Basics of seeking out an interior designer for your home

A transcribed summary from Lesley’s interview with

In life, most of us go through big events such as getting married, buying a home, and renovating one all entail large sums of money. When it comes to renovating your home, here are some pointers that our Principal Consultant, Lesley Koh, feels that one needs to thoroughly consider.

Sourcing for an interior designer

Most homeowners look for interior designers digitally. Social media and online sources such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest have become very powerful tools in helping homeowners find out the designs that they wish to have for their home. Some may even ask family and friends for recommendations of interior designers. From these two avenues alone, and looking through a number of portfolios, one should be able to easily come up with a list of three to five interior designers to meet up with.


Looking beyond a design firm’s portfolios, it is important to find the chemistry between both parties as they designer will be working closely together for the next 2 to 3 months. Finding a designer whom one feels comfortable working with is also a crucial factor. Apart from trust, work ethics, and portfolio, the renovation process is not simply a transactional relationship, but also one where homeowners and designers have to be able to click to minimize misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Budgeting and planning

As a homeowner, it is important to have a sense of the renovation you wish to commit to. This affects the budget, overall planning and timeline of the entire project.

For budgeting, homeowners should take note of two major aspects of renovation – Built-Ups, and Soft-Furnishings. Built-Ups comprise of the larger scale renovation works such as constructions, demolitions, and even large carpentry jobs such as kitchen cabinets. Soft-Furnishings comprise of elements that compliment and functionalize the home, curtains, sofas, fabrics, lights, décor, etc.

After speaking with 3 to 5 interior designers, you should be able to get a good average feel of the budget required for your home makeover. As a homeowner seeking a quotation for your home renovation, you might get a wide range of budgeting depending on how the design firm you approach understands your current situation. Some firms will recommend methods to help save cost by improvising certain design elements or making small changes to the design or layout. On the other hand, some design firms may recommend a full overhaul, especially if it’s an old residence. With the various pricings on hand, homeowners will be able to judge the scale of renovations they wish to go for. Remember to also share with your designer your budget for both Built-Ups and Soft-Furnishings as this will help them to better plan for a budget that you are comfortable with. In doing so, your designer may also be able to assist you with furnishing and décor advice, ensuring that all pieces fit harmoniously into the overall theme. They may even help you with procuring the required items.

The Timeline

Timelines are crucial for every project. We work backwards from the date you need your home to be done up, and then plan out the timeline, advising on its feasibility. We have heard many stories of homeowners sharing their unpleasant experiences with designers that were recommended by their family or friends. By giving the hired designer a reasonable and sufficient timeframe to complete the renovation job, homeowners not only minimize the possibility of timeline and budget overruns, as this allows the designer to have sufficient time to prepare and arrange for the respective jobs to be carried out.

Once confirmed…

We advise our clients to not make changes to an agreed design unless absolutely necessary, as this affects the overall project timeline and eventual handover date. These changes may also result in additional costs being incurred.

What makes a good designer?

A good designer is not only one who has an extensive portfolio, but is also one who can tap on and leverage on their knowledge and expertise of products, materials and construction methods to help homeowners maximize value during the course of renovation. Our team offers a service called an ‘Upgradable Renovation’ where if budget expectations do not meet the project’s requirements, the designer can propose design alternatives, based on their knowledge of materials to help reduce the financial stress.

On homeowners’ wants, and education

Most homeowners may not be able to read and understand a floorplan as proficiently as our designers. As a result, they may have expectations that may be difficult to fulfil without compromise to other aspects of the home. Whilst the homeowner may not be able to immediately visualize the actual space required for certain built-ups, our team guides them along and helps them visualize as close as possible. In doing so, we not only educate our clients, but also help them in pinpointing what they exactly need for their home armed with the knowledge of basic layout and space planning.

A very common example would be homeowners wanting to have a kitchen island. As most apartments are getting smaller in size, an island may not be the most practical use of space. However, some homeowners may be insistent on having one. In this scenario, since the homeowner has been educated on understanding the floorplan, we go a step further to advise that in order to accede to their request, certain changes to the layout, and even some additional works may be required.

The Personal Touch

At Imago Dei 3, our team goes the extra mile to get to know our clients personally. Whilst some clients may be slightly conservative, getting to know them better also allows us to help them plan for their renovation. A common example would be that of a newly wed couple – we try to know if they have plans for a child within the next few years, and advise them accordingly if the overall layout and space allocation of the home may not be conducive for a child. This foresight in turn helps them to make better decisions when it comes to stipulating the design elements they want for their dream home.

I personally have had clients may call me back 3 years later saying that they require a baby’s room, however their spare room has either already been hacked away, or converted into a theatre room. Based on the knowledge gathered from knowing our clients better, we come back to the budget and advise the client if its feasible to do up the theatre room, or perhaps come up with something more versatile that can be used for both purposes, the theatre and the babyroom.

Basically, the designer has to evolve from a stranger to a friend whom you can trust. This is very important because a good working relationship is conducive to communication, and as each homeowner’s requirements are different, communication is of utmost importance. It also helps to minimize misunderstandings and disputes. Our team believes that by transcending the client-designer relationship and becoming friends, we as friends tend to go the extra mile for our friends – This also pushes us to be better each time.