North Bay Biz: Investing in Professional Interior Design Services

If you’re considering a home remodel or interior redesign, hiring an interior designer can make things run a lot smoother with better, longer-lasting results. Here are some things to consider about the process.

The investment of a remodel. All remodels are expensive therefore, foresight is critical to ensure there won’t be necessary-but-forgotten elements when the job is complete. When homeowners say they know what they want, 90 percent of the time, they’re just becoming aware of a trend that’s on its way out of style. Using an interior designer keeps homeowners on the front-end of upcoming trends, which means their space will look current longer. This can easily add as much as five years to the look of a home, ensuring its marketability for resale purposes.

Professionally designed vs. non-professionally designed. The difference between a professionally designed home, and one that isn’t, is enormous. This is primarily because most do-it-yourselfers tend to be fearful of making a mistake and are overly cautious—everything end up looking bland and uninteresting. They often spend as much money as those who hire a professional interior designer, but the end result is shockingly different.

Hundreds, even thousands, of decisions are made during the course of a remodel. Even the heartiest homeowners can run out of decision-making steam midway through the process when they’re not using an interior designer. It’s the interior designer’s job to build each decision onto the last to create a coherent, harmonious result and save the homeowners time by expertly guiding their choices between a much narrower and focused field of selections, all in the proper sequence.

Whole home vision. The value of using an interior designer is that he or 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 is completed. A great interior designer ensures the end result is seamless—the home looks like it’s always been that way.

The key to complex projects. A great interior designer weighs the thousands of decisions and selections that go into the design and makes sure they all work. A well-designed home will have a flow 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.

Proper lighting for best visual. No matter how good the design is, it won’t work if you can’t see it properly. Be sure your interior designer stays abreast of all the latest technologies to choose from lighting options that are in compliance with current California electrical codes.

Choosing an interior designer. The best interior designers promise their clients a unique expression of their likes, lifestyle and style, and promises not to duplicate it anywhere else; every project is a reflection of the people who live in the house.

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

Why use an interior designer with 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 and so forth, making sure everything functions and fits in the space. An interior designer looks holistically at the entire house and ensures the redesigned kitchen is the right size and flows harmoniously with the entire home space. The interior designer and kitchen and bath designer collaborate on the overall look, finishes and product selections. The finished room will never look like an island in the rest of the house.

Distinguishing interior design from other disciplines. An interior designer has a much broader design background and looks at the entire home as a whole even when considering redesigning just one room. They’re 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 the home, blending color and texture throughout in timeless and sophisticated style.

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 up and approved by the local city/county building department per state guidelines to pull permits and begin work. 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 isn’t required.

Various interior designer business models. It’s 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. Others work on one that’s billed strictly on an hourly basis and never charging for travel time. This way, clients can avail themselves of the expertise and services and then, if they felt the need to shop around themselves, the interior designer was compensated for their time and expertise.

Helen Sharritt is a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design and has a fine arts background. She’s a licensed interior designer in California and in Chicago, where she still has an active practice. She has 30 years’ experience, is based in Santa Rosa, and serves clients in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties. You can reach her at or (707) 569-7044.

By Helen Sharritt, from 2013 Biz Tips, Bonus 500 (North Bay Biz)

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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.

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