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WORKING WITH A DESIGNER

Working with a designer is easier than you might think. As a potential client, you must educate yourself on the basic criteria to assist you in your selection.

As you may or may not know, anyone can call themselves an interior designer. There is no regulating board, no state license, no legal organization for accountability. A business card and a Seller's Permit from the State Board of Equalization is really all you need to start an interior design business. However, using someone with no background or qualifications in the field can turn out to be quite costly for you, the client.

Make sure the designer has an education in interior design from an accredited institution. Check the FIDER website to see if the college or university they list has an accredited interior design program (www.fider.org). A Bachelor's degree (B.A. or B.S.) is preferable with four to five years of instruction, two to three of which is concentrated on design courses. Associate's degrees (A.A.) in interior design are becoming more common, giving one and a half to two years of general education along with design courses.

Beware of an interior design "certificate". This is typically only 100 hours of instruction on design (a total of 2 1/2 weeks of full time learning), barely enough to cover the basics, with no requirement for an internship in the field under the supervision of an interior designer. Most designer's will have their educational information on their website, or in any promotional material they send you.

Check for membership in professional organizations, like ASID or IIDA. With these appellations after their name, you know that the designer has taken a national test, called the NCIDQ (www.ncidq.org) and has a design education, or at least the minimum amount of time practicing in the industry to sit for the exam. This 16 hour exam is extensive and costly, and as such is typically taken only by the true professionals in the industry. The phrase "Associate Member, IIDA", or "Allied Member, ASID" after a designer's name, means that the designer has satisfied all other qualifications for membership but has not yet completed the exam. For more information on designer qualifications visit www.asid.org or www.iida.org.

The listing CID after a designer's name indicates that he or she has become a Certified Interior Designer by passing the CCRE test given by the CCIDC (www.ccidc.org). This test consists of: the permiting process and construction documents; building regulation; accessibility and universal design; exiting and life safety; fire codes and regulations; plumbing codes; electrical systems; energy conservation; business and professions code; professional ethics; ergonomics; and business proceedures.

Make sure to sign a contract with whomever you choose to protect yourself. Many designers work on an hourly basis, but without a contract could leave you in the middle of your project. Imagine your kitchen remodel is half done. This could present cost as well as time problems getting the job completed. Many designers will not pick up a project that has been dropped by another designer for various reasons.

Visit your local ASID chapter's website. For Orange County, California the site address is www.asidocc.org. They provide a free designer referal service as well as many tips on selecting a designer. The current hourly rate for professionals in this area is from $125 to $350 an hour, but many designer's work on a fixed fee basis rather than billing hourly. You will find designers charging as low as $75 an hour. This is a rate most common for students and designers right out of school.

Lastly, make sure the person you select really listens to you, and you feel comfortable telling them how you feel. This is your home and you should feel comfortable with the things in it that will surround you for many years to come. Many clients feel bullied into choices they don't like because they feel they shouldn't question the "professional". Interior design is a process, with you the client being an important integral part, so make sure you speak your mind.

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