An initial design consultation with an interior designer is an exciting first step in creating the home of your dreams. This introductory meeting allows you and the designer to discuss your vision, lifestyle needs, and goals for the project. Going into an interior design consultation fully prepared allows you to make the most of this valuable time to determine if you and the designer are a good fit to work together.

Farmhouse style kitchen

Working With Remodeling Companies

In addition to individual interior designers, many full-service kitchen and bath remodeling contractors offer in-house, free interior design consultation services. These consultations serve as an opportunity to learn about the company’s specific remodeling capabilities while also discussing your interior design needs. During an initial meeting, ask questions to understand how the company approaches both remodeling construction and collaborating with clients on interior design.

Some key discussion points when meeting with remodeling companies include:

  • What remodeling services do they provide – some specialize in kitchens and baths, while others offer whole-home capabilities.

  • If they have dedicated, experienced interior designers on staff or only provide design as an add-on service.

  • How do they involve you in selecting finishes like cabinetry, countertops, flooring, etc?

  • What their typical timeline is from design consultation to project completion?

  • If they have relationships with outside interior designers they partner with them on complex design projects.

  • How they can provide references specifically for clients who use their design services?

Be sure to ask if meeting with their in-house designer is part of a free, no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation. Coming prepared with your vision, budget, and questions allows you to effectively assess if the company can deliver the interior design you expect.

A remodeling company with an experienced, collaborative interior design team can be a major benefit when completing whole-home renovations. Take time at the consultation to get a good sense of their design abilities Align with your style and needs.

Stylish white kitchen

How To Prepare For Initial Design Consultation

Here are tips on how to be fully prepared for a productive and informative interior design consultation:

Do Your Research

Before meeting any potential interior designer, learn about their experience, style, and processes by exploring their website and online portfolio. Look for designers whose previous work and design aesthetics align with your style and vision. Pay attention to reviews and testimonials to get a sense of their professionalism, communication style, and rapport with potential clients.

Research several designers before deciding on initial design consultations so you have options to compare. And don’t be shy about asking questions beforehand by phone or email to determine if pursuing an initial consultation makes sense.

Have Inspiration Images Available

Good designers will ask you to bring photos that represent the look, colors, textures, and feel you hope to achieve in your space. Create a Pinterest board, collect magazine clippings, or print out internet images that inspire you. Also, take photos of spaces or features you like in your current home to share your style. These visual references give designers invaluable insight into your preferences to guide the design plan.

Prepare Specifics About Your Project

To make the most of limited consultation time, be prepared to provide key details about your project like your budget, timeline, and any structural restrictions. Have floor plans and measurements available if possible. Be ready to communicate how you use your existing space and what changes you hope to make by renovating or redecorating. This practical information helps the designer start formulating an appropriate scope of work.

Understand How Interior Designers Set Fees

Interior design is a customized service profession without set prices. Designers typically charge a either flat rate, fee, hourly rate, or percentage of the total project budget. The initial consultation presents an opportunity to discuss fee structures to ensure expectations align. Don’t hesitate to ask about pricing options, payment schedules, and what is included in the designer’s services. A mutually agreeable fee schedule and contract help establish a smooth working relationship.

Bring Fabric Swatches or Color Samples You Like

In addition to overall inspiration images, bringing specific samples of colors, patterns, textures, or materials gives the designer tangible examples of what appeals to you visually. This could include swatches from previous projects, pieces of existing furnishings, favorite bedding or pillows, or just colored paper representing hues you’re drawn to. Positive reactions to actual physical materials make it easier for the designer to incorporate pieces you’ll love.

Come With Open Questions

A design consultation is your opportunity to interview the designer, so don’t be afraid to lead the conversation and ask questions. According to experienced designers at Houzz, one of the most overlooked but critical questions to ask potential interior designers is “Can you provide references from previous clients?” Speaking with designers’ past clients provides transparent insight into their working style, communication skills, timeliness, and professionalism.

It’s also important to find out how they establish scopes of work and estimated costs for different services. Come prepared with the questions most vital for deciding if this is the right designer-client fit or potential client.

Bring Decision-Makers or Provide Feedback Channels

If you will be making design decisions with input from other family members or stakeholders, try to bring a few notes along to consultations whenever possible. This allows the designer to hear everyone’s perspective from the outset. When others cannot attend, set up a process to share notes, images, and options to gather regular input, whether through email, shared Pinterest boards, or video conferencing.

Keep an Open Mind

While interior design consultations provide essential client insight, the best designers also educate and elevate your vision. Be open to designers suggesting new bath or kitchen remodeling ideas or steering you away from detrimental choices. Skilled designers know how to tactfully guide clients towards cohesive spaces that not only look beautiful but function optimally. Trust their expertise while still voicing your personal preferences.

Be Honest With Your Feedback

Don’t let politeness stop you from providing honest opinions during an initial consultation. Whether you dislike certain suggestions, feel uneasy about prospective costs, or have other concerns, voice them to avoid missteps. Good designers want candid feedback to best align the design plan with your goals. Discuss any hesitations or objections to make sure you feel comfortable moving forward with the process.

Ask About Their Design Process and Timeline

Every designer works differently in bringing a concept to fruition. Inquire about how they research, source, and design spaces and what role you play at each stage of the structured process. Do they begin with an overall concept or focus on one space at a time? Learn about timeframes for presentations, revisions, and installations. Understanding a designer’s unique approach and timeline avoids frustration and ensures the best results.

Request Interior Designer References or Testimonials

Do not overlook asking an interior designer for references during an initial meeting. Most will gladly provide names and contact information for previous clients. Speaking directly with past clients gives invaluable insight into working with a designer. Ask for examples of completed projects in your budget range as well. Strong testimonials and related portfolio samples give you confidence in good rapport and the designer’s ability to execute your vision skillfully.

Trust Your Instincts

An interior design project entails an intimate collaboration built on mutual understanding and shared design sensibility. The consultation’s interpersonal dynamic often provides a clear sense of relationship compatibility. Do you feel comfortable asking questions and voicing opinions honestly? Does the designer listen attentively and “get” your style? If the consultation leaves you feeling dismissed, pressured, or unsatisfied, keep looking for the right design partner.

Elegant style kitchen with white cabinets


The initial interior design consultation meeting sets the tone for the entire client-designer relationship. Coming prepared with relevant information, clear communication, and an open mind leads to a productive meeting where you can determine if you’ve found an ideal partner to bring your home vision to life. With research and honest dialog, you can confidently make a smart decision about moving forward with a design professional.