Article by Mabel Tan
Looking for the right interior design firm is one of the most challenging decisions for a new homeowner, especially since complaints in the renovation sector continue unabated. After the pandemic, reports of increasing price hikes and project delays also sound an alarm for homeowners who are choosing their interior design (ID) firms.
If you are like many who are now straddled with having to choose the correct ID firm, we bring you 7 tips to help you choose the right interior design firm for your home renovation needs.
Check for relevant licensing and accreditations
The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) is a central agency that has helped consumers resolve their renovation woes. With more than 800 renovation complaints in the first half of 2022 alone, Case has recorded and aided many homeowners in settling disputes with their ID contractors.
This demonstrates how important the CaseTrust mark is when you are shortlisting your ID or renovation contractors. Having the CaseTrust mark is a commitment to transparency and the fair practices framework set out by Case and would be instrumental if (fingers crossed!) a complaint ever needs to be made.
Another noteworthy accreditation specific to renovation and interior design is the Singapore Design Accreditation Scheme by SIDAS (Society of Interior Designers) launched in Nov 2019. There are 3 categories of accreditation based on qualifications and work experience and aims to embed professionalism into the industry and bring assurance to consumers.
Last but not least, HDB homeowners should only engage with HDB-Approved ID firms listed on the statutory board since you would want to be sure that your interior designers have a good grasp of HDB’s rules and guidelines in renovation.
Look at past evidence of completed projects and customers’ testimonials
While word-of-mouth is another important source of referrals of trust, you should look for evidence of good and timely work that the ID firm has performed in the past. When reviewing past customers’ testimonials, it is also important to look for consistency of values demonstrated by the ID firm and the names of the designers who have undertaken them.
In other words, do not simply go for big “brand name” companies who merely boasts of the size of their team or the heritage or length of operations – realise that it is the commitment of the individual interior designer and the support of the team that is the differentiating factor for successful completion beyond the auspices of the organizational brand.
Ensure that there is a good match of style preferences
As you browse through each ID firm’s past portfolio of projects, the synergy of design elements and style that matches your personal taste and style is crucial. Of course, as professionals ID firms may have implemented a host of designs but their past work would likely point to a leaning and/or expertise in a particular style. This is undoubtedly important if you have strong style preferences (and who doesn’t?) since their past work would point to a ready slate of suitable suppliers and experience with execution.
Insist on modularized work quotation
Don’t let the ID firms get away with a generalized, all-included quotation but insist on an itemized cost quote that breaks down key work items by a modular timeline. This would allow you to compare value for money as you evaluate between different shortlisted ID firms.
Negotiate for progressive payment schedule
In a similar vein, the modularized project timelines should also translate into a reasonable payment schedule that is tied to the key milestones of your home renovation. It needs no explaining why you should avoid upfront payment and instead, insist on progressive payment that is reasonably tied to satisfactory completion across the project.
Clarify on key personnel and support team
Apart from the lead designer, you would want to know about the requisite support team and the firm’s contingency processes. Renovation hiccups and delays are part and parcel of most projects and to be expected (unfortunately), hence understanding the support functions the ID firm has put in place would serve to manage expectations and smoothen the process towards successful completion between you and your ID firm.
Evaluate the value-add the ID is bringing to your home renovation
Let’s face it: you would be paying a premium for the design consultancy that your ID firm is supposed to bring to the table. Hence, is the interior designer able to provide constructive feedback to desired styling, materials, etc?
If you find that you are driving most of the design decisions, then it may be wise to consider if you are better off using independent contractors who are able to execute to your bidding – though you may have to put up with coordinating the work flow, the cost differential may be worth the hassle.
Yes, home renovations can be nerve-wrecking. We hope the 7 tips above would go a long way to help you manage the process of appointing your ID firm and aim towards a happy completion of your home-sweet-home!
Need more interior designing inspiration, check out our article on Furniture Trends for this year.