Hiring an Interior Designer

We had originally planned to do the interior design ourselves. We had a big ‘ol pinterest board full of things we liked, and we had a pretty good idea of our general aesthetic. We also did a fair amount of homework. But when we started looking at houses we really liked, we realized that tying together all of the various ideas we liked, along with the art and furniture we already have, might take some doing. We also didn’t feel particularly comfortable putting together a lighting plan for the house. So we decided to go about hiring an interior designer.

It seems like good lighting can go a long way towards making a house look great. But it isn’t something that is amenable to hard-and-fast rules. A lot of things depend on the particular space, the windows, the colors, etc. We had read books like Lighting: A Design Source Book, but it felt like we could use some help pulling everything together.

Our Craigslist Ad

So we went to craigslist, and for $7, posted a “want” ad in the “gigs” section. It went something like this:

We are looking to hire an interior designer – preferably a student – to assist with the design of a modern mountain home. We are currently living in Denver, though the build is in Summit County.

The Project:

The major architectural plans are finished for the home, but there is still detailing to be done (light plans, outlets, etc.). We broke ground a month ago; estimated completion is August 2021. The aesthetic is primarily mountain modern for a family. You would be working on interior design directly with us, the homeowners, potentially with input from the builder and architect.

What’s In It For You:

Ideally, this would be a portfolio-building project for a student. It’s not just conceptual, we’re building an actual house. There is also some exposure for the project. But at the same time, we realize that offering to “allow” people to do work “for the exposure” can be a pretty crappy thing to do. So, it’s a paying gig, but it doesn’t pay too terribly much. We are open to discussions on scope of work and payment structure (flat fee vs. hourly).

Additionally, we have a solid idea of what looks we like and what we don’t. We also have a fair amount of woodworking experience, and we are interested in building our own pieces for the house, so if you’re interested in flexing some creative muscle and designing built-ins, furniture, etc., this should be a hell of a fun project. We are also used to mentoring interns in our day jobs, so if reporting back to your professors or assisting with a portfolio project would be helpful to you, we’re happy to participate. We’re also happy to work primarily remotely (especially given our current pandemic climate).

If this sounds like a good fit, email us with any examples you have of your work and a paragraph or so on your experience and what you’d like to get out of the project. We’ll respond with some more details on the specifics of the project and we can go from there.

Thanks for your time.

The Response

We got a bigger response than I would have expected. We received a dozen different responses/inquiries, from a variety of different professionals.

Some were easy to weed out. They were computer-based designers who could model rooms in Auto-CAD, but who didn’t really have interior design or architecture experience. They had some pretty pictures, but that was about it.

Then there were designers based out of the Philippines and Sri Lanka who had experience in design and who were willing to work pretty cheap – like $10/hr. Cheap.

We got a couple of inquiries from who we figured our target market would be: students or designers who were either starting new firms or relocating.

And then we got some nibbles from full-service interior design firms, who were generally well outside our budget ($100-150/hr., $1,500 retainer to start).

We whittled things down to three finalists. A $10/hr. designer from the Philippines, a $700 flat fee designer from Sri Lanka, and a local designer who was building her firm after a move. We also checked in with Shaun to see what sort of work he could export to designers, like 3D models of the structure, and how much of the interior design work he wanted to do/was able to do.

Our Hire

Ultimately, we decided to go local and hire Ellen Martin, the principal of Artichoke Project Design & Drafting. We negotiated a flat fee with her ($800 for modeling and designing lighting layout, finish and color layout, outlet plan, and refining furniture plan), payable in 25% installments. We also talked about potentially designing built-ins for the house for me to build, though I may just handle that element myself. 

We connected her with Shaun so they could exchange information, and sent her all of the pinterest information and design ideas we had built up so far. We also sent her reference photos of the furniture in our current house that we planned to keep, along with measurements of the pieces. It felt good to move towards a more specific vision of the interior, and potentially the exterior as well.

Digging Update

Meanwhile, we got some good news on the dirt side of things. Our hole in the ground was still largely a hole in the ground that was filling with water. The excavator trenched out the sides of the building pad. He also expanded at trench that ran between our house and our neighbor’s, lining it with plastic so water from the trench wouldn’t drain into our site. The smaller trench drained, in part, a small spring that another neighbor hit when they were expanding their house. The trenching looked like it was paying off: our hole was drying out, albeit slowly.

Book Review: Get it Together!

I’ve read a lot of interior design books over the course of this process. Get It Together! by Orlando Soria is by far the gayest interior design book I’ve read so far. That’s not to say it’s overly feminine, or that all of the other books I’ve read have been written by straight people. I say that because it’s the only interior design book I’ve read that has section headings like “When you have a gay midlife crisis” or “When you design your dream home with your boyfriend and then he dumps you.” Those quotes should give you a pretty good sense of Orlando’s writing style. I found it sort of abrasive to start with, but then it grew on me. By the time he got to “how to design spaces that dudes feel comfortable in” (hints: minimalism, industrial, wood, mid-century anything, “no color okay maybe some blue”) I never felt so personally attacked by something I agreed with. It’s worth a read.