Sometimes you just need help in pulling a room or a project together. Though decorators were once considered a privilege of the rich, hiring a decorator can be very affordable and may even help save money in the long run.
Below are some tips to help you get the most for your money when working with a pro.
Do your own legwork. Don't show up at your first meeting empty-handed. Before you begin contacting decorators, gather colors, measurements, fabrics, carpets and pictures of things that you like. Doing some initial research will save valuable time (and money) and allow your decorator to concentrate on how to pull your project together.
Be upfront (and realistic) about your budget. Be truthful and specific about what you expect and what your budget is. The decorator should let you know if he or she can meet your expectations within your budget. Be wary of any decorator that promises you the moon; they probably can't deliver it.
Use who you know. Sometimes a neighbor, family member or friend is a decorator. By all means, call them first. But interview them as you would any potential decorator and never assume that they will work for free or even cheap. But if they offer a discount ...
Try student services or look for interns. Many interior design or decorating students will work for free or at greatly reduced rates, and interns are often eager to please and showcase their talents. Again, interview the student as you would a pro to make sure your styles mesh. If the relationship works, they build their portfolio and you get great savings - a home run!
Don't discount your design center. Home Depot, IKEA, furniture stores and other retail outlets have experts on staff that will help you incorporate their products.
Their services are often free, and though the products are not, many times these staff members can authorize discounts or know of upcoming sales that will help you with your budget.
Ask for a general plan. Many decorators can provide a room layout or color scheme in only a few hours, or if your budget allows, they can provide a more detailed plan. You'll have to do the rest of the work (the painting, picture hanging, reupholstering, etc) but with a great plan, half of the work is done and you'll be well on your way toward your end result.