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Choosing the Right Designer: An Interview with Lisa Davidson of LMD Interior Design

By Lisa Davidson

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

My name is Lisa Davidson and I am an A.S.I.D. Allied Member, and have been working in the field of interior design for over fifteen years. Helping people with their interior design needs yet maintaining sensitivity to my client's desires and budget, I founded LMD Interior Design in 2005 based in Cary, NC. I have completed both residential and commercial projects, and own and operate a successful dot.com design business Interior Design Service Online (www.interiordesignserviceonline.com) which I began in 2007.

My strength is in genuinely listening to my clients' aesthetic, functional, and budgetary goals and creating a beautiful and livable space within this framework. I understand the delicate interplay between function and form in good design, and strongly believe that form must follow function in order for an interior to meet the needs of my clients.

I have a bachelor's degree from California State University Sacramento and a degree from University of California, Santa Barbara in Interior and Environmental Design. My work has been published in several magazines, newspapers and a book; I also appeared on HGTV's hit show Designers' Challenge as the winning project designer. Prior to starting my own businesses, I worked with prestigious design firms in San Francisco and Santa Barbara, CA.

In your opinion, what are three qualities that every interior designer should possess?

Three qualities that are essential for a good interior designer are the ability to listen to client's wants and needs, creativity, and problem solving skills. This combination of skills is essential, in my opinion, to a successful designer.

I believe that there exists a myth about the skills necessary to become a successful interior designer. The myth is as the designer is creative, the finished product will be successful. While creativity is indeed important, a beautifully designed space that does not suit the needs or style of a client, is a failed design. Design is about the client not the designer.

As an interior designer, how do you make sure you're understanding of what your client wants?

Visuals: by this I am referring to photographs, paint chips, fabric samples, etc. Anything that we (myself, the designer, and my client) can view and touch allows us to confirm that we are on the same page and I can accurately understand the wants of my client.

For example, a client may tell me they like the color yellow. There, of course, are varying shades of yellow and my client might be thinking Butter Yellow and I might be hearing Old World Gold. A picture or paint sample in this instance can save both money, time and disappointment.

What are at least three questions every homeowner should ask their interior designer before hiring them?

  1. What are your qualifications? Start your search by looking for a designer that is affiliated with A.S.I.D. The American Society of Interior Designers is the leading organization for interior design professionals. If you find an A.S.I.D. designer, you can be confident that they are more than just a "decorator" and will have both the education and the experience required to successfully complete your project.
  2. Find out how much or how little your designer will permit you to be involved in your project. Some designers insist on total control of a project and like clients that are hands off. Other designers are much more flexible in their working style and will allow you, the homeowner, to do as much leg work as you would like. Be sure you find someone who is the right fit for you from the beginning to avoid confusion and unmet expectations down the road.
  3. Ask for references. Speaking with someone that has worked with the designer you are considering is the best way to get a real understanding as to what the experience will be like. You can find out about the process of working with the designer, the outcome of the project, the communication style, nuisances and more.

How do interior designs charge for their services?

Designers charge various ways for their services. Some work on a flat fee for a project, other work by billing by the hour for their time, some designers rely on client's purchasing products through them and make their money from this markup alone, while other designers charge both an hourly rate plus a markup on product. It is very important to understand the charges from your designer up front so you are not surprised when you receive your invoice or pushed into purchasing furnishings you do not want.

Are there lower cost options for homeowners interested in hiring an interior designer? Some designers (including myself) have taken their business online and offer you excellent interior design service via the internet. Offering interior design service via the internet keeps the overhead cost down, while giving you the professional design assistance you want.

What are some minor building renovations that can really improve the appearance of my home?

If you have a little money to put into your home, I suggest that you always look at your Kitchen and Bathrooms first. If these rooms in your home are updated, the overall house looks good. If a full remodeling job is not in the budget, something as simple as painting outdated cabinets or replacing the countertops can make a world of difference.

Paint is always the best improvement for those clients wanting to renovate on a limited budget. New paint can update the look, feel and even smell of a home for a minimal cost.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

I can be reached for work in the Raleigh area by phone at 919-633-3244 or email lisa@lmdinteriordesign.net. For clients outside of the Raleigh area, please contact Lisa through her online business, Interior Design Service Online. The toll free phone number is 877-874-5567 or email designer@interiordesignserviceonline.com.

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Owner, Lisa Davidson an A.S.I.D. Allied Member, has been working in the field of...

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