The Most Important First Step to Ensure Success of Your Design Project 29

Starting the Interior Design Process:

The Most Important First Step to Ensure Success of your Interior Design Project


Communication is the cornerstone

So you’re finally ready to move forward on your design project.

You’re all starry-eyed as the realization of your dream home is starting to become a reality. You have decided on a designer to help you implement a plan .

And then all of a sudden the fear sets in.

You think you know what you want. You have lots of ideas and pictures to share. The problem is they don’t all necessarily go together. And you’re not sure what it all will cost. “What if I don’t like what my designer comes up with?”

Actually,  you have more control of the outcome than you may realize. Successful Interior Design is a partnership. And like all good relationships,  you get out of it according to what you contribute.

 The most important first step
to ensure success of your Interior Design project
is establishing a good line of communication.

All Interior Designers follow a standard procedure of processes for a project although individual approaches within each process can be wide and varied. The first step of all design projects is referred to as “programming” where a designer gets to know you and understand your wants and desires for your project. Budgetary restrictions are explored, expectations are clarified, a big picture of what you want to accomplish is created and preliminary concepts are discussed. Here begins the dance of mutual respect and trust which is a necessary ingredient as well.


Through the years, I have come to understand and appreciate
that the programming phase is the most critical step that will
determine the success or failure of a project.

 There are times both client and designer, in their excitement to get started on the project, will rush off in a direction that is too vague and weighted with assumptions. Giving the programming phase the emphasis and importance it deserves will reduce the need for later having to backtrack and redesign. It will save you money, disappointment, and frustration.


So how do we ensure that the programming phase
of your project will set us up for success?
It starts here.

1. Take time to fill out the design questionnaire.

I confess I am not fond of filling out questionnaires and am sure many others feel the same way. However, the more intentional you answer a questionnaire will set the stage for how your project proceeds. It is not a substitute for real conversationbut it will give us a starting point to dig a little deeper when we do talk and save you money in the long run.

2. Prioritize the goals of a project.

Before you meet up with a designer to discuss your project it is a good idea to make a list of “must haves” and “would like to haves”.  Also, include a column for “in my dreams” for those things you would love to have even though you know they may be beyond your expectations within your budget realm. Even if you are on a budget, it is important to let your designer know if there is a particular area you would stretch a little for. Almost all jobs entail some degree of compromise.  There may be one area of the job you would be willing to “skimp on” to make a “splurge” in another area possible.  It is important to convey this to your designer so they can arrive at the best solutions for your project.

3. Be real  about your budget.

Many people balk at disclosing their budget as they often don’t really know what things cost. However, everyone should know what they are able and/or willing to pay for a project. It is the designer’s responsibility to educate you on what can be expected within a certain budget range and if your budget is feasible to accomplish your expectations. It is never a good idea to conceal what you are willing to spend in hopes that you may get what you want for less. Likewise, a designer should be able to give you a guesstimate of the time it will take to complete your project and what that might cost you. Starting a project without some parameters is a recipe for disaster.

4. Say what you are thinking.

All too often, a client will hold back their own thoughts and only be interested in what clever ideas their designer will come up with. Then off they go down a bunny trail only to discover later that really wasn’t what the client needed or wanted. Without your active input and feedback, a designer cannot read your mind.

5. Be open to alternate ways of thinking.

Once a designer has totally listened to your thoughts and understands your lifestyle and needs, it is time for you to sit back and let him/her do their magic. A designer will take all the information, edit and mix it with their own creative juices to arrive at solutions that are uniquely tailored for you. It is important to understand and trust that your designer has a big picture of how all the elements will interact. Just because you love something doesn’t necessarily mean it will work in the total scheme of things. And you don’t have to have a love affair with every single decision that plays a supporting role.

6. Understand the process.

All good things take time. Interior Design projects require the orchestration of many elements. A clear understanding of the role of both designer and client needs to be established and agreed on from the very beginning.  It is important to understand that sometimes things happen in life that are beyond our control. A key fabric may be on back order, a furniture piece arrives damaged, a contractor may be off schedule or , or, or … the list goes on.  In a perfect world, it would be nice to close your eyes and have your designer wave a wand and your project be done. But that is not the way it usually happens. Unrealistic expectations of the process can derail the best of projects. Discuss potential problems that may arise in a project and it will circumvent any unnecessary drama later.

7. Include all decision-making parties.

It is important that all decision-making parties be present at initial meetings and that all needs are addressed from the very beginning.

 Establishing good communication channels from the onset of a project goes a far way in guaranteeing you will be happy with the end result. Interior Designers have your best interest at heart. Our goal is to not only create a beautiful aesthetic but to help you lead a healthier, happier and safer life.


29 thoughts on “The Most Important First Step to Ensure Success of Your Design Project

  1. Reply phong kham da khoa Apr 2,2019 1:57 pm

    Thanks to my father who shared with me regarding this website,
    this website is actually amazing.

  2. Reply Laurel Bern Jan 5,2016 6:58 pm

    Wonderful to see you in the blogosphere Terri. Great post with tons of sage advice for would-be clients! xo, Laurel

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Jan 5,2016 9:01 pm

      Thanks Laurel! I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by! I love reading your blog. You have been a great inspiration!

  3. Reply Caroline Dec 13,2015 1:10 pm

    All excellent points. I think everyone should be informed and the one I feel is the most critical is understanding the process. I love this article. Thank you for taking the time to point all of these out.

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 19,2015 3:23 pm

      Thank You Caroline for stopping by. I agree with you on the importance of understanding the process. Especially important today as interior designers work in very different ways. This is often confusing to the public.

  4. Reply belinda kelly Dec 10,2015 10:24 pm

    Very informative. You make great points!

  5. Reply Kimberly Montante Dec 10,2015 8:37 am

    Great educational advice for clients and potential clients. It is so important to do these first steps for a successful project!

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 12,2015 3:44 pm

      Yes, we all do this to some degree although I believe this step really needs more attention than it usually receives.

  6. Reply Melanie Harley Dec 9,2015 1:14 pm

    Great info! All Clients need this info before starting a project or before contacting their designer.

  7. Reply Mary Etta Dec 8,2015 4:25 am

    This is so well put. Letting the client know what to expect helps the designer as well as the client Thank you.

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 12,2015 3:42 pm

      Yes, this article is definitely for both designer and client. As designers, we sometimes do not push enough to get all the necessary info upfront that can cause much frustration and disappointment down the road.

  8. Reply Silvia Karounos Dec 8,2015 4:08 am

    How complete and detailed is this information!Starting with the initial communication and following with each steps through the design process. Great article.

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 12,2015 3:40 pm

      Absolutely Silvia! I realize more than ever now how critical it is to get the communication right from the very beginning!

  9. Reply Karen Dunn Dec 5,2015 3:29 pm

    So true that it’s too easy to get swept away by the excitement of a new project. Great tips for homeowners AND designers to start with a good foundation!

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 12,2015 3:39 pm

      Yes, you are absolutely correct that this applies to both designer and client! I have to admit there have been times I have learned this the hard way.

  10. Reply Julissa Dec 5,2015 4:27 am

    Great information to pass along to potential clients! Genius thanks!

  11. Reply Alicia Dec 4,2015 3:04 pm

    Great article. I’m sure clients appreciate the detailed steps you’ve presented to ensure that their project is a siliccess.

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 4,2015 3:48 pm

      Thanks Alicia! I hope all clients read and understand they do have some control on the end result of their project.

  12. Reply Elle Dec 4,2015 1:31 pm

    This is really informative to anyone getting ready to take on a design project and helps to put a focuses on key points of communication breakdowns BEFORE they happen.

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 4,2015 3:49 pm

      Yes, you are right Elle! I like to discuss and prevent problems before they happen!

  13. Reply Mod Interior Dec 4,2015 1:12 pm

    Very good information. The points are all so important to successfully work with a designer.

  14. Reply Khatanah Dec 4,2015 12:18 pm

    Great article and tips. I agree with every point and would love to have potential clients read something like this.

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 4,2015 3:51 pm

      Yes, I think I will be sure to direct all new and potential clients to this post!

  15. Reply Khatanah Dec 4,2015 12:17 pm

    Great article and tips. I agree with every point abd would love to have potential clients read something like this.

  16. Reply Veronica Dec 4,2015 6:12 am

    This is very informative and an article that every potential client should read. I am very adamant about doing the programming thoroughly to avoid these things happening.

    • Reply TerriDavisArtDesign Dec 4,2015 3:52 pm

      I, too, put a lot of emphasis on this step. So very important. It sets the stage for the entire project!

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