A REAL Look Behind the Scenes of an Interior Design Firm

maria-causey-interior-design--behind-the-scenes-real-dc-metro-area.png

Have you been seized by the High Point Market madness yet? It’s this wonderful event where designers get to see new trends, scope out vendors, and bring their findings back to their clients.

Although we’re not attending this year, it made me think about some of the amazing vendors we’ve found there in the past, and why vendors are so, so important to YOU — whether you realize it or not!

When you hire us (or any interior design firm), you get everything that comes with it:

  • Product and materials knowledge

  • A design eye for color, decor, materials, space planning, etc.

  • Project management

And….

PRODUCT VENDORS.

Vendors are the ones who sell all your home products, such as hardwood flooring, countertop stone, cabinets, tiles, furniture, window treatments, lighting, and on, and on…

Our relationships with vendors help us get easy access to quality products, often at below-market prices.

There are 6 important qualities we look for in our vendor partnerships. If you’re at all considering hiring an interior designer for your next project, I highly suggest you give this post a thorough read. This is real life.

1. Value & The TRUTH about the Value of Home Products

“Value” is the balance between quality and price. In other words, a valuable product is one that is reasonable for its price tier AND will stand the test of time, your pets, children, you name it.

But I have some cautionary news for you… if you watch HGTV, they’re probably giving you some false expectations.

As someone who is knee-deep in today’s market prices for all home-related products, I know for a FACT that their shows are skewing our perception of a realistic budget.

Onscreen, we see couples getting beautiful home makeovers for impossibly low budgets. Then you go look for similar products yourself and get blindsided by sticker shock! HGTV is entertaining, but I don’t want this to happen to you. Just remember that many companies donate their products to the network for marketing purposes. That’s how they keep costs down.

When we’re looking for vendors, we’re on your side. We’re doing our best to source products that you’ll love, will last, and that you won’t have to donate a kidney to get.

2. The Importance of Customer Service in Interior Design

I don’t mean OUR customer service (although we take it pretty darn seriously). I mean the VENDORS’ customer service.

Why?

Because an interior designer is also a project manager. We’re trained to avoid and solve any of the inevitable bumps that come up during a design project. And I can tell you from more than a decade of experience...

It helps a TON to have vendor representatives who are open, communicative, and respectful.

There might not be such a thing as a bump-free design project, but there is such a thing as a well-managed design project — and great customer service from our vendors is crucial.

3. Low Lead Times = More Efficient Project

“Lead time” is an industry term for how long it will take to procure an item we’ve purchased for you, such as a couch, custom window treatment, or appliance.

When it comes to lead times, you and I both want LOW.

Discovering that your favorite items are on backorder is a normal part of the design process. But... if the same vendor is constantly on backorder, or if multiple vendors are, it can slow the project down.

Because we’re committed to completing your project as efficiently as possible, we source our products only from vendors who can fill your orders quickly.

Which brings me to my next point...

4. The Benefit of Quantity & Variety of In-Stock Items

Quantity helps with shorter lead times, but variety of products is important, too. If we can place an order with ONE vendor for all of the furniture in your home (and a variety of styles, at that), we can eliminate having to communicate with several different vendors for all of those different products.

I think you’re seeing a theme here...

Wherever we can streamline communication, we do.

5. Why We Want Products from the Good Ol’ USA

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m a big fan of design inspiration from abroad (see my exciting review of design in Paris). But when it comes to managing your project smoothly and efficiently, sourcing items locally is a win for us both.

Prices are lower.
Lead times are shorter.
Communication is easier.
Plus, who doesn’t want to support our local economy? ;)

Here are couple “local” vendors we love:

Bassett Furniture: The company started in good old Virginia, and manufactures their products in North Carolina. Close to home!

Legacy Home/Ryan Studio: This lovely workroom makes bedding, custom pillows, and other soft furnishings, and they’re right here in Chantilly! Speaking of great customer service, their rep, Sheila, is wonderful.

6. Why We Look for Consistent Style in Our Vendors

Alright, this one is last and maybe a little obvious, but it’s no less important...

We want vendors whose products are in the STYLE our clients love.

If you look at the design photos scattered throughout this post, you can see our aesthetic. The spaces are all different, of course, but they all have some version of a relaxed, modern traditional vibe.

This kind of focus and consistency helps solidify our great vendor partnerships. They serve us well, we come back to them again and again, and that builds relationships of trust and mutual support.

Focusing our style also means we’re able to really refine the aesthetic, fuse it with other styles successfully (like our Modern Farmhouse project), and give our clients exactly what they’re looking for.

If you love this style, too, maybe we’re the right design firm for you. If not, I suggest you look for a firm that specializes in your favorite aesthetic. Trust me, it’s worth it!

**Want our complementary guide to the Top 4 Most Common Interior Design Mistakes? Sign up for the Maria Causey Interior Design newsletter on our homepage.**