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A professional perspective
When decorating your new home, find the right interior designer to partner with


August 2016

Moving into a new house is like stepping onto a blank canvas. With so many possibilities, where do you start? Luckily, you can find a partner in an interior designer with experience transforming client wishes into reality.

While selecting a designer can be daunting, as with most endeavors, you can make the task smoother with a little preparation. Before approaching a designer, consider what you want and what your priorities for a project are. Then visit design showrooms, review designersí portfolios and ask people you know if they can recommend a designer.

For more specifics, we reached out to a few local designers ó Emily Ebben of Warren Barnett Interiors in Brookfield; John Edbauer, ASID, and Jessica Forston of Fringe Interior Design in Whitefish Bay; and Deb Zunker of Boston Storeís Brookfield-based furniture gallery. Below, each professional offers advice regarding what to ask a potential collaborator, what an interior designer may ask you, and how to ultimately choose one that will work well with you.

Starting Point

"What their needs are is very important," Ebben says. "How you live will help drive the design. Some homes are a (look and donít touch) museum, and others are made for everyday activity. The more that they can tell us about themselves, their family and the home, the better."

Another good question a client must be able to answer, Zunker says, is "What is the budget?" "Thatís important, because we are both spinning our wheels if (the client) wants a modest cost and we are showing them high-end only," she explains. "The process can be intimidating, but really, no job is too big or too small."

"How long will this take?" is a natural client question, say Edbauer and Ebben. After all, if a makeover is needed to meet the demands of an upcoming occasion ó a housewarming or holiday, for example ó the anticipated delivery date of a finished project is critical.

Fine Tuning

Rather than talking styles, be prepared to show your personal style with examples. What you call "art deco" may be "contemporary" to a designer, so share photos or point out products that you like and that reflect the look you want.

Should you collaborate first in a store or in your home? There are advantages to both, but brainstorming in both places is advisable.

"Being in the home first to explore (is helpful)," Edbauer says. "I can better understand what a client wants to do when I see the environment. Then, when we are here in the store, we can choose different directions more easily." This includes homes under construction too.

On the other hand, for Forston, a store visit often begins the process. "Sometimes they feel more at ease," she says. "A lot of people have a lot of confidence in what they want because they have been on Pinterest and Houzz. However, you also find that people donít quite remember their house exactly, so when we come out, it comes together."

Ebben and Zunker say their respective showrooms spark ideas a client may not have previously considered.

"Sometimes something will catch their eye, and that starts a whole new conversation," Zunker says.

Bottom Line

A few key characteristics are important in selecting an interior designer, these experts say.

Zunker says to look for a designer who is a good listener. Ebben agrees, adding that understanding the need is part of making a positive connection.

"Communication and a sense of humor," says Edbauer. "You canít talk down to a customer. You can cut to the chase and make it a fun as well as worthwhile experience. Iím the one with a thousand questions, so itís important to anticipate that and think through how to respond. Thatís what makes a project work." m



This story ran in the August  2016 issue of: