HSI Outline of Services


Working With an Interior Designer…The Process

This Outline of Services reflects how Helen Sharritt, President/ Interior Designer of Helen Sharritt Interiors Ltd., works with her clients.

About Helen Sharritt

Helen Sharritt is a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design. She specializes in home design and has done extensive work in collaboration with kitchen and bath designers, contract designers and architects. Her practice in California has been exclusively in residential design. She is a licensed designer in California and in Illinois, where she still has an active practice.

Various Interior Designer Business Models

It is important to note that all interior designers have their own business model. Most work on an hourly fee basis. Some work by retainer and then invoice monthly, much like a lawyer. Some work on an hourly fee plus a mark-up on all products used on a project.

Helen Sharritt Interiors Ltd. Business Model

Helen decided, back in the 1990’s, to turn her practice into one that was billed strictly on an hourly basis and never charging for travel time. This way, clients could avail themselves of her expertise and services and then if they felt the need to shop around themselves to get products at the lowest possible price, she was compensated for her time and expertise.

Designer Trade Discounts

Notably, Helen receives trade discounts from her suppliers and passes those savings discounts straight through to her clients. The amount of money clients save on products working through Helen is typically greater than clients can find for themselves shopping all around. These savings often more than cover her design fee over the life of the project. Her clients appreciate that they never have to worry about “what does this really cost?” Another benefit to clients using Helen’s preferred vendors is her clients get the service and clout that comes with the relationship Helen has with all her suppliers resulting in more influence when the occasional problem arises.

Design Center Access

Helen has access to the design centers that are “open to the trade” exclusively that her clients don’t have access to without her.

Specialty Fields within Interior Design

Hospitality Designers specialize in hotel and restaurant design
Healthcare Designers specialize in hospitals and doctor offices
Contract Designers specialize in commercial office spaces
Residential Designers specialize in home design

What Type of Interior Designer is Helen Sharritt?

Helen Sharritt is a residential interior designer, not to be confused with a kitchen and bath designer or an architect. Many design projects that are purely cosmetic can be handled without the need for an architect.

Distinguishing Interior Design from Other Disciplines

An interior designer has a much broader design background looking at the entire home as a whole even when considering redesigning just one room. An interior designer is well trained to work on all aspects of home design. An architect creates the overall structure; a kitchen and bath designer is charged with creating beautiful form and function in critical work and retreat areas in a home; and, the interior designer creates the beautifully coordinated and coherent look throughout – it’s all a wonderful collaboration!

When Is an Architect Needed?

When changing location of rooms, plumbing, creating additions or altering load bearing walls, an architect’s services are required. These changes have to be drawn and approved by the local city/county building department per state guidelines to pull permits and begin work.

Building Permits – To Pull or Not To Pull?

Many people try to get around the permit process to save some money but when they try to sell their homes it will be discovered and most often will require construction correction and steep fines paid before the house can be sold. It’s not worth trying to get around pulling permits.

In general, if a room is strictly getting a cosmetic change, no changes in plumbing or electric or new windows or exterior doors, just an apple to apple cosmetic update, a permit is not required.

Why Use an Interior Designer and an Architect?

An architect’s specialty is the overall layout and structure; the building itself. While highly important because it is the bones of the project, an architect’s focus is not carried through to the fine details of furnishings, window treatments, artwork, accessories and all the other elements that pull everything together for a complete look. This is the realm of interior design.

Why Use an Interior Designer and a Kitchen and Bath Designer?

A kitchen and bath designer translates the owners’ wish list for a redesigned kitchen or bath into the working pieces of an order for cabinetry, stone, tile, appliances, etc. making sure everything functions and fits in the space. However many times, when just using a kitchen and bath specialist, the finished room looks like an island in the rest of the house.

Whole Home Vision

The value of using an interior designer is that he/she holds the whole home vision for the entire scope of the project regardless of the timeline. The interior designer makes sure, even if the plan is implemented over years, that it all works together and that the first part of the remodel doesn’t look dated by the time the last room to be remodeled and decorated is completed. A great interior designer ensures the end result is seamless – the home looks like it has always been this way.

For example, Helen has been working for a Chicago family from 1997 to present, beginning with their basement transformation to a playroom, bathroom and home office and over the years moving upstairs a floor at a time to last year completing a paver patio and walkway design, this year furnishing the patio, and currently starting work on the master suite. These clients won’t make a move without her and when the next project comes up, they bring her in. They find it to be much more cost effective then bringing someone new up to speed. Helen knows their likes and wishes so well she can actually design for them remotely. This is the gift of a wonderful designer/client relationship.

How the Relationship Gets Started

The purpose of the first appointment with a new client is to get to meet them, get an overview of what it is they want to do, get a sense of who they are, their lifestyle, age of children, empty nesters, how they like to live, do they cook, entertain, how long they plan to live in the home, their budget, etc…

The Next Step

Designer and clients usually come away from that appointment with a feeling whether this can be a good fit, both for the client and designer, and whether it’s a relationship that can move forward. It’s kind of like a first date. At the end of the appointment the clients are asked if they need to sleep on it or if they feel comfortable making a game plan and booking a next appointment to get started.

Meeting Recaps

Back at the office, Helen always sends a follow-up e-mail to the client with a synopsis of the appointment: what was talked about, what was decided and identifying next steps. This creates a paper trail for both of parties so when a specific detail needs to be revisited down the road, there is a way to check back and retrieve the information.

Project Scope

The scope of project can be very simple, from just decorating one room with a short timeline and a specific deadline like a holiday or wedding. Sometimes it’s very complex and entails much up-front work to develop a realistic budget, a game plan, create a team, and a timeline. The billable design hours when starting a new project can seem like a lot upfront, but as soon as the client starts implementing the plan, the up-front cost begin coming back to them in the way of Helen’s designer discounts applied to orders.

Two Recent Whole House Remodels

Sometimes the scope of project is very complex. Helen has worked on two whole house remodels in the past 5 years. The first remodel in Tiburon was a complete gut with just the foundation left intact from the previous home because the new house had to pass local code for Tiburon and had to fit within the same footprint of the house that was torn down.

Very creatively, Helen’s team was able to add significant square footage without adding a second story. Second stories on hillside areas with fantastic views (this vista was across the Bay to San Francisco) impact the views of houses around them so it’s a very delicate situation that has to be finessed to please not only the homeowner but all the neighbors.

The second whole house gut was completed 2 years ago in Santa Rosa. This house is a four story home on a hillside, and while the exterior walls stayed intact, it was fitted with all new windows, doors and deck on the outside. The house was gutted down to the studs within the existing structure, adding a two story addition, a kitchen on the first level and a master bedroom and bath above; a completely renovation of the entire house. Before and after pictures are on Helen’s website: www.helensharrittinteriors.com

Construction on both homes was completed in a year. For whole house renovations, most clients opt to move out of the house. Renovating homes on this scale without the clients moving out would have taken quite a while longer.

The Key to Complex Projects

The key to extensive projects like this is that the designer has to weigh the thousands of decisions and selections that go into the design and make sure that they all work. A well designed home, when finished, looks like it was always that way. There is a flow to the house that carries from room to room with a complimentary palate of textures and colors that work well together and create a dynamic visual and a restful feeling.

Professionally Designed v. Non-professionally Designed

The difference between a professionally designed home and one that hasn’t had that attention is enormous for the vast majority. Primarily because most people when doing things themselves tend to be fearful of making a mistake and so they are overly cautious and everything looks bland and uninteresting in the end. Now those people can spend as much money as those who hire a professional but the end result is shockingly different.

“I don’t want my house to look like Helen Sharritt’s house, or one of her clients’ homes.”

For those who say this: There is a legitimate concern in that statement. Helen certainly knows that over the years she has become familiar with other designers’ work to the point of walking in the front door and knowing with whom the client worked. To that concern, Helen promises her clients she will give them a unique expression of their likes, lifestyle and style, and promises not to duplicate it anywhere else.  It’s like the difference between purchasing a beautiful one-of-a-kind piece of art and buying a print that has 2,500 copies. The difference is night and day and the pictures of Helen’s projects bear witness to the fact that every project is a reflection of the person she designs for.

Ahead of Trends

Another benefit to using an interior designer is that it puts you about 5 years ahead of a trend… so your space will look timeless and not dated shortly after finishing.

Fine Arts Background

Helen has a fine arts background and loves to design rooms around interesting pieces of art. You will never find her trying to match a picture to a couch or vice versa. Never!

Proper Lighting for Best Visual

Helen also has an advanced education in lighting. No matter how good the design is, it’s no good if you can’t see it properly. Builders are notorious for under lighting a space and choosing cans and fixtures that are practically prehistoric. Helen stays abreast of all the wonderful technologies to choose from and that are in compliance with current electrical codes.


Designed by

Helen Sharritt Interiors has been designing since 1985 with practices in the Chicagoland and San Francisco Bay area, including wine country in northern California. With graduate degrees from UC Berkeley and the New York School of Interior Design, Helen Sharritt puts years of design experience to work for you, creating a personalized home environment for you and your family.

2 Comments to “HSI Outline of Services”

  1. That is a very good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise info… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read article!

    • Maureen says:

      We really appreciate hearing from you that you found one of our informational articles a “must read!”
      We strongly believe the more we educate our clients and potential clients about remodeling and the myriad decisions to be made during the construction process, the smoother everyone’s journey will be. Thank you for your feedback! Helen and Maureen

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

Mail (will not be published) (required)


Your message