If you’ve ever worked closely with an interior designer (or are lucky enough to call one a friend), you’ve probably unloaded your most pressing design questions on them a time or two before. Because when it comes to furnishing your own space, decisions big and small that once seemed trivial can easily lead to fear and indecision.
To remind you that you’re not alone in your search for clarity, we asked a few of our favorite interior designers to share the most common questions they get from clients. Below, we clear up eight design mysteries we all struggle with.
“Does this really cost that much?”
The likely answer? Yes. “People have no problem spending money on clothes and vacations, but have a block when it comes to fundamentals like curtains,” says NYC-based designer Starrett Ringbom. While it’s always crucial to go into any new project with a solid budget in mind, it’s also important that budget is realistic.
Whether you’re paying for a kitchen renovation, total gut job, or brand new sofa, do yourself and your wallet a favor by researching how much things actually cost beforehand. If you’re still feeling stressed out, try and think of your home and the treasured items you fill it with as an investment, as some items often have more value than you might think.
“Where do I start?”
“I find that a lot of the time clients know they want a change, but they get overwhelmed by the thought of it all and just have no idea where to even begin,” Shavonda Gardner, the blogger behind SG Style, tells Domino. Jacquelyn Clark of Lark and Linen has also been privy this seemingly simple question.
While we’ve all fallen down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest, it’s easy to feel defeated when it finally comes time to turn your inspiration board into a reality. If it’s an extensive reno you have in mind, the first thing you’ll want to do is speak with an architect (not a contractor). When it comes to furniture, art, accessories, and other decorative goods, narrow down your options by defining your style and considering the colors, shapes, and patterns that are already present in your space.
“How long is this going to take?”
San Francisco-based design duo Susan and Ben Work are no strangers to this unavoidable inquiry. Before jumping feet first into a remodel, it’s important to be mindful of the tasks, scheduling snafus, and obstacles that will likely prolong your journey along the way. Interviewing potential contractors, obtaining permits, and ordering materials alone can take up at least one month of your time. To get a better idea of how long it typically takes to renovate a home, take a peek at our go-to renovation roadmap.
“What color should this room be?”
With thousands of brands, shades, and finishes to choose from, picking the perfect wall color can feel like the biggest decisions you’ve made all year—and for good reason, too. Not only can paint totally change the look and feel of a room, but it also often dictates the overall stylistic direction of the space. As HGTV star Leanne Ford notes, even selecting the right shade of white can feel like a daunting task. And while there are some colors that just don’t belong in certain rooms, it’s often a super personal choice that not only depends on the hues that speak the most to you, but also the size of your space, how light moves about the room, and the mood you’re looking to evoke. Before you make a commitment to a can, we suggest consulting an expert first.
“How do I incorporate the things I already own?”
When you want to switch up the look of your home but aren’t interested in starting from scratch, figuring out how to keep pieces you’ve had forever (like that armchair that once belonged to your grandmother or the tapestry that used to hang in your college dorm room) can be tricky. Ashlina Kaposta of The Decorista and Atlanta-based designer Stephanie Andrews both understand that clients don’t always want to replace every perfectly good item they own.
If you’re struggling to find a place for something that you love—say, a vintage armoire or loveseat—consider having the piece re-upholstered, painted, or updated with fresh hardware. You’ll be surprised how even the smallest of upgrades can totally transform an item.
“What’s the right way to mix pattern?” Mixing and matching patterns is a true art form. Unafraid of clashing prints and maximalist moments, designer and stylist Dee Murphy is constantly getting tapped for advice on how to play with varying patterns without overwhelming a space. The key? Cohesion. No matter how many loud prints you want to cram into one corner, as long as you’re working within a complementary color scheme, you’re generally safe to push the boundaries.
“Do I need better organization?”
“Most of the time, the answer is [yes]!” says Whitney Leigh Morris of the The Tiny Canal Cottage. Ignoring the self-professed neat freaks among us, we’re guessing your home is never as tidy as you’d actually like it to be. Depending on which area is your special sore spot (Closet? Pantry? Medicine cabinet?), you’ll want to approach the cleaning process accordingly. For all things decluttering, look to our extensive guide to getting organized.
“What’s the secret to a great interiors Instagram?”
“My answer? Good design, great photos, and letting your style shine through!” artist and desert-dweller Lindsay Hollinger tells Domino. Lighting, cropping, and filters are just a few things to keep in mind if you want to snap an Insta-worthy space. For endless inspiration and tips and tricks, add these stellar interior photographers to your must-follow list.