Here is a bit of advice I can offer to the general public.
1. Do they listen more than they talk? (I admit I have to listen a lot since I’m a talker by nature)
2. Do they survey items that have significant meaning to you? (I am not saying they will agree every belonging you have should be incorporated into the new design, however they should be seeking out those items that “relate to you as a sense of home” and try to showcase at least one of them)
3. Do they spend time trying to understand your (and your family’s) style along with your needs?
4. Do they spend time educating you on products and how to make good investments? A true designer is a consultant teaching you how to make smarter design choices.
5. Great Design does take time and unfortunately HGTV does not accurately explain this well since they only show consumers a fraction of the Design Process. As with other professions, “slop in results in slop out” and the results in rapid time frames that require omissions in the design process to meet deadlines usually end poorly.
6. Do they work with licensed and insured contractors and do they themselves have insurance and license?
7. Understanding there are different types of designers in the way they approach designing your project and understanding what type of designer you are looking for.
To simply finding the type, I will classify in three groups.
a) Mimickers, they can replicate designs from magazines or neighbors homes and many of them can create aesthetically pleasing spaces. However, they are not usually able to create “outside the box” designs and have difficulties when working with a style or material they are unfamiliar with.
b) Conceptual designers that can create new ideas and truly one of kind designs and experiment with new materials constantly, however they will be less likely to compromise the design by making alterations that compromise the concept. To them the total project is the design.
c) One styler, you can go into many of their design spaces and instantly know they designed it and they do not like to design any other style than that one. If you love that style you are in luck, however do not expect to see a dozen spaces designed similar and then get something completely different.
Some Interior Designers will want you to “start fresh”. There are many reasons for this. Some will argue it is to sell you more items while others say that they do not want to work with your “junk”. Something rarely understood in both residential and commercial design is that it is more difficult and more time consuming to incorporate existing products than starting with a clean slate and not all designers are talented and skilled in both new and reconfiguration work. If you are looking reuse many of your furnishings, you will need to “shop around until you find the right designer”.