How an Interior Designer Collaborates with Your Builder & Contractor

During a recent project, the builder told me that he only wants to work with clients who have also hired an interior designer. Why? Because having a solid design plan and a collaborative, respectful team working together throughout the building process makes a world of difference. 


Having been part of this process for many years (and at various stages), I couldn’t agree more. But most homeowners simply don’t know the value of a well-rounded team going into a project! Which is why we’re here. 

Today, I want to cover the all-important questions and details that everyone should know before starting a new build or full-home renovation:

  • Do I really need a designer and a builder or contractor?
  • Who should I hire first? Which roles do what?
  • What does the collaboration process look like?

Come take a look…


Do You Need Both Professionals?

The Short Answer: Yes

Builders and architects will often take the lead to create an initial floorplan or preliminary design for the project . Their talents lie in designing the exterior, mapping out the home’s footprint on the lot, creating a structurally sound home, permitting, and of course, the construction itself. However, it is not these experts’ job to design the interior for your lifestyle…

An interior designer will pay closer attention to how you want to live and feel in your home. For instance, how many people you like to entertain around the holidays, what your daily routine looks like, or how to accommodate your storage needs. They won’t know if you’re hoping to have pendants over your kitchen island or a large seating area around the living room fireplace. We will ensure it all fits within the structure of the home.

If you want a home that supports and uplifts your unique lifestyle, it is essential to plan your interiors before the design is finalized and long before any construction begins. This is where an interior designer comes in. 

Together, we collaborate with the architect and builder on those initial plans, ensuring that your experience in your home will be exactly what you imagine it can be. Better yet, you get the best of each professional’s expertise, allowing you to enjoy the process and your finished home to the fullest.

Which Role Should You Hire First?

The Short Answer: Interior designer (but it’s up to you!)

In my opinion, the best scenario is to bring your designer in first, before construction begins, and here’s why:

1. Designers have the greatest aesthetic impact on your space. Finding a designer whose portfolio and approach you love will do the most to ensure you love your future home. 

2. We serve as your guide during the entire process, which will make navigating decisions significantly easier. One of the most frequent comments I hear from clients is that, had they brought me into the process sooner, it would have saved them so much stress and frustration. There are thousands of decisions to make!

3. Bringing us in early will protect your overall investment from expensive changes. Making updates on paper, not during or post construction, allows us to optimize your investment. The same goes for those thousands of decisions — we will help you decide where to wisely save or splurge according to your goals and lifestyle.

4. The other benefit of hiring a designer first is that we can recommend builders and architects that we trust. I still recommend getting to know our referrals and making sure you feel a connection before working together, but it will save you the hassle of a blind internet search. 

Already have a builder? That’s okay, too. We recommend asking them for designer recommendations. They will always suggest people they work well with and trust, which will only make your project run smoothly and efficiently. (Just make sure you like their previous work!)


How Does the Collaboration Work?

Drafting Your Dream Home

The first stage typically starts with your architect or builder creating a preliminary floor plan design. This is when you’ll decide the number of bedrooms, baths, and the general layout of your home. 

Then, as designers, we ensure the home will be functional for how you’ll live in it. We’ll work closely with you to identify your priorities, needs, and goals and strategize with a team to create your dream home before you break ground.

For example, will the gorgeous antique sideboard you inherited from your grandmother fit in the dining room and still allow seating for 10? Will a large TV go over the fireplace or along a wall instead? Is there room for adequate mudroom storage?

This stage has the most creative freedom and collaboration, and requires a great deal of planning. We consider every detail and thoroughly analyze the plans to determine if they could impact the structural design, which is difficult to change once construction is underway. Once the foundation is poured, freedom becomes limited.


Deciding on Finishes

After the final floor plans are completed, the exciting interior selections and architectural design begin to take shape. Now it’s time to get creative with stunning millwork, custom built-ins, tile designs, and fixed finishes for your home.

This is an overwhelming stage if you haven’t hired a designer yet. Decision fatigue sets in as you face thousands of complex design choices. But with a designer by your side, you’ll have trusted expert guidance to support you through the process, giving you confidence and assurance in every detail.

We’ll use your wish list and inspiration images to help determine your style, budget, and priorities, saving you hundreds of hours searching on your own. Once everything has been documented, drafted, and approved, we’ll meet with your builder to determine timelines and budget.


Construction Begins

Once construction begins, your designer becomes the design manager and also an informed point of contact between you and your builder or contractor. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the vision of your home comes to life as intended and maximizes your investment. As the trusted liaison, we will make frequent site visits and ensure proper communication,  giving you peace of mind. 

At this time, builders use our drawings to execute all design details throughout the construction phase. We’ll conduct frequent walk-throughs and oversee framing, electrical, cabinet layouts, and plumbing during construction to catch any potential errors early on. In addition, we’ll creatively collaborate with your builder on solutions to quickly solve any challenges that may arise.


Installation & Grand Reveal

Imagine enduring months of hard work, decision-making, and construction only to open the door to your brand new home and find… a big, empty space. A bit of a letdown, right? However, your experience will be quite the opposite with a designer on your team. We’ll take time to carefully install furnishings, decor, and style your space to perfection, giving you a proper welcome home. 

The Grand Reveal should be a jaw-dropping moment, and with us, it is. I love watching our clients’ faces light up with joy as they realize that their vision is now a beautiful reality. It will feel like coming home to yourself.

Planning your own major renovation or new build and need a designer on your team? I’d love to help. Book a complimentary call with me, and let’s get to know each other.


Featured Maker

Spring/Summer means it’s time to spruce up the garden, and this month, I want to highlight GardenWorks in Victoria. I could literally spend hours there! They have a massive selection of pots, plants, and garden accessories. 


I also enjoy visiting Coombs Old Country Market. This is such a fun place to visit for so many reasons. As a kid, I remember visiting to see the “goats on the roof” and then spending as much time as my parents would allow perusing the market shop for toys and candy. There is also a boutique with beautiful linens for bedding and bath and the most oversized pottery planters I’ve ever seen! 

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