Buying a historic cottage in the English countryside comes with a steep learning curve. This isn’t a surprise—pretty much everyone warned us it would be a long and intense process. But one lesson I’m glad we learned quickly? Hiring an interior designer is totally worth it.
Pre-project, I thought an interior designer mostly did what I do naturally when decorating a space, but with more resources. I never once thought it was an easy job, but I figured it was something anyone with a keen eye for design could probably hack.
As I learned from our very first meeting with our interior designer, I was wildly wrong. Here were my discoveries while working with a designer—and why I'm so glad I did.
Interior Designers Do So Much More Than I Realized
Early in our buying process, someone told me to skip the interior designer, advising that I could do it myself and buy nicer things with the money I save. I was under the impression that if an interior designer simply picks out furniture and adds a few pillows, sure, I can do that myself. I’ve done it in a dozen different flats across multiple cities at this point.
But, I quickly learned that simply doesn't define what an interior designer does. Through a pipeline of referrals, we connected with Beth Chippindall of Honeycomb Interiors. In our first meeting, we walked Beth around the cottage and talked her through our dream scenario for each room. We showed her everything from where we wanted to hang our coats to our ideal layout for the kids’ bunk room. After, she came back to us with detailed floor plans that showed us everything we had discussed—and so much more.
Our cottage is tiny. It’s part of why we loved it—it’s cozy and sweet and perfect for our family. But, when I say that it lacks storage space, I mean that. Currently, there is only one small closet and a few useless shelves. When Beth came back with her proposal for the updated floorplan, I was beyond thrilled to see that she had added closets and shelving to spaces I never thought to use. She squeezed in wardrobes and clothing rails in spaces that make so much sense, I already can’t wait to organize them, even if they don’t technically exist yet.
It was from this very first meeting that I knew we’d made the right choice. Interior designers are trained to see spaces in a way the rest of us can’t.
Interior designers are trained to see spaces in a way the rest of us can’t.
They Have Their Own List of Pros and Experts
During another one of our early meetings, I told Beth about a sofa that I absolutely loved, but it was wildly out of budget (it doesn’t keep Instagram from regularly targeting me with the ads for it, though).
Beth quickly assured us that we can have it custom-made, or find one similar. A few months later, the dupe was in my inbox, along with a list of showrooms where we can go see it first-hand.
During that same meeting, she showed us her thoughts on where to squeeze a TV into the awkwardly-sized living room. It was definitely the best option for the room, but it wasn’t right for us. Instead, we suggested a projector screen that tucks up into one of the beams. Beth said without a second thought, "I’ve got someone for that."
Most importantly, and much to the chagrin of almost everyone involved, I have thoughts on built-ins. The kids’ room is small and extremely wonky. The first time our contractor walked through, he joked about how tricky it’ll be to navigate the second floor after a night at the pub. So, when I proposed built-in bunk beds in the kids’ room and built-in shelving and office space in the attic, it was met with a lot of polite nods from the other experts on our team. Nods that meant, “Sure, lady.”
Not from our designer—Beth knew someone for that, too. And as I sent her inspiration pic after inspiration pic, she pulled out all the common elements, put together a drawing, and added colors that will lighten up the space and bring it together with the rest of our home.
The Fee Pays for Itself
One of the most common misconceptions is that the money you’re using to pay your interior designer could be better spent elsewhere. I’m sure this is entirely project-specific—in plenty of cases, that might be true.
For us? Not true at all. After our most recent meeting, Beth sent us a price list for everything we discussed—from beds to throw pillows, with light fixtures and bathroom tiles in between. Best of all, she told us which items could stand to be swapped for something cheaper, and which elements she feels are worth the splurge.
For example, I requested antique brass fixtures in both bathrooms. After looking at the pricing, we opted to go with antique brass downstairs in the powder room to match the kitchen, but save a decent chunk of money with something in silver for the upstairs full bath.
These are things I know I would have stressed about, made a rash decision, and regretted later. Having someone guide me through the process and save money along the way? Priceless.
We're Saving So Much Time
Along with the research Beth can do because of her tried and true resources, she is saving us a ton of time in other ways, too.
We don’t currently live in the same town as our cottage—we’re about a two-hour drive away. This means that once we’re ready to coordinate deliveries and build everything out, we won’t be able to get there quickly, and there will be little room for error or date changes. If workers can only be there on a weekday, we’ll likely have to rearrange work schedules and childcare. With a designer, she’ll be our person on the ground for these critical days and coordinate everything so it happens all at once and in the most logical order.
I'd never advise people to spend over their means when it comes to fitting out a house. But if you can work with an interior designer, the right match is worth every penny.