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Style at Home: What it’s really like to work with a designer

by Tribune News Service | January 15, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Designers think about the whole space, like the way these chairs perfectly pair with the maximalist style of the vignette behind it. (Handout/TNS)

Working with a designer is an exciting -- and may I say game-changing -- way to design a room. Designers can help you think outside of your comfort zone and consider things you might have otherwise overlooked. However, if you haven't done it before, starting out can also feel a little intimidating.

So, I sat down with Carlie, Nell Hill's design manager and longtime designer, to share what it's really like.

What do I need to have prepared for my first appointment?

While this process is stress-free, there is a little bit of background work that would be helpful to have complete going into your first meeting with a designer. Having these items finished beforehand not only allows you to make the best of your time, but helps your design partner learn more about you and your style.

• Room measurements: Measure the full length and width of your room and note the location and size of all windows, doors and stationery elements (like a fireplace or window seat). Be sure to note large, existing furniture pieces as well. This helps to ensure that any new pieces being brought in are the right scale -- there's nothing worse than adding a new credenza to a space only to find out that it slightly overhangs a window frame, or worse, seriously impedes a walkway.

• A clear budget in mind: This one is imperative, and probably a no-brainer. But, being upfront and honest about your design budget gives your designer a clear direction when coming up with creative solutions for your design.

• Photos of the existing space: It's important to think about how your new design will work with the existing pieces to keep it from feeling disjointed.

• A mood board: Help set the direction of the design by coming to the appointment with a few suggestions of what you like. These can be images of rooms and things that inspire you, colors you love, a particular wallpaper or fabric -- you don't necessarily have to have a grand vision yet.

What is the first step in the design process?

Once you make an appointment with a designer, we get to work creating floor plans, begin pulling textiles for you to review and talk more about your needs for the room. Depending on the size of the project, this can take place over one visit or several.

From start to finish, our goal is to create a space that is a true reflection of you. Clients are an important part of the design process, and your feedback at every stage is welcomed and valued.

What is one thing you want clients to know about the design process?

We want to fully understand our client's needs, and for our clients to truly love their spaces. We believe that what you love is always in style, and we are ready to jump in and help no matter how big or small the project is.

How do I know that I've found the right fit in choosing a piece?

Our advice on this is timeless and to the point. We say trust your instincts! Just because something is trendy or "in" doesn't mean it's the right fit for your space. If you love it, you will know!

Adapted from Katie Laughridge is the owner of Kansas City interior design destination Nell Hill's. For more information, contact Katie at

photo A designer can help you think outside the box — like this fun fabric pairings of a block print with matching green velvet. (Handout/TNS)

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