Tracy Murdock Interior Design     Frequently Asked Questions

Designing Your Space


Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling a single room, you want the finished space to be attractive, comfortable and functional. It needs to fit the way you live, as well as reflect your personal style and taste. Interior design addresses all these concerns and more. Images of beautifully appointed and arranged rooms are usually what first come to mind when one thinks of interior design. Color, fabric, furniture, art, and ornamentation are indeed important elements in the overall design. How the environments we inhabit look and feel greatly affect our mood and sense of well-being. But interior design also involves many practical and technical considerations that affect comfort, function, and safety. Among these are lighting, acoustics, space planning, organization and storage, scale, accommodation of special needs, fire safety and compliance with local building codes. Interior projects include new construction, renovation, historic restoration and model homes. Specialty areas within the home include the kitchen, bath, home theater, home office, and home health care and fitness areas.


Design Services:  The Professional Choice


AN INTERIOR DESIGNER has aesthetic, practical and technical expertise in all the elements that make up an interior environment. He or she understands how people use and respond to these elements, not just individually but as the elements interact with one another. Any number of services and suppliers can provide and install items for the home. Some offer advice on selecting colors, patterns and materials or on arranging the furniture and accessories in a room. When you hire an interior designer, you get the benefit of an experienced professional who can solve problems, help you avoid costly mistakes and, most importantly, create an attractive, affordable space designed specifically to meet your lifestyle needs. Professional interior designers can do so much more than recommend furniture, fabrics, and colors. They have a creative eye and artistic flair, but that’s only the beginning. In addition to their in-depth knowledge of products, materials, and finishes, professional designers have the training and expertise to plan, schedule, execute and manage your project from start to finish. They know and work closely with many vendors, contractors, and other service providers, coordinating and orchestrating the entire design team. Designers also provide specifications and purchasing services to procure materials, furniture, accessories, and art, some of which you might not be able to find on your own. Among the many areas of expertise a professional designer commands are:


  • Programming and Space PlanningInterview to determine client needs, schedules and budgets.

  • Establish functional and aesthetic goals.

  • Inventory existing furnishings and other items to be reused.

  • Provide space plans with furniture layouts.

  • Assist in developing the project timeline.

  • Interior Design

  • Develop budgets on all interior finishes & furnishings, as well as budgets for interior improvements.

  • Assist in material, finish and furnishings analysis, recommendations and specifications.

  • Design all interior details.

  • Provide sketches and/or presentation boards of all interior selections and furnishings.

  • Review and coordinate furniture layouts with lighting and electrical plans.

  • Coordinate fine art and decorative accessories.

  • Coordinate interior plant selections and placement.

  • Construction DocumentsDemolition/new partition plans

  • Telephone/electrical plans

  • Reflected ceiling plans/lighting plans

  • Wall and floor finish plans and schedules

  • Interior details and design as required, including cabinets, millwork, etc.

  • Furniture installation drawings

  • Project AdministrationCoordinate and review drawings with contractors.

  • Maintain project schedules.

  • Review all bids and pricing.

  • Provide on-site inspections during construction.

  • Provide assistance during move-in.

  • Provide punch lists of all work to be completed.


Define The Project


Before you ever speak to a designer, take some time to think about what you want, what you need, what you can afford and what is most important to you. The designer you hire will be able to advise you on specifics but to get the result you want, it is important to do your homework first. The time you spend will be well worth it. Start by answering the following questions as completely and specifically as you can: Who is going to use the space? What activities will take place there? How long do you plan to occupy the space? What is your timeframe for completing your design project? How will you finance the project? What is your budget? What kind of look or feel do you want the space to have? If you are modifying an existing space, what do you currently like about the space? What do you most want to change? Why? What changes do you need to have and which would be nice to have? Putting together an idea folder or scrapbook of your likes and dislikes, wishes and dreams is a great way to begin the design process. Look for pictures of rooms or styles that appeal to you, swatches of fabric, paint color cards, furniture catalogs or brochures, etc. These will stir your imagination and help the designer better understand your tastes and desires. The creative aspects of Interior Design can be exciting and fun, but never forget that it is also a business — and you are the one who will have to live with the finished project. Your satisfaction with an interior design project depends a great deal on the designer you select and how well you work with him or her.


Interview Several Designers


You should interview several designers — three or four at least. During each interview, explain clearly what your needs are and acquaint the designer with your project ideas. Show him or her your folder or scrapbook. Note whether the designer is attentively listening and asking questions that indicate an understanding of your needs and preferences. You will be working closely with the designer, perhaps for a number of months, so you want to select someone whom you feel has your interests at heart and will take your ideas and concerns seriously. Designers, like other professionals, are different from one another in their combinations of talents, skills, knowledge, experience, personalities, specialty areas, and reputations. What and how they charge will vary accordingly. If you have any concerns, get bids or estimates from more than one designer so you can compare fees, costs and other expenses.


Discuss Fees and Budget


There is no such thing as a “typical” fee for an interior designer. Many factors, including those mentioned above, influence what a designer may charge for his or her services. Most residential designers use one of the following methods, or combine methods, to set their fees and may negotiate to suit a client’s particular needs: Fixed fee (or flat fee) – The designer identifies a specific sum to cover costs, exclusive of reimbursement for expenses. One total fee applies to the complete range of services, from conceptual development through layouts, specifications and final installation. Hourly fee – Compensation is based on actual time expended by the designer on a project or specific service. Cost plus – A designer purchases materials, furnishings and services (e.g., carpentry, drapery workrooms, picture framing, etc.) at cost and sells to the client at the designer’s cost plus a specified percentage agreed to with the client to compensate for the designer’s time and effort. In addition to the fee structures outlined above, designers may require a retainer before beginning a design project. A retainer is an amount of money paid by the client to the designer and applied to the balance due at the termination of the project. The retainer is customarily paid upon signing the contractual agreement in advance of design services. At one time, cost plus was the most widely used fee structure for residential designers. It is becoming more common now for designers to charge an hourly rate for design services, cost plus for products and services the designer is asked to purchase, or a fixed fee for the entire project. In addition to the designer’s fees, there are other costs to consider. Only you can decide what a reasonable budget for your project is. If you have concerns about price, discuss them with the designer. Don’t be shy about asking the designer to help you optimize your budget. But be realistic, too. You may need to scale back your project or consider having the work done in stages. If you are concerned about the quoted cost of furniture or furnishings, ask the designer to provide you with a list of options. A final word about cost: How you choose to furnish your interior and how you work with your designer will have a tremendous impact on the final cost of the project. Items such as antiques or custom-made furniture, and modifications that involve altering or moving load-bearing walls or beams will significantly increase the cost of your project, as will requesting changes mid-project or making excessive demands on the designer’s time. The more research and planning you do before you start, the more you will be able to help keep costs down during the project.


Request a Cost Estimate


Before you sign any agreements or make any payments, ask the designers you are most inclined to work with to provide a cost estimate in writing. This is not a contract and is not binding on you or the designer. The cost estimate should specify the scope of work and the type of fee structure the designer uses. (Bear in mind that the designer is not responsible for the costs of other professional services.) If the designer charges extra for other services — such as reviewing plans or attending meetings with an architect or contractor—these should be listed as well, both by type and rate.


Finalize All Agreements in Writing


Once you have selected a designer you want to work with, ask him or her to provide you with a letter of agreement or contract for the project. Do not make any oral agreements, pay the designer any money, or authorize any work to be done on the project, including giving the designer permission to begin looking for furnishings or researching styles or patterns, until you have an agreement endorsed by both parties.


The Design Process


Communicate with the Design and Maintain RecordsWorking with an interior designer involves some give and take. You will share ideas, and the designer will contribute insights and advice based on his or her talents, skills and experience. You will have many details to consider and many decisions to make. Your concept may grow and change as you undergo this process. The key to a successful project outcome is good communication. The more direct and specific you are, the easier it will be for the designer to successfully meet your needs and expectations. Never hesitate to ask questions about any aspect of the project. Keep notes of your discussions with the designer, and confirm any and all instructions, decisions or changes before they are acted on. If you agree to make changes to the contract, always make sure to put them in writing and have them signed and dated by both parties. Maintain a folder with copies of all plans and contracts, receipts, invoices, and other documents.


Practice Good “Clienthood”


Take your responsibilities as a client seriously. If you are going to be very busy or on travel during this process, consider delaying the project until later or getting someone to manage it for you. Remember, if you delegate the decision making to the designer, you are agreeing to live with those decisions. To avoid disappointment or unwelcome surprises, follow these guidelines: Minimize changes to your plan. Each part of the design will affect the whole. Changes or special requests can require any number of adjustments that will add time and expenses to your project. Consider carefully and make notes before you call your designer. Repeated calls are inefficient, expensive and can slow down progress. Stay flexible. Decide beforehand where you are willing to compromise and where you are not. Trust your gut. Do not agree to a decision that does not “feel” right to you, no matter how urgent it may seem to be. Take time to request more information, do some research or just reflect. Avoid open-ended requests. Tell the designer up front what you are willing to pay in total for a particular item or service.


ASID: The Professional Difference


ASID INTERIOR DESIGNERS have the education, training, and expertise to manage all the details of your project. They know the importance of listening to your ideas and understanding your needs. From consultation to planning to the finishing touches, they can help you every step of the way, augmenting your choices and adding value to your budget. The oldest and largest professional organization for interior designers, ASID has some 20,000 interior design practitioner members. About 4,000 practice residential design; 6,500 practice commercial design; and 9,500 practice a combination of residential and commercial design. All ASID interior designer members must meet basic educational and professional qualifications and agree to abide by the Society’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Many have passed a professional qualifying examination administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification. In addition to its many publications, ASID offers members continuing education opportunities. This means that ASID designers receive the most current information on appropriate materials, technology, building codes, government regulations, health and safety standards, design psychology, and product performance. To locate a qualified ASID designer to help you with your project, visit the ASID Referral Service on the Web at or call ASID headquarters at (202) 546-3480.


ASID: 608 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002–6006

T: (202) 546 348,  F: (202) 546 3240,  W:

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