There is a lot of confusion in the industry in regards to the all-important, interior design consultation. I hear a lot of confused and misguided information amongst interior designers when it comes to consultations. They ask should they be free, should they be paid, how long should I stay at the client’s house for, what should I take and the list goes on.
I have seen everything on the market, from free “first meeting” consultations to paid services. In my office, an interior design consultation is a paid 1-3 hour timeslot where we resolve my client’s most pressing problem. Sometimes my client is testing me out for a larger job, but most of the time, they pay me for my time to help resolve an issue and help them make decisions on things quickly.
I never do a free interior design consultation. I provide so much information and help that I am happy to risk losing the “potential client” if they don’t want to pay for my visit. Also, in order to prepare for the meeting, I undertake at least 2 more hours of preparation, not to mention the travel time, which always equals to a full day’s worth of work, especially as I often allow a few hours of follow up questions/calls. So as you can see my clients receive excellent value for their time with me and this explains why I make sure I am super prepared to go to my meeting.
That means I don’t just show up with a pen and notebook. I show up with the tools to solve their most pressing problems. Often a client will say that they just want my help with making decisions on the type of furniture and the colours, but it’s not until I’m in the consultation where I realize my client needs much more guidance and I show them that possibly the choice of furniture may be too large or too small for the room that their potential layout could be improved. That means, if I had of come unprepared, I would have been able to show my client the reasoning behind my guidance.
So what do you take to an interior design consultation? I usually take two bags to an interior design consultation. My survey bag and my swatch/sample bag.
I like to separate the survey stuff from the swatches, mainly because sometimes the survey equipment can get dirty and the sharp edges can puncture my colour cards and make them look grubby really quickly. Keeping them separate helps me find things faster too as having a big bag full of stuff can get really heavy and annoying.
So is the list of things I pack to take to my interior design consultations and some tips to help you decide whether you’ll need these for yourself too.
Even though you most probably won’t be undertaking a survey during a consultation, you will often need quick dimensions here and there to work out if a piece of furniture might fit in the room or to work out a run of joinery units.
My survey bag remains the same whether I use it for architecture or interior design, so I try not to mess with it as that’s how things get lost, misplaced or not put back in the right bag. I try to avoid any chance of looking unprofessional during my visit, so I make sure that I am always organized. So this is my essential list:
What To Pack In A Survey Bag
These are my staples, so they never leave my bag (I actually have two of each of these as I use them in my studio too so that I don’t have to keep taking them out of my consultation bag).
One thing I always do, however is thinking about what my client might want to discuss during our time together and add a few extra things into the mix just for discussion or comparison. That could be just as simple as throwing in some tile samples in the style my client is looking for if my meeting is about renovating a bathroom (even if they have already chosen their tiles!)
What To Pack In A Swatch / Sample Bag
Sometimes I wish I could take my whole library to an interior design consultation and often, even that wouldn’t be enough! Some clients genuinely want to see every option under the sun and that’s because they haven’t taken the time to get a clear idea of what it is they want and they send themselves round in circles. If they let me, I help them come to a clear decision to help them save time and feel happy with what they have chosen. Some clients just love playing around with samples and love the process of choosing! They are the ones I tell about my mentorship program!
I hope that helped you pack your interior designer’s consultation bag.