Interior Designers Seattle: What does an interior designer do?

Kirsten Conner

June 27, 2021

Being an interior designer means I wear many hats. Budget development, plans and elevation, finish selection, building code, liaison, color palette development, furniture specification, window treatments, flooring, order tracking; the list goes on and on.

Above all this, the number one thing that I can do is be your guide and anchor in the chaotic and thrilling adventure that lies before you.

There is a mountain of tasks that we must complete, most of them simultaneously and without hiccups, to pull off a successful project. I have over 17 years of experience creating functionally beautiful spaces and know the lay of the land.

There’s an order of operations that must occur, and having a professional to help you leap hurdles and avoid obstacles is invaluable.

We help turn your personality, taste, and lifestyle into a functional and aesthetically pleasing living or workspace. If you decide to engage my services and give me your trust, we will create a space that meets your needs and, maybe more importantly, where you love where you live. All of my clients at the end of a project love their new space.

Every project has its own set of limits and boundaries, but it’s about using the space within these confines to maximize our creative potential.

At its core, we estimate timelines, sketch room layouts, create budgets for material and labor, make decisions about color, space, themes, and materials, hire tradespeople, and communicate with all parties involved.

We communicate with clients, vendors, trades, and the city to make sure things are up to code and meet the needs and expectations of our clients.

We’ve also have established long-running relationships with local trusted vendors, tradespeople, and contractors.

These relationships help to give your home or business a one-of-a-kind look and feel.

For you, my relationships, developed over time, mean a faster turnaround time and a higher degree of quality.

An experienced guide

You’ve been saving up for years to buy a home, or you want to elevate the one you’re living in now, or your office needs to look more up to date.

Any one of these projects, at first glance, might not seem like it’s a big deal. After all, you see people on HGTV do it all the time.

Just tear down a couple of walls, take a trip to The Home Depot, then Ikea, and you’re good to go, right?

It’s important to remember they have TV magic: huge budgets, nearly unlimited resources, and tradespeople.

They have a show to produce and will do whatever it takes to get that product on air.

So what options are left to us without access to unlimited budgets?

You hire an interior designer.

While paying for an interior designer at first might seem extravagant, this investment works harder than any other part of your project.

An interior designer can save you money by getting tasks done correctly the first time.

It can be a financial disaster to pay for a $5,000 sofa that looks amazing on the showroom floor, only to have it look like a llama in a field of sheep once it’s in your living room.

An interior designer has years of experience to draw upon that allows them to foresee upcoming barriers.

Currently, our industry is experiencing unprecedented logistics issues and a lack of raw materials. Managing, ordering, and delivery is complex and is best left to use an experienced professional. I will add efficiency to your remodel project.

Too many of these mistakes and you’ll delay time-sensitive parts of the project, causing you to reschedule manual labor, inspections, or materials start to pile up, getting in the way of progress.

Having an experienced hand at managing the ebb and flow of the process is invaluable.

And when things do go awry, they keep the forward momentum going.

What does an interior designer do?

The definition of interior design is the art or process of designing the interior decoration of a room or building.

This sounds simple enough, but to do it well takes a formal design education and years of working experience.

It also leaves out the numerous skills required to be successful.

An interior designer must be a good listener, artistic, intuitive, creative, self-driven, unstructured but organized, articulate, original, assertive, enthusiastic, confident, and impeccable with communication. These are only a handful of attributes that go into being an accomplished designer and guardian of your hard-earned money.

What kind of interior design training do you need?

Interior design is an exciting art form because it walks the line of science and art. It requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program.

The course work while earning a degree should cover drawing, spatial planning, color and light theory, furniture design, color and fabric, CAD (computer-aided design), architecture, ethics, safety, building codes, ability to read blueprints, lighting, ergonomics, and psychology.

Some states require additional certification to use the title “interior designer.” The most common test is the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam. To qualify for the exam, you must have a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience in the field.

Having additional certifications can show your clients legitimacy and help put their minds at ease that they are in good hands.

What is the design process?

There are five stages to the design process. Before we get to the first one, I want to point out that this takes time.

Stage One: Programming

This is one of the most exciting stages. It’s all about asking questions and figuring out what our goals are.

What are we trying to achieve with this project? How do we want the space to function? What kind of lifestyle do you live, and how can we create a space that will serve you best.

It also allows us to get to know one another. We’ll learn each other’s tastes and preferences.

Are you loose about how the plans go and adapt well to change as problems arise? Or do you need things to be precise as planned no matter what the cost is?

Either way is acceptable; it’s just good to know what atmosphere the project will take on.

Stage Two: Schematic Design

This is where we start to make rough sketches of what goes where.  Furniture placement is selected so we can get an idea of how much space we are working with.  Schematic design is a fluid process.

This will also be when we select colors and finishes. If it’s in the kitchen, we’ll choose types of tiles and hardwood floors, etc.

At this time, we can start making estimations of the overall cost of the project and sometimes pull in a contractor to give a ballpark estimate. We want to make sure we are hitting your budget expectations.

Once we have a first draft idea of furniture layout, circulation patterns, and minimum clearances, we’ll have the client sign off on making the next stage.

Stage Three: Design Development

Here, we will be creating the refined version of the floor plan, elevations, and details.

You’ll be able to see specific dimensions of equipment placements. So, for example, you’ll see space for a refrigerator, but not which refrigerator.

This is when appliances and equipment go into closer consideration. Spaces can be adjusted for specific pieces, but the overall layout is in place.

We are in constant contact with the client to fine tweak every detail when everything is satisfactory, the client signs off on the next step.

Stage Four: Construction Administration

Permits are approved, contractors are hired, and finishing materials are ordered to arrive when the construction is over.

Demolition starts. We work with the contractor to figure out solutions to any problems that arise.

When items arrive, we’ll be on-site or readily available to ensure they are correct and in good working order.

Last is installing light fixtures, doorknobs, hardware, appliances, and finally, furniture, furnishings, and art.

Window Treatments

With so many options available, it’s essential to see what your choices are. Window treatments tie the room together and frame your perspective of the outside world.

They also provide heat retention, privacy, and light blocking.

Window treatments also provide contrast in a room that is hard to measure. They can give a room of hard surfaces a feeling of being comfortable and cozy.

Bathroom Remodel

Bathrooms are the second largest investment you’ll make in a home remodel, with the kitchen coming in first.

Many variables come into play when designing a bathroom, and creating a cohesive space is more complex than you might imagine. Showers, tubs, sinks, tile, toilet, fixtures, all of these pieces need to balance with one another.

Some master bathrooms can be as large as an additional room. With this much of your investment on the line, it’s essential to lean on a professional.

Kitchen Remodel

Kitchens have become the heart of a home and the place people congregate most.

Having a kitchen that supports your personality and lifestyle is extremely important to the overall function of your home.

You’ll spend a lot of time here, and it’s also the most significant investment in the house.

Working with a designer in your kitchen ensures that your vision becomes a reality, and it is unique to you.

Plus, real estate agents report an impressive kitchen remodel can drastically improve the value of your home.

Furniture Selection

Furniture adds to the overall big picture of your home. It helps set the tone and creates the mood of a room.

A designer will also be able to help you find quality furniture. Sure, that love seat might look great and come at an affordable price, but a designer will be able to tell you if the cushions will start to break down within the year, saving you money in the long run.

They’ll also be able to find stand-out pieces that are wholly unique. It’s a beautiful feeling when your guests ooh and awe over your coffee table, bookshelves, and end tables.

Furniture Layout

You need a trained eye when doing furniture placement. Not knowing how to use the geometry of a room can give it a disjointed and cluttered feeling.

When a room’s furniture isn’t laid out correctly, it has an off feeling that you can’t quite put a finger on. You don’t know why, but any which way you move the furniture still feels wonky.

An interior designer can help you find the natural focal point to any room and even create one if necessary.

They help with spacing, so you have comfortable walkways. However, having to step over and around people’s legs and knees is awkward and sometimes unsafe.

You’d be surprised how vital buying the correct sized area rug is to have a balanced layout. Don’t try to save money by buying a smaller rug. It’ll throw off the equilibrium of the room. A designer will have ideas on how to save money but still get the layout you desire.

Material Selection

Many factors go into selecting materials; color, texture, durability, role, and sustainability, to name a few.

Durability is one of the most important considerations. It’s better to buy something of high quality once than to repeatedly buy something cheap to save money in the short term.

Price is another factor to consider when buying materials. For example, you might want granite countertops, but it’s not always possible due to budget restraints. A designer will find you an alternative close to granite in aesthetic but much friendlier to your wallet.

Sometimes, a designer’s local connections can get you desired materials that aren’t on sale or available to the general public yet. In addition, their internal network and close contacts will benefit in making your home one of a kind.

Color Consultation

Color selection is an incredibly significant decision. A color consultation can save you from making ten trips to the paint store only to end up further away from choosing a color than you began.

There’s a psychology that goes into color selection, and it’s important to know that everyone has their color sensibility.

Color can also affect the size of a room. Not literally, but it can make a room feel larger or the ceilings higher. Color can look a certain way in one room and completely different depending on light and what furnishes the area.

A color consultation can save you time, money, and a lot of headaches. Also, having an objective third party can stop you from making some costly and cringy mistakes.

Space Planning

The first step in space planning is determining what the area is being used for. After that, zones will be applied to the space to identify the circulation pattern and how people will be moving through the room.

Other things to consider are the volume of pieces in the room. Having too many pieces of furniture in the room disrupts the flow of navigation and can increase unease with the sense of it feeling cluttered.

The placement of wall outlets and light switches needs to be discussed. Suppose it’s the family living room that will have a TV, modem, router, lamps, and probably a lot of electronics being charged simultaneously. In that case, you’ll need a lot of outlets placed in convenient locations. Not just behind the TV.

When should I hire an interior designer?

Hiring an interior designer at any point in a project is a good idea. While it’s always better to start with one initially, paying for expertise and guidance at any time is never a bad idea.

It’s better to take your time and work through the process together. Don’t wait until you are at your wit’s end and start making impulse decisions based on the fact that you just want to get the project over with.

If you can, start discussing your plans with an interior designer when you decide that you’re committing to doing the project, but if you have already begun, there is no point at which you can’t bring someone in.  Do it, and the results will speak for themselves.

Let me guide you on your journey

Hiring an interior designer will save you time, money, and headaches while giving you results that you could never produce independently.

It’s hard to put a value marker on how much of an interior designer’s impact can have on the journey of redesigning your home or business.

What they bring to the table is new ideas and perspective, a local network of contractors and craftspeople who are already vetted and ready, the skills of balance, light, color, and materials, an organizer and troubleshooter, and lastly, the peace of mind that you got it right once and for all.

With this information, you’ll now be able to sit down with a certified interior designer and know exactly what to expect from the process to come.

You now know that it’s not about just picking colors and furniture (unless that’s all you need help with), but a vast array of skills to help guide you every step of the way.

Set up a consultation

If you’re thinking about hiring an interior designer, please fill out the contact form below. We can discuss your goals, ideas, and preferences. I look forward to hearing from you!


Each project is as unique as the individuals involved. Let's discover your perfect home together. Please complete the form and we'll get started!


Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.