How Does an Interior Designer Work? Steps 1-5

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to hire an interior designer, then this blog series is for you. There is a lot of mystery behind working with a designer. People may wonder how much it will cost, how long it will take or how involved they will be. Now, I can’t speak for every designer, but I can explain to you how Alex Sallenger Design runs our projects.


Our 13-Step System

We use the same 13 step system for every project, no matter how big or small. Do you need help picking out new artwork and window treatments for your living room? 13-step system. Are you building your dream home from the ground up and want us to handle every single selection for you? 13-step system. It doesn’t matter if you are our largest project or smallest, we will handle you with the same care and attention as everyone that we work with.


Steps 1-5 usually take up the first few months of your project. Now, I say that with a note: there can be quite a range on timeline for these steps. If we are selecting a few finishing touches, we won’t need nearly as much time as we would to select an entire home’s furniture. But on average it takes us 4-8 weeks to get you from step 1, the consultation, to step 5, the design presentation.


  1. So, where do we begin? Step 1 is your initial consultation with your designer. Your consultation will be at your home if you are in one of our service areas or virtual if you are not. This meeting can last up to 2 hours and is your designer’s first interaction with your space. As you walk through the home together your designer will give you many ideas, including suggestions on furniture arrangement, color selections, accessory style and sizes and even basic window treatment guidance. We will want to discuss problem areas that you may have, review inspiration pictures that you’ve found and preview any pieces that you already own and want to incorporate into the new design.

  2. At the end of your consultation, we will cover step 2, client onboarding. Now, this one isn’t exciting, but it is important- this is when we review the contract and collect the retainer. We will sit down with you to review our contract and make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations and project management. We will gladly answer any questions that you may have. Once the contract is signed, we’ll be able to collect the retainer. The retainer varies in amount, based on your project. It will be held until the completion of your project applied to your final invoice during step 12. Any remaining amount will be returned to you after the invoice is closed.

  3. Step 3 kicks off your official design project, we jokingly call it SAD, however it is anything but. SAD stands for Site Assessment Day. If you are local, we will schedule an appointment to bring in any of our trades people that we think will be needed during your project. This is our time to review ideas with them, get pictures, measurements and really develop our scope of work (the to-do list) for your project. If you are not local and want to be more involved in your project, we will send you a list of measurements and pictures that we will need and make arrangements with you for trades people.

  4. Step 4, design development is the longest step in 1-5. This step requires the most work on our side and least from you. I’m sure that it can feel a little bit unnerving to not be involved during the design period, but we will keep you updated with a weekly email so that you know what we are working on and if we have any questions. This is the time period when we are shifting through books of wallpaper, rubbing fabric samples to make sure you’ll like them and narrowing down to the *just right* shade of green paint. We may be measuring the height of a chair’s arm or getting quotes on a custom kitchen table. During step 4 we are selecting every item that your space needs and compiling everything into the perfect design for you.

  5. Step 4 can be a little bit boring for clients, but step 5 makes it 100% worth the wait! It’s time for the design presentation! When we have every detail of your space selected and quoted it is time to show you all of the amazing details. We will meet to show you design boards, drawings, pictures and samples so that you can see all of the hard work that’s gone into your home. Our design boards will show you what each room or space will look like overall and drawings or other presentation items will show you what to expect for each individual item that makes up your great new space. This presentation is when we will be able to review a firm budget and get a better timeline of completion. Please bring your check book because at the end of the presentation we will be ready for you to sign off on all selections and place your order so that we can start sourcing for you!


Our 13-step process is going to leave you feeling well informed and happy with your new space. As you can tell we work with a very front heavy system. We’re only at step 5 and you already know what your design looks like! Steps 6-13 will ensure that you are happy with the execution of the design and we will cover those soon. Subscribe to the blog so that next week you can read about steps 6-9.

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