My best friend’s father is a contractor and project manager, and brought to my attention after my post on when to contact a decorator, that my post was only applicable if the decorator actually knows what they are doing… which is often not the case!
So as a rebuttal, here are 5 questions to ask your decorator before engaging with them.
1. Do you have any formal training?
I will be honest, that before completing my formal training in Interior Decorating (which I completed top of the class *fist pump*), I thought I knew it all. How difficult can it be? Window treatments, move a couch… surely it’s all about natural talent and having a ‘feel’ for interiors? Wrong. Having talent only helps with the touchy feely stuff, which only happens at the end of the project when you place furniture. What about the whole technical bit in the middle. Reading plans, electrical layout, floor levels, load-bearing walls, space planning etc. While these skills are cemented over time as you gain experience, you get taught the basics on any accredited interior program, which is crucial to the success of a project.
2. Do you understand basic draughting and how to read a plan?
Can you identify a load bearing wall on a plan? Do you know that it will require major engineering work and support beams to remove that wall? Are you aware that all structural changes to your home now has to be signed off by an Architect with a consultation from a structural engineer if necessary? While a successful decorator will be working hand in hand with an architect, it is critical for your decorator to know these things…especially if you are trying to cut costs and are using a sub-standard builder, else it can all come tumbling down with your home ending up to be way more open plan than anticipated after the roof came tumbling down!
3. How do you do your space planning?
A lot of what we do as decorators works on feel, but when it comes to space planning, I prefer a more technical approach. The room needs to be drawn up, scale replica’s of the furniture needs to be placed on the diagram. That can either be done with 3D modelling software, or if you are old-school like me…blocks and circles on graph paper! This is especially key when there is no existing space, and the decorator is working off plan. There would be nothing worse than having your architect design this airy space, for it to be cluttered with oversized furniture by your pushy decorator.
4. What experience do you have in managing a budget?
While the dream is to have an interior assignment where budget is no option, the current economic climate requires clever planning and proper financial management of any project to ensure you remain within budget. Will there be overruns – almost guaranteed, but if you are a good decorator, you would have planned for that in the budget. This is where I can toot my own horn a bit. As a Chartered Accountant that worked in senior positions in commerce, I firmly believe that that the management of your budget (the back office) is just as crucial to a project as the selection of finishes and furniture placement (the front shop). The key is to always stay in communication with the client, keep the budget up to date, and timeously inform the client if you anticipate any problems or short-comings. Imagine how short lived your project completion glow will be, if you are slapped with a massive bill you were not anticipating!
5. Will you be managing the project?
It is important to know at the onset of the project, who is the person in charge! If I am appointed at the project manager, then all the other contractors fall under me…tiler, electrician, builder, plumber etc. I will then manage their timeframes, deliverables, costs and quality of their work. Rightfully, I will also charge a %fee on their costs to do so. But then the question should be – What experience do you have in managing a group of sub-contractors, and how will you be managing the project. As a decorator, I cannot charge the project management fee, and then only be on site once a week for 15min to check on the project. I need to be actively involved, to pro-actively prevent bad workmanship, and overruns as a result of having to re-do bad work. But, in the same breath, if you decide to manage the project yourself, you cannot expect the decorator to ‘keep an eye’ on the contractors if they are not going to be able to charge for their time.
Please keep the feedback coming! I love it when my readers engage with me.