen islands. Do some research, you can find a lot of images and TV shows that can give you ideas for your new home. 

Check out previous projects on sites like ours - we even have a free Interior Designer Recommendation that could win you $500 worth of Harvey Norman Shopping Vouchers!

Decide the overall concept of your home design first, or at least decide on what you love and what you don’t like. Design styles range from modern and contemporary to Scandiavian and retro. Simply browse through some of the listed projects on our platform to understand the overall idea of each design concept and identify the ones that suit your personality and preferences. Some Interior Design firms are even offering Virtual Home Tours for you to visualise your dream design concepts.

Avoid trend chasing! Interior designer Coco, from the Interior Lab, says that it is more important for you to find your own style that suits your lifestyle needs, both for now and in the future. She suggests that you invest in high quality, timeless materials for the structural and essential parts of your home like the floors, kitchens and bathrooms. Save the trends for cheaper items like soft furnishings and furniture that you can more easily afford to replace once the trend is dead.

Mood Board Example

Image Credit: Pinterest

Prepare your floor plan, budget limitations and site photos (if possible); you could also create a moodboard that shows the colours and materials you prefer. Be prepared in order to have a smooth and straightforward conversation when you meet with your Interior Designer. 

Also remember that you don’t have to go with the first Interior Designer you meet. If you feel like the designer doesn’t suit your style, you can meet with other firms until you find the one that fits perfectly.

Factors affecting your renovation costs

Essentially, the cost of hiring an Interior Designer is dependent on a number of factors: 

  • Type of home and condition: Is it an HDB flat, condo, or landed house? The complexity of the renovation work for an old resale flat vis-a-vis a brand new HDB BTO apartment varies very differently due to the costs of demolishing, repairing and refurbishing work to replace whatever the previous homeowner has left behind

  • How much work you want done: This depends on your preference on the structure of the site. Do you want a lot of hacking to be done or are you satisfied with the present layout?

  • Type of materials: What kind of materials do you want to use for your new flooring, cabinets and kitchen countertop? These options will also affect the cost of your renovation work

  • The contractor or Interior Designer firm you choose: Different companies charge differently, of course.

The average HDB renovation cost falls between $30,000 and $60,000. Overall, the cost of the renovation really depends on the scale of your project. It is best to directly consult a few Interior Design firms to provide a quotation for your new home. 

Insider tips on how to avoid a renovation nightmare

Image Credit: Live Webinar Topic - Common Mistakes that Homeowners make leading to Renovation Nightmares by The Interior Lab

When considering your budget, do not automatically pick the lowest quote. You may end up locked into contracts that only use cheaper or less attractive materials, or you may not be able to make any changes to the designs. 

Renovating your home is a long term investment that can help future-proof your house. A well-designed concept will become a nightmare if you risk a cheaper but unprofessional contractor. 

Be vigilant and active in the construction process especially if you have decided not to engage in an Interior Designer to supervise the project. Visit the site regularly during the 8 to 12 weeks of construction to spot check things like the installation of the floor and plumbing. 

Image Credit: The Interior Lab

For ideas on what you can do in your home renovations, read our story on home interiors inspired by nature; discover great storage design tips, or learn about how to choose the right colours for your interior.

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