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Home is where you spend a great deal of time. You want it to be both smart and comfortable, and to reflect your personal style. But finding the right interior designer isn’t always easy, especially if you want someone who will work with you to bring your vision to life.

Spend some time flipping through magazines for design ideas that inspire you—then look for a designer in much the same way as you’d look for any other contractor; ask friends for referrals and review their portfolios, and/or call a design school for a list of talented graduates. A qualified interior designer will most likely have a graduate degree in interior design, certification by the Council for Interior Design Qualification, and/or membership in the American Society of Interior Design (ASID).

Then, interview your top three candidates:

  • Begin by setting your expectations. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to be consulted with every choice, or will the designer have some latitude?
  • What visuals will he or she provide before the work begins—sketches and drawings, a sample board of colors, finishes, swatches?
  • What’s the best way for the two of you to communicate? How soon will calls or texts be returned?
  • How will bills, purchase orders and payments be handled? Is he or she comfortable working within a budget?

Most important, how do you feel you will get along with this person? Do you feel he is likely to listen and respect your ideas, or go off on his own tangent? If she isn’t asking questions now—if she doesn’t seem truly vested in your ideas—how likely is it that she will listen later?

Like a hair stylist or a personal trainer, a designer should be a good fit. If all goes right, you may have found one who will follow you not just through years of moves or redesigns, but with second or vacation homes and other projects, as well.