The 5 most important questions to ask your interior designer and contractor before you hire them

If you are in the market to build, renovate or refresh your home (or even a small room or area in your home) there are some really important questions that you should ask the companies you are considering hiring BEFORE you hire them.

In this article I'm going to share the 5 most important questions you absolutely positively should ask when interviewing your dream design & remodeling team.

Before I jump into my ‘must ask questions’ let me introduce myself…

My name is Tamara Romeo, and I am the founder and CEO of San Diego Office Design, but at work everyone just calls me The Design Boss.

I founded my award-winning Interior Design firm over 13 years ago and since then have grown to serve many different types of clients from real estate developers and investors to homeowners, and of course, as my business name implies, lots and lots of workspace design too.

At last count, my team and I have completed over 4 million square feet of renovations and new construction.

Along with helping homeowners to transform their houses into their dream homes, I have remodeled and renovated my own office and my own home, as well as the homes of some of my most important developer-clients. 

Shower detail-inside

(photos from a recent  renovation to a primary bath - nominated for bathroom of the year, 2022 by the National Kitchen & bath Assoc.)

Each month, I’ll be sharing expert insights and stories from the world of interior design, furniture, and all things renovation & remodeling.

I’ll also be answering the most asked questions by clients, friends and you, so please feel free to reach out with your questions, and I’ll share them here if I think it may be something many can benefit from.

Click here to ask me your questions

Now onto the good stuff…

The 5 most important questions to ask before hiring an Interior Designer and/or Contractor

(in my never to be humble opinion!  LOL)

Before I begin, there is one important caveat; when brainstorming on this topic I quickly wrote down about a dozen of the most common questions that I get asked by prospective clients. Even in my own office we had a round-table discussion about this topic, and the answers varied greatly based on the person’s age and prior experience (for example, the 30-somethings in my office all said that a Designer & Contractors Instagram page was the most important thing they would look at first, even before the website or reviews!)

That said, I am advising on the most important…not the most common.

In descending order they are:

5. What is your fee structure/how do you charge for your work?

There are many different types of fee structures for both interior design and contractors.

Here are a few of the most common:

  • Complete project bidding = generally this is a BIG number broken down into milestone payments, and requires the buyer to know exactly what they want, when the completion date is, and what their budget range is.
  • Fee based on square footage = generally this is used for standardized projects, and very basic commercial spaces
  • Retainer + % of total purchases/or total contract = a fee to begin and then a fixed percentage charged on top of any purchases made or the total contract value at the end of the job.
  • Cost Plus = a structure common for General Contractors
  • Hourly fee = Pay as you go structure

4. Do you have a strong network of trusted professionals that you have experience working with? (You should be looking for a track record of success!)

When you hire a Pro, you are also buying into their network of trusted suppliers, vendors and artisans. A more seasoned pro has a long list of go-to Pros (and also a list of no-go’s or those that you should shy away from, which is just as important!)

3. Tell me about your process? What would it be like to work with you on a project like mine?

There is no one-size fits all process for Interior Design firms and Contractors. Each business has its own client experience roadmap.  Some are great, and some leave a lot to be desired,  because they are so busy working on their projects that they, in turn, may not be great communicators. Refer to my #1 question you should ask…  🙂

2. Please share your portfolio and reviews from past projects similar to mine.

Instagram, Yelp, Houzz, & Their own website are probably the most popular places to post portfolio projects and experience. For more experienced Pros, ask for awards, published projects in magazines and testimonials (note; Generally more awards = more $$$ and more expertise, but not always.)

⭐Most Important

1. Have you ever been your own client... meaning, have you remodeled and designed your own home?  

Having experienced the process from a clients point of view is vitally important because it allows the Pro to have a deep understanding from both sides of the table.  Renovating a home can be a deeply emotional (and intimidating) process, so it's really nice to know that your guide during your journey understands the financial, and emotional rollercoaster of the sort you are about to embark on. Ask them what was the most challenging aspect of their own project? What did they love that they would recommend for you?

💥BONUS QUESTION: Can you meet my deadline for completion and my budget?

This is the bonus question because it takes a savvy buyer with experience to show up with a (realistic) budget and deadline already calculated. Budgeting for an entire renovation or home furnishing project is a skill that takes years to perfect, so generally the only people who ask me these questions are bankers, developers, or seasoned remodelers that have often worked with Designers in the past.


Print this email and save it for the future or pass it to a friend that may be in the market for help with their next project!

Yours in style & design,


Click here to ask me your questions

Tamara Romeo is the Founder and CEO of San Diego Office Design. You can find her on two different instagram pages @thedesignboss and @sdofficedesign as well as on Linkedin

She is a 2nd generation San Diego native, SDSU graduate, and kitty cat lover.

Post a Comment