Frequently asked questions, answered
Have you got questions about a discovery call or a first consultation with me? Here are answers (and the worst thing that’s happened during a first consultation!).
Discovery call questions
Are you the right person to call for my project?
Great question! There are two avenues to what I do, and I may be able to help you with one or both of these.
The first is designing the fixed elements of a space. The house layout (for function and flow), the electric plan, the heating plan, the lighting scheme, the flooring, the bathrooms, the kitchens, for example. The second is working with the purely decorative. Furniture, colour schemes, ergonomic room layout and so on.
I’ve written a couple of articles that might help you answer this question too. Please have a look at ‘Architect or Architectural Interior Designer?’ and ‘What does an Architectural Interior Designer do?’.
If you’re still not sure, do book in for a discovery call with me and we can work out the answer together!
Do I need to have anything prepared before I call you?
In the discovery call you need to be able to describe what it is that you’re trying to achieve with your project, and I’ll need to know some of the bigger scale information, such as the location of the project. Really, though, it’s about us getting to know each other. It becomes quite clear, quite quickly whether the project will be best suited to my skills sets and whether we will work well together to produce the best results.
Why can’t we do this by email?
In the time we have, we can cover much more ground speaking than by email. You’ll be able to get a better feel for my personality by speaking with me than by emailing too. We can arrange a mutually convenient time to talk when you contact me to set up the call.
Do I need to know my budget at this stage?
It really depends on the project!
Not necessarily for the discovery call. However, if your budget has an impact on the issue/s we will be discussing in our first consultation, I’ll need to know what it is so that I don’t make recommendations that exceed it.
You may be looking to explore ideas during a consultation, you may want me to define a scope of works (what needs to be done and in what order), you may want me to improve existing plans or discuss a new build, we may be looking at purely decorative aspects or more practical designs. Some of these need a budget, some do not. I can advise within the discovery call if you would need a budget set before the first consultation.
Do I need to take notes?
No, this call is purely to decide whether or not you’ll benefit from a paid consultation with me, it’s a stepping stone.
I will likely be making notes as or after we speak, but they are as a personal aide de memoire.
How long does this call usually take?
Thirty minutes or so.
What happens next?
I will be able to advise, through the discovery call, if an Architectural Interior Designer is the best person for your project. If you would like to continue with me, we can discuss dates to meet for a first consultation. When this date is agreed I’ll generate an invoice, payment of which confirms our appointment.
First consultation questions
Why do you charge for a consultation?
Any qualified professional not charging for a first consultation will not give you their best ideas upfront. They may tease you with a few tidbits, but they will wait to be awarded the whole project before bringing out the stellar works.
Partially this is to show they are earning their fee. Partially it is unfortunately common for clients to take the ideas and produce the work themselves or with a less creative designer who may not have had the ideas themselves.
I charge to be fair – I don’t believe in turning up to a project where I can immediately add value and not adding that value. I provide you with the benefit of my years of education and working experience. The charge is related to this, not my time – although of course as a culture we demarcate by time.
The value that I bring to this first consultation far exceeds the investment. It is not unusual that I save clients thousands of pounds or fundamentally change the direction of their project (for the better) during this up to two-hour period.
Why do I have to pay before I see you?
Think of this first consultation investment as a bond. I commit to you, preparing for our meeting, bringing my A game and leaving you with great action points and concepts or advice. Paying in advance shows me that you, too, are committed.
How can I be sure that you will add value?
You’ll have to trust that I will!
The vast majority of my clients come to me by recommendation, or through having seen my work. This helps future clients feel comfortable as they will be able to speak to a friend or family member who has realised the investment in me.
If you haven’t, my level of education, testimonials and articles on my website will give you a sense of my professionalism and process. The featured projects should give you a level of confidence in my finish and style, and our discovery call will provide a feel for my character.
I’ve had hundreds of first consultations and there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t added value. I’m not even going to say “yet”!
Do I need to have done any preparation for the first consultation – do I need to have pictures of what I’d like the final result to look like for example?
Once the first consultation is confirmed I’ll send you a sheet detailing how to make the most from this meeting. On that sheet, I do request that you take some time to think about your priorities and what you’d like to achieve and (if relevant) collect some imagery, whether that be on Pinterest or from magazines.
If you send this information to me, or link me to it, before the first consultation, it helps me prepare and therefore bring most value.
What if I don’t quite know what I want?
If you mean visually, collect a whole load of imagery that you like, and I’ll be able to figure out the theme running through it!
If you need advice on the functional layout of your space, which may or may not include structural amendments (such as an extension) that you would like an opinion on, we will be able to work out a plan for you based on your needs and wants. So, in this case, have a ‘need, want, dream of’ list at hand to facilitate the consultation.
Should everyone who lives in the house be present?
Ideally the decision makers will be present. All members of the house will be considered but don’t all need to be present.
Commonly a part of the first consultation is finding consensus when decision makers have differing views on how they would like the project to proceed, or the end result of the project (for example different aesthetics). I take great pleasure in finding a fully-fledged, properly functioning, great solution, that addresses both the needs and desires of my clients.
Will you need to see every room, or just the rooms we are looking at changing?
Just the rooms you are changing. However, if you’re looking to redevelop the rest of the house in the future it’ll be worth looking at is as a whole to ensure best flow.
If you’re thinking of functional changes or breakthroughs etc., I will need to have a full look around to understand how your house is constructed.
Is there any pressure to continue with you for the rest of the project?
Absolutely not. The first consultation is a stand-alone piece of professional work. You will receive a debrief which only becomes part of a project log should you decide to move forward with me.
If you decide to move forward with your project, but with another professional, your debrief from our first consultation will give you a sound understanding of what you are trying to achieve and will help facilitate your next client-designer relationship.
What’s the debrief?
This is a written summary of our meeting, what we discussed and my recommended ways forward. It includes next steps or decisions to be made by you, the clients. If sketches were made during the consultation, copies will be provided. If you have asked for recommendations for products, e.g. flooring or lighting, then this will be provided. The debrief is tailored to your consultation and your requirements for the project – no two debriefs are same.
What if I miss our first consultation, or need to cancel?
Changes to appointment times up to 24 hours beforehand are possible. If you should cancel within 24 hours of the appointment the full fee is chargeable.
However, I am human! Do talk to me if something comes up and if I can find a way to work with it, I will.
I will wait for a spell if you are running late, but only if I know you are coming! Text me if this is the case. We will still need to complete our appointment by the prearranged time.
Do I have to sign a contract before this first consultation?
Do you charge for travel?
Generally speaking, not when the site is within half an hour’s car travel from my offices at Stansted House. If you’re further afield we’ll discuss this in our discovery call.
Do you prefer tea or coffee?
I prefer coffee, black. Thank you very much!
So,what is the worst thing that has ever happened in the first consultation?
From my personal point of view, it was when I travelled all the way to London to see a first consultation client, only to be told that she was cancelling to have her nails done. It doesn’t matter that the appointment and travel was charged already, this showed such a lack of professional respect and general kindness that I didn’t take the project that was subsequently offered.
From a client perspective, it was the story of the herringbone:
This was my third ‘first’ consultation for a couple who were using the consults as springboards to move their projects along themselves with confidence.
We were working on a playroom remodel, the bones of which we had mostly thrashed out. I proposed a really fun material with a herringbone stitch for curtains when the father had a viscerally negative response. Like, a really bad reaction to this material! There was I, looking at it, thinking “Wow, I was NOT expecting that” when I thought it really couldn’t have been the material that this was about…
It took some time to dig into the reasons for his disproportionate reaction. It turned out that when he was little and in trouble his grandfather would send him to the dining room, where he would sit on the floor and trace the herringbone parquet with his fingertips. He couldn’t understand why I would suggest a pattern he associated with punishment and isolation as ideal for his beloved children’s playroom.
This revelation as something of a surprise to him as well! Needless to say, we moved onto another stitch….
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