In a recent blog post, I talked about questions to ask yourself if you think you want to hire an interior designer. (Click here to read that article: How to Know If Being the Client of a Designer Is Right for You.)

Today, I begin a multi-part series delving into the interior design process, particularly what many people do not know to expect when you take the leap into an interior design project.

Because, if we are clear about what to expect if designers and clients are on the same page about what the process entails, the potential peaks and pitfalls, we are all likely to enjoy it a lot more.

Modern living room with gray fireplace, a round glass coffee table, a white sofa, and a TV hung on the opposite wall.

The 4 Stages of the Interior Design Process:

So, what does an interior designer do? And what should you expect when you’re redesigning a room, a few rooms, or your whole house?

Expect the process to take time. A lot of time.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect when you hire an interior designer:

  1. The Meeting (Excitement and Exploration, Programming)
  2. The Work (Space Plans, Materials, Design Boards, and Decisions)
  3. The Waiting (Quotes, Proposals, Orders, Deliveries)
  4. The Rush (Installation, The Reveal)

In this column, I will be discussing the first stage of what interior designers do and what it’s like to work with them. All four stages together can take 8-to-9 months for a single room, or 18-months-to-two-years for a whole-house redesign. I will talk more about why this is so in future columns.

A chic living room with a sofa, two chairs, piano, and bench by the window.

Interior Design Process Stage 1: The Meeting

On the front end, the first stage of the process, Stage 1: The Meeting, which is also called “Programming.”

A pedestrian word for one of the most exciting parts of the experience, programming includes getting to know you and exploring your tastes: learning what you like, what inspires you, both for who you are now, and whom you want your environment to support you in becoming.

This stage includes in-person meetings, phone calls, and emails, plus all of us pinning inspiration images to a shared Pinterest board.

A living room with two orange chairs, a long sofa, and a splatter paint painting hanging above it.

During programming, we are also looking at the architecture of your home and any rooms that will not change and making sure there is a relationship, a conversation between what you (and we) will be adding, and what is already there.

This stage of the interior design process is where we refine the nuts-and-bolts parameters of the project in terms of defining your specific needs and details, whether this is space planning, lifestyle needs, or personal desires.

A sleek kitchen with marble countertops, two pendant lights, and white cabinets.

What kitchen appliances do you want? How many cabinets for dishes? What will you put in that master closet that you never had before? How does your family like to play together? What size dinner parties will you host in your new dining room?

These questions and more must be answered before we can unleash our design genius and begin creating beauty for you.

A dining room with yellow walls.

During programming, not to scare you, but… we are also assessing your elasticity.

When you hire a designer, expect to be stretched. One reason clients hire us instead of designing your home yourself is because we will show you ideas, colors, furnishings, design options you couldn’t imagine on your own.

How far are you willing to stretch? Are you willing to try something new?

A light bedroom with a large bed in the center and a padded bench at the foot of the bed.

As the professionals you need us to be, we are considering what level of adventure will serve you. We are calibrating our design inspirations to your range.

There is an edge where the adrenaline rises, and the fear of the unknown is balanced by the excitement of surprise, and the reward for pushing that edge, just enough and not too much, is discovering and getting to live in a new beauty and functionality beyond what you could have imagined, or would have created if you had stayed within what was familiar.

Award-winning interior design of Tudor-style home office, Piedmont interior designer.

Clients hire us because, inside you, you know you are reaching for something more. The beauty and grace we bring into your home, we bring out from inside of you. We use the tool of interior design to evoke that which you are already in the process of becoming, and becoming, as life is a continuing process of growth. At least, that is how the people in my tribe perceive it.

Thus, at my interior design firm, our mission is expressed in the invitation. We invite you to “Come home to your Self.” Embarking on an interior design project is not just about a pretty space; it’s also about personal growth and transformation; it’s about living an embodied, joy-filled life, in an environment that supports the best in you and your tribe.

A TV mounted above a white cabinet with a dog sitting inside it. A blue-gray chair rests nearby.

A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post.

Click here to read Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Also related posts:

How to Know If Being the Client of a Designer Is Right for You

The Iron Triangle Theory

Letting Go of Perfectionism

Finishing Touches: Important Moments of Beauty and Grace