When you’re considering hiring an interior designer, there are a few ways to approach the decision. Maybe you’d like someone to help you refresh a room or you’d prefer to bring a designer onboard during the planning and building phases for your new home. Regardless of how big or small your project is, the first thing to focus on is making sure you have confidence and trust in their expertise. Think of it this way: You can build a shelf yourself, but it wouldn’t be as good as one crafted by a skilled carpenter, would it? Hiring an interior designer is very similar to the process of vetting any other trade professional you would rely upon.
An interior designer ideally comes onboard during the earliest phases of a project—while you’re creating a floor plan, making decisions about lighting or if a particular stone or wood finish is appropriate for your overall design scheme, or to help make any number of other decisions and recommendations along the way—and they bring a wealth of experience and education that the average person just doesn’t have. But sometimes, people realize they need help with a project only when they encounter problems in doing it on their own.
“Maybe they bought a sofa, but couldn’t get it in the front door when it was delivered,” says Leila Kharem, co-owner (with Andrea Ackermann) of Karen Houghton Interiors (KHI). “Or, maybe they got overwhelmed because they simply don’t know what they want or where to focus their budget.”
Trust and Vision Are Key to the Process
Every designer should be able to give you references, so make sure you get them. You’ll be taking a leap of faith in their ability to deliver results, and will invest money upfront before you ever see results. Ask to see samples of their work, and look at their website and reviews from your local Better Business Bureau.
If you’re new to the idea of using an interior designer, you could begin with a few small requests—buy me a sofa or do a couple of window treatments—and see if your styles are compatible and you feel you can trust them.
If an interior designer joins you in the early phases of planning and building a new home, they can help you select surfaces (counters, flooring, walls), and keep a palette of style and color that complements your holistic vision.
“You don’t have to have everything all thought out when you work with a designer you trust,” Andrea says. “It can be hard to articulate what you want or like in words, so we always recommend that people keep a file or start a Pinterest board to collect things they like. There will be a common theme that emerges, and a good designer will be able to make sense of it all.”
“There’s a method we use for everything, and a good interior designer checks off all the boxes, making sure everything is right,” says Leila. Though a good salesperson will ask you if you’ve measured your door when you order your sofa, she adds, most will simply trust you to know what you want and that’s it. “Especially if you’re doing a complete house, there’s a lot of concierge work involved—phone calls, scheduling deliveries, making sure all the bills are paid and a lot of other things that people don’t have time to manage, especially if they’re working at their own career too. We’re available, every day, 9 to 5, to focus on that for you. You may be spending tens of thousands of dollars, and you need to make sure that your designer is helping you to protect your investment.”
Style, Longevity and Access to Better Options
When Leila and Andrea assumed ownership of Karen Houghton Interiors (KHI) two years ago, they had already been designing for the firm for many years. KHI built its foundation with a traditional perspective on interior design, writing longevity into the design process. But the two also bring flexibility and a fresh approach to complement their respect for getting the essentials right.
“We like to incorporate a very classic look, because trendiness goes away and we want your home to last as long as you want it to,” says Leila. “If you have a classic, neutral foundation, you can embellish it. Many people desire owning pieces or a home that they can pass on to the next generation. If you no longer like your accent color, you don’t have to redo the whole room to change it. And, if you know you’re going to change a room next year anyway—and you have the budget for it—you can have fun with a new color of the moment or a few new statement pieces.”
“We focus on you, and what you like, what you appreciate. What do you want to see every day when you come home? What ultimately makes you happy?” says Andrea. Your home should reflect you and your tastes as well as be both beautiful and functional. Your lifestyle and personality should be apparent in finished projects. A couple that entertains frequently will have different needs than those of a family with four kids and a dog.
Art, accessories and small pieces offer opportunities to really express your individuality, and designers have access to fabric houses and furniture companies that allow you to cut out the middle man and have a diversity of choices that you wouldn’t find in retail outlets. “It can be really fun to choose from items that you wouldn’t normally have access to, which means you have more opportunity to customize,” Leila says.
Budget is key to the process, and Leila and Andrea suggest that clients approach expenditures as an investment to help them to become clear on what they’re comfortable spending. Lifestyle is the first consideration—do you need child friendly furnishings to function for a family, or do you want a more formal aesthetic suitable for entertaining adults? Within your design scheme, there will be bigger pieces that are used frequently, and others that may be more decorative, which is another important way to prioritize how your budget will be used.
“We work within an agreed-upon budget, making micro choices along the way,” says Leila. “You should not feel like your designer is always picking the most expensive thing. Those of us who take our design work seriously want our clients to be happy at the end of a project, and we can expand or pace things.”
“We can call on clients ten years later for a reference, and have a lot of long-lasting clients for whom we’ve designed several homes, apartments, a pied-à-terre in the city, their beach house, and are often asked to come back to refresh a space years later,” she adds.
Ready to create the home of your dreams? Visit www.karenhoughtoninteriors.com or call (845) 358-0133 to speak with a designer.
Karen Houghton Interiors (KHI) offers interior design services to clients in the Metropolitan Tri-State area, including New York City; Fairfield County, Connecticut; Bergen County, New Jersey; and Westchester and Rockland counties in upstate New York. They also work with clients in Palm Beach, Florida.
For more than 20 years, this acclaimed firm has provided sophisticated interior design to suit each homeowner’s needs and personality. Projects range from designing an entire home—beginning with the construction process—to creating a beautiful single room or an exceptional window treatment. KHI’s work has been featured in several regional publications, including NY Spaces, 201 Magazine and Fairfield Look, and they won for “Best Dining Room” design in the 2013 issue of Westchester Home. KHI owners Andrea Ackermann and Leila Kharem were the design leads for an episode of HGTV’s Property Brothers.
Karen Houghton Interiors
41 North Broadway
Nyack, NY 10960
Phone: (845) 358-0133