How to prepare for your initial appointment with an interior designer

We find that once client’s schedule an appointment with our interior design team, they are filled with excitement and anticipation. We would welcome you to put that energy of yours to good use. Doing so can speed up the design process and help us, help you! Here is a checklist of what to prepare for your upcoming interior design consultation appointment:

Determining your Goals

I work well with parameters set forth by my clients. It isn’t fair to ask any design professional to walk into a space and tell you a color that will look good, or recommend new flooring or furniture before they get a chance to understand what your goals are for the space. After all, maybe you just finished your floors, or you just selected the new paint. Also, depending on my clients goals, one piece of furniture may work in some styles, but fall short with other project goals. Before you want my interior design opinion, tell me why we are meeting. What do you see for the space? Where is it falling short for you? What pieces do you want to keep and incorporate in the finished design? Use descriptive words. Do you want it calm or relaxing? Do you want it to be stimulating and make a statement? Do you want it casual? Your parameters help us focus our design recommendations.

Setting your Priorities

Some of my clients aren’t able to implement all their wishes for their home all at once. You can help by setting your room priorities. Some clients find that addressing the initial impression rooms when guests enter the home is most important to them. Other clients find that the rooms they spend the most time in are their priorities. While other clients want to work on rooms that bring the most value to their home like the kitchen and master bathroom. There isn’t a right answer. There is just a right answer for you. Consider what feels right to you and let your designer know.


Be honest with your designer about what you want and what you can invest in your project. Once we understand the scope, goals, and priorities we can talk to you about how those investment dollars would fit into your project.

If you don’t have a full furnishing or remodeling project under your belt yet, it is likely it is going to cost more than you are estimating. We can help you estimate more accurately based on your priorities. I don’t want to write something that scares you, I just want to be honest about the process. Most people furnish a room over the course of several years without a design professional. Perhaps you purchased your sofa and chairs together, but then each piece afterwards came in separately. You purchased lamps, you found occasional tables, you purchased an area rug, you found artwork while traveling, and you pick up accessories over the years. Interior designers specify and order all at once and it creates a more impactful result. The trouble with implementing a room over a long period of time is that there was no initial plan. When finished, and it may have taken years, it never feels pulled together. A designer’s eyes and focus in your space will ensure it gets finished, and all pieces and parts are selected because they strengthen one another. It also ensures pieces aren’t purchased and later purged because they didn’t work in the space.

If you find yourself skeptical about what I said about room costs, try this exercise. Add up the cost of each piece in even a modest room in your home. Look at every piece in the room and jot down what you paid for it. Don’t forget the cost of throws, pillows, artwork, and lighting. If you reupholstered a piece, total the fabric and the labor of the workroom. Total the cost of your window treatments (even in the case of blinds and shutters.) It will likely surprise you what you really spent.

Questions about the Design & Construction Process

What questions to you have about construction that we can answer for you? Feel free to make a list of questions to have ready. Some clients find this comforting so they don’t forget to discuss important talking points.

We find that we are best utilized when we can make an impact in a room from start to finish. Doing a little design work here and a little there in several rooms, while it may mean spending the same money as finishing one room, doesn’t generally give the best perceived value for the design investment. Once we visit your home we can coach you on any phasing recommendations we might have that align with your goals.

House Tours

It is usual for clients to tour us in many areas of their home or business – even areas that aren’t part of initial or future the project scope. We like to do that too. It helps us see different facets of your style, and it is easy to have conversations about what you like and what you don’t like. Knowing what you don’t like is just as powerful with finding out what you do like. This natural conversation style allows us to understand you more.

Even if you don’t offer, I may ask to see other areas of your space to get an idea of who you are. Of course, I understand off limit rooms, but I am here to help. If you need to tidy up to feel comfortable during our visit that is entirely up to you. But, if you don’t have time to tidy up please don’t feel the need to apologize to us. We can see through boxes, construction, and messy countertops. I promise we aren’t at your house to make judgements about your housekeeping. As a matter of fact, messy countertops or a lot of items out in a room generally tell me storage needs addressed in the design and function of the room. It probably isn’t all your fault! So don’t worry. Relax. We are here to help organize your life and tame the chaos.

Prepare Ideabooks & Ideas

Just a few years ago clients frequently used torn out magazine clippings to show us spaces and colors that appealed to them. These days if you are Internet savvy this process is even easier to find a plethora of appealing projects, and best yet it saves organizing loose paper too! Here are two of our favorite sites to gain ideas: includes inspiration from thousands of interior and exterior design projects from interior designers, builders, and architects all over the Nation. You can search by room, keywords, styles, regions and colors. We suggest you create an account and add images that appeal to you to an idea gallery. Once the gallery is set up, you may click the “Collaborate” button and email it to us, or we can review it together in person. In some cases, ,we may compile a Houzz gallery for your project in advance – and send it to you for digital feedback. Here is our Houzz profile. is a virtual bulletin board. After joining the site you can “pin” photos from the World Wide Web and your personal computer to this virtual board keeping it all in one place online. We have gallery boards for design inspiration at Pinterest has been taking off like wildfire, but still requires an invitation for new users, so please let our team know if you need an email invitation.

Just as important as idea galleries, if you have made selections for your project already, or have things on order it is important you have those images or samples ready for your interior designer. forgetting to mention items can cause additional design work in areas that aren’t necessary.

The Five Attributes of a Great Design Client

Be open to new ideas: Our best clients trust us. After the initial consultation, they know we listened and understand their goals. Our goal is to help you reach a place you couldn’t get to on your own. You may initially look at an idea for a floor plan or piece and not be so sure about it. That initial, “I am not sure about this” is normal. We ask that you look at the overall finished space and take a bit of time to consider new ideas. Sure, we are good at design, but we are best at learning about our clients and creating spaces that speak to them. Do your best to stay open minded. We will do our part by providing excellent ideas and great custom services.

Trust the process: We start first with a design concept that outlines the overall feel of the space. The initial concept has some specifications but all of the final details aren’t ironed out. I would describe the initial process as broad brush strokes. We talk through details and once determined, we work to technically master each individual component of your project. Simply put design concept is right brained, then specifications move into what I consider a left brained phase. Sometimes clients who are more detailed and technical in nature want all of the technical aspects of the job outlined in the beginning as we are initial designing the design concept. There is a fine line with this type of approach. We prefer to work out fine details once we all agree to the direction we are moving. Otherwise design time can be spent on outlining and detailing out specifications that don’t come to fruition.

In a new construction project, there will literally be thousands of decisions you need to make before the home is completed. Our experience allows us to know the order of construction and what may be specific to your project we will discuss in detail with your general contractor. Sometimes selections need determined early because of the order of construction and sometimes it is because of lead time of materials. Let me offer an example. Rough in plumbing, goes in right after the framing of a project. In order to make a good design decision we may need to tool the kitchen layout. Do we want a sink on the island for example? In the powder room, were you wanting a vessel sink – in which case the plumbing may be preferred from from the backsplash and not the countertop. These details we know from construction experience and we will help navigate the schedule appropriately.

If you hire us once construction has already begun, it is our goal to move in front of the construction. We will navigate you to showrooms and place selections in front of you that need determined so the project is as timely as possible.

Try not to revisit decisions: Every decisions builds on the other. Understand some decisions ground the design and if changed it may create a domino effect, causing many decisions to be revisited. If you don’t like an element don’t sign off on it. If you are nervous about the visual impact of a decision after you made it, talk again with your designer. Some clients are naturally nervous about making decisions. Sometimes this is just because they have never gotten it right on their own. We can help you get there. We only bring decisions to you that will visually be appealing and work for your project.

Absolutely don’t shop after you hire an interior designer: It is okay if you did some footwork before you hired the designer, but once you share with them your ideas and you place them on retainer, it is very important you stop sourcing items for your project. I know this may sound harsh, but I simply will not let my clients do this. It causes chaos, leads to additional billable time, and splits the energy of the project. I am always open to guidance and resources, but these things are best given at the beginning of the project.A

Allow the Process to be Fun: There isn’t much else to say here. Our best clients allow us to infuse fun into this process. We laugh. We collaborate. Oh – and they let us do what we do best.

Know You Are in Good Hands

I define a great design project as one in which the homeowners are thrilled at the end of the process, where every member of the development team – architect, designers, builder, artisans and workrooms are engaged and committed to the best possible project. The team we bring to our projects has been refined over many years. We work with the best in Portland. As a team we offer pride, enthusiasm and commitment to our clients and fellow team members.

We offer something special to our clients – something intangible – but important nonetheless. Our work helps our clients relax more easily, it helps them organize their lives, it offers a place to unwind, and it is a backdrop to something really precious – their lives and those they love. That is the heart of what we do. We don’t believe all of our magic is in a great countertop or sofa selection. Our real magic is in knowing you and how you want to live.

What Can I Expect from Your Design Team?

You will find the Angela Todd Designs team professional, approachable, and committed to your satisfaction. We are advocates for your vision, and when challenges arise we are competent problem solvers. Most of all, you will find the experience working with our team lighthearted and fun. You can expect the best value for your investment in your project, and we will work hard to deliver exceptional, remarkable service you will remember for years to come.

Other articles you might find helpful:

How interior designers charge and work with you

What our clients and partners say about working with us

Why choose us for your next project?

Angela Todd Design’s philosophy and process

Angela Todd is the principal for Angela Todd Designs in Portland, Oregon. We strive for exceptional design and unforgettable customer service.

Angela Todd Studios For Custom Furnishings

Angela Todd

Owner & Principal Designer

Angela is the principal designer at her boutique interior design firm in Portland, Oregon. She is known for creating memorable backdrops that tell the story of fascinating and intricate lives.

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