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A Guide to Beginning an Interior Design Project

Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Today's topic: an introduction to interior design!

With rules imposed by everyone from individual buildings to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to the Department of Buildings, a full renovation can be a hassle. Redecorating is, perhaps, a less headache-inducing alternative?if you know where to begin. So Curbed University spoke to interior designer and Curbed National "Why This Works" contributor Alexa Stevenson for some basic design advice.

The first question: to hire a designer or go the DIY route. If hiring a designer, Stevenson advises asking friends for referrals and then interviewing each designer individually. Often, a client may pay for designer's specific style, but it's still important to find a designer with whom one feels comfortable. "It's just kind of like a date," Stevenson says. "You want to get along with the person, you want that person to listen to you?.The designer is going to know every single thing about you. It's really about trust." A good designer will probably ask a lot of questions about how the client lives: how they get dressed, whether they're okay with getting mud on the sofa, etc.

For those redecorating without help from an interior designer, the best way to start is to pull images that you like?Stevenson recommends Pinterest and Houzz as sources?and figure out what the "cohesive thread" is. Then, buy what you love and keep it simple. "I don't really believe in design rules," Stevenson says. "Either you know what looks good or you don't." (She does note, though, that most people buy rugs that are too small for their space. Pro tip!) Spend as much money as you can on good furniture, she advises?with sofas being a particularly good starter item because they get so much use?and don't worry if things like throw pillows aren't the best quality.

The big issue, of course, is budget. "It's always going to be at least three times more expensive than you think it is" to do an interior design project, Stevenson says. Doing a living room would probably run more than $20,000, including paint and window treatments, a rug, new chairs, etc. The more wallet-friendly options, like furniture from flea markets, involve more work or won't last as long (lookin' at you, Ikea). So a good basic rule when it comes to decorating and costs: always overestimate.
· Curbed University archive [Curbed]