Going Pro: Professional decorators can save time, money

Chalk full of creativity and ideas? Never afraid to experiment with new and outrageous colors? Have a feel for balance and appeal?

Then you probably aren't in the market for an interior designer.

For the rest of the population, hiring an interior designer might make sense.

"When a person either needs ideas or has ideas of their own, a professional can help bring it all together, saving time, energy and money," said Pam Foster, owner of Pam Designs in Craig. "A professional has in-depth information on products, knows the practicality of each product for each application and has the knowledge of design and space."

Interior designers can help beautify a home in a variety of ways. From simply helping you determine a new color scheme to coming in and giving an entire room a whole new look, what's available is limited only by your budget and your (or your designer's) creativity.

Irene Nelson, owner of Irene Nelson's Design in Steamboat Springs, said consulting a designer before beginning a project could save money.

"I've seen time and again people throw money away by making mistakes -- most often with proportion," she said.

When shopping for furniture, Foster said, always take a scaled drawing of the room with you. Much of the furniture is large, although it may not look so big when viewing it in a huge furniture store.

"Save yourself some anguish and use the scaled drawing to make sure all the pieces will fit before you buy," she said.

Service isn't the only thing designers provide. Supplies also are available.

"Lots of people are afraid of the cost and think they can save money by going to a discount store and they don't even try what's available locally," Nelson said. "They can find comparable prices -- even less -- and better service if they shop locally."

Hiring an interior designer could help people break out of a design rut.

"A lot of people are afraid and always do the safest thing and the result is their bored from the start," Nelson said. "If a professional is there to guide and assist them, they may be more courageous."

Nelson said an interior designer should be able to come up with a mix of do-it-yourself projects and professional services for those who are pinching their pennies.

Torn grocery bags lacquered onto a countertop to look just like leather is one creative, cost-saving measure Nelson employs.

"I like to help people who can't spend the big bucks," she said.

There are many home decor products that can be installed by do-it-yourselfers rather than professional installers but there are some rules that must be followed, Foster said.

o Be 100 percent informed about how to do the installation.

o Have the product-recommended tools on hand before beginning.

o Make sure the surface you are covering has been properly prepared.

o Allow twice as much time as you think it will take. The detailed finish work is just as important as the main part of the installation.

o Allow the correct "set-up" time if the installation must be done in stages or the product needs time to dry or harden.

o Always clean and maintain a new surface according to manufacturer instructions.

People can spend anywhere from $25 to $300 an hour for professional design services. Sometimes when a person purchases products through a designer, there may be no design fee, Foster said.

Nelson recommends those engaging in a big project interview designers, look at photographs of their past jobs and talk to references.

"A customer needs to feel comfortable and be able to have open communication at all times with the designer," Foster said.

Fall is a busy time for designers, Nelson said, because people seem to suddenly realize they'll be stuck inside most of the time or are preparing for holiday gatherings.

To get the best price on decorating and contract services, Nelson recommends people remodel in the spring when most contractors aren't already booked.

"That's a better time because the trades people are available to do the work," she said.

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