You Don't Have to 'Do It Yourself'

Hiring a Designer might be simpler than you think

You Don't Have to 'Do It Yourself'
Photo by Robin Callan

In these days of rabid multitasking, it seems that we are somehow expected to master within minutes any project that comes before us. That you have to do it yourself is a myth and is the very reason we have professionals. Would you try to repair your car's engine without knowing how to go about it? No, you'd go to an automobile mechanic. Would you try to defend yourself in a court case without an attorney? Hopefully not.

Whether you're buying a new home, are tired of your surroundings, need to update your home to suit your new upwardly mobile life, or are simply ready for a change but have no clear vision in mind, then hire a design professional to help.

The very title of "interior designer" can be off-putting; "interior decorator" is worse, conjuring up images of someone named Mr. Bobby with a Yorkshire terrier tucked under his arm and a scarf trailing behind him as he flits through your home using the words and phrases like "Aubusson," "Ming dynasty," and "Louis Quatorze" while pointing to your prized possessions and shrieking, "Take this trash to the dump!" But Mr. Bobby is largely a creation of the movies, and you are unlikely to meet him or anyone like him in Central Texas.

In Texas, those who advertise themselves as interior designers must be licensed by the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners (www.tbae.state.tx.us). Licensing is good but not entirely necessary, unless you have a commercial project in which your interior designer has to meet fire codes, health codes, accessibility requirements, etc. There are plenty of skilled professionals who are not licensed and therefore offer their services under titles like "interior decorator," "design guru," or, simply, "designer."

Interior design is not only for the rich. There are definitely affordable options. Robin Callan of Room Fu (www.roomfu.com) calls herself a "design guru" rather than an interior designer. Says Callan, "The best thing is to do plenty of Web research, which allows you to see a designer's portfolio online before contacting them." Callan demystifies the process, dispelling the myth of "If you have to ask, you can't afford it," by listing her rates on her website. "Working with a designer is like a marriage," she says. "Chemistry is critical in that you're both working together to achieve a common goal."

Jerri Kunz (www.jerrikunz.com), a licensed interior designer and fixture on the Austin design scene for more than 30 years, concurs. "Take your time, and talk to more than one designer. Most importantly, follow your instincts." Interior design can be a lengthy, ongoing process. "It's like dating," says Kunz. "You don't want to go out with someone you don't want spend lots of time with." She feels that chemistry is more important than a designer's portfolio. "There's only one of you, and the designer hasn't met you before, so the portfolio isn't as important as chemistry. What you see in a portfolio is only an indication of what an interior designer can do for you."

A designer must be part artist, part technician, and part mind reader. According to Marc Harmon (www.marcharmon.com), a designer can help you clarify your desires and determine the scope of the project. He recommends keeping an "inspiration file" of photos, colors, and magazine tear-outs to show your designer. He's available for everything from being hired at an hourly rate for consultation to simple jobs like finding a certain piece of furniture to totally renovating your house.

Famous for his commercial projects such as Uchi, Mars, MTV's Real World house, the Peacock, the Belmont, and Sage Salon, local design celeb Joel Mozersky (www.joelmozersky.com) calls himself a decorator (though he's nothing like our fictional Mr. Bobby) and also does private residences. He chooses his clients the same way they choose him -- through establishing trust and compatibility. He, like most designers, enjoys the consultation process and recommends taking your time and not being influenced by your friends' and neighbors' idea of what is right for you.

In short, do your research, ask questions, have an idea of what you want, establish a budget, and listen to what your designer says. That's why you hired them, right?

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Interior Designer, Mr. Bobby, Texas Board of Architectural Examiners, interior decorator, design guru, Robin Callan, Room Fu, Jerri Kunz, Marc Harmon, Uchi, Joel Mozersky, hiring

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