Before You Hire

What does “To the Trade” mean?

The phrase “To the Trade” means that Design Centers or Show Rooms distribute their products exclusively through the services of interior design professionals, rather then selling directly to the public.

What is the difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer?

You may have occasionally heard the terms interior decorator and interior designer used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between these two titles. Interior decorators typically focus on the decorative elements of a home such as paint color, furniture, décor, window treatments, bedding, etc. Interior designers do this, and more.  Interior design is a more specialized career field, requiring a certain combined level of education, training, and work experience. An interior designer should have knowledge of interior architecture principals, drafting skills, and issues of safety, like accessibility and building codes.

When should I think of hiring an interior designer/decorator or should I do the project myself?

Great spaces do not happen by accident. Some people have a gift for putting together rooms in a way that is pleasing to the eye, as well as functional. However, most people struggle with this. It seems so easy, but still, they cannot make it happen.
Here are 5 reasons:

1. You already have a job. So does your designer/decorator.

You are busy. From the corporate world to the stay at home spouse, you are busy. You have earned your position either through education or life experience and you are good at it. An interior designer has gone to school to solely learn how to design with taste, creativity, color, and sensitivity to their clients wants, needs and budget. It is a job they work at 7 days a week and it is time consuming. So turn over the legwork and details to a professional.

2. Your interior designer/decorator will plan to fit your lifestyle.

You are right when you think only you know exactly what you like and what will work with your lifestyle. The first thing a good designer should do is sit down with you in your home, and get to know how you live and what is important to you. If this crucial step is followed, the final design should appeal to everything you told them and more because it is a fresh pair of “trained” eyes looking at your home and its possibilities.

3. A designer/decorator can get to places you can’t.

There are a lot of sources that sell furniture, accessories, lighting etc. that will only sell to-the-trade rather than sell directly to the public. Designers/Decorators have access to every new product on the market that you don’t. And probably the biggest plus is that you hire them to sort through the millions of choices available to find the perfect pieces for you.

4. Working with your gifted Friend may not be the best idea.

Your gifted friend may have their feelings hurt if you don’t like everything they pick for you. If you are paying someone to find these things for you, you won’t have a problem letting them know it isn’t your style. Also, your gifted neighbor will not be responsible for furniture delivery, placement, and damage like most designers will.

5. Don’t Start it if you can’t finish it.

Many times people will start buying things for their remodel or new home only to find they get ‘stuck’ on a color scheme, space plan, or piece of furniture that is just not fitting in. Hiring a designer at this point will help get you out of a jam, but wouldn’t it be nicer to do it right the first time and not waste money and time trying to force an idea? One-off purchasing without an overall plan can be costly!

 As with almost any process, a good plan in place as early as possible is the best route to success.

What are some do’s and don’ts for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) decorators?

  • Buy the best quality you can afford.
  • Look at the space as a whole. You may like the chandelier you saw on vacation, the fun chairs you saw in a magazine and be nostalgic for Aunt Bertha’s dining table, but it doesn’t mean they work well together. You have to see that for what it is and get past it.
  •  Don’t buy something just because it is attractive and you can. Less is more space; more is more clutter.
  • Find photos of rooms you like. Make a floor plan on graph paper.  Measure everything. Take all of this with you shopping. Look at components together, and again, look at the space as a whole.
  • Before you buy an item, ask yourself: Is this part of the dream room I’ve identified or do I just like it? Save yourself from expensive buyer’s remorse. Every time you walk in that room, you will see the item and wish you hadn’t purchased it. No one wants that in their home.
  • Learn about lighting — specifically, the different types of illumination (direct, ambient, etc.)and light temperature and color. Improving lighting can do wonders for a room. Bad lighting can give you all the romance and warm welcome of an emergency room or a cave.  Also, consider installing dimmer switches throughout your home — they work wonders!

Why should I pay for a designer/decorator when some retail and builder supply stores offer ‘free design assistance’?

While it is true that many retail establishments may offer “free” advice and assistance, and that sometimes, though not always, those consultants may be very good at what they do, it is also true that although the advice they offer you is “free,” they definitely are not working for “free” and their primary allegiance and obligation is to their employer. Their main goal is to sell product…and not a design; plus your choices may be limited to what the store carries.

Can I really afford a designer/decorator?

There are many myths surrounding the interior design profession. One of the myths is that the average person cannot afford an interior designer/decorator. Or if you are on a tight budget, don’t assume that hiring a designer/decorator is beyond reach.

Now more than ever, we recognize the fact that the average client may want to complete the design of their home in small stages. Spreading out projects over time allows you to keep your finances on track while making small improvements along the way. I provide you with a roadmap for your project so it can be implemented as time and money permit.

Many people do not realize you can keep the furniture and accessories you already have and still make a dramatic change within your home. Repairing, repainting, and re-arranging furnishings can make a huge improvement in your home’s style…and can save you big bucks. This increasingly popular method is called re-design, keeping your home’s makeover incredibly budget friendly.

We hear this all the time. “I bought this [fill in the blank] but I haven’t really found a place to use it” or “I painted the walls twice already and I still think that this yellow is too bright.” I can help you to define your design concept and coordinate all of your purchases to the design concept. This eliminates unnecessary buying. When it comes to painting or any form of remodeling, having a designer on board from the start of the project will allow you to get it right the first time, which saves you time and money.


Reality shows vs. reality?

Design shows depict designers/decorators on their hands and knees setting tile or painting walls, but for the most part, a designer’s time is more valuable to you than their painting skills. Also, they don’t show you the amount of time and cost the project really took from concept to completion.

    • Hire a designer/decorator for her/his vision. If you’re hiring a designer/decorator for their creativity and expertise, you have to trust them, especially if you don’t want to end up with a totally boring, flat space. The most exciting interiors are usually the ones where the client trusts the designer/decorator to understand their practical needs and to meet those needs while using the most creative resources possible.

What makes a design work?

Designers have spent years perfecting their eye for selecting things that look good together. It is not difficult to tell a professionally designed room from one that is not.

A good design is where there is:

    • Harmonious proportions and scale of objects to the architecture
    • Color and texture for furniture and accessories that is cohesive
    • The final test is always the same –
      • Does it convey the appropriate image?
      • Does it function?
      • How does the client feel in relationship to it?
      • Is it beautiful?

What are some qualities of a good designer/decorator?

.   A good designer/decorator is many things and many talents.

    • A good designer/decorator will “listen” to you, and provide feedback if your wants and needs are unrealistic.
    • A good designer/decorator is a combination of :
      • artist, scientist, technician, business person;
      • and above all, is dedicated to giving high quality professional service
    • A good designer/decorator has:
      • innate creative abilities
      • acquired knowledge of art history and decorative styles
      • mastery of design principles and design elements
      • knowledge of products, materials, and resources
      • ability to ask the right questions and listen carefully
      • respect for client’s vision
      • respect for client confidentiality
      • ability to work on time and on budget
      • ethical business practices
    • A good designer/decorator will nudge you along pathways which you may not have thought of and open up to many possibilities.

What are some qualities of a good client?

    A good client –

    • Is flexible; open to accept new ideas
    • Shows Designer/Decorator respect & courtesy
    • Is available and committed to the project
    • Gives the Designer/Decorator honest feedback on what they like & don’t like
    • When in doubt, trusts the designer/decorator
    • Pays on time
    • When happy with the design experience, gives the designer/decorator referrals

Budget & Costs

I am on a tight budget. How can you help me with my project?

If you’re on a tight budget, don’t assume that hiring a designer is beyond reach. I will be happy to arrange a few hours of consulting or will help you source furnishings and decorative accents. Since you are working on a budget, ask me about creative ways to save some money. Perhaps there is work you can do yourself, such as painting or laying tile. Your project may also be able to be done in phases, as time and money permit.

How do we establish a budget?

Budget is not what you hope it will cost. Budget is what you actually have to spend. People are often hesitant to specify a dollar amount they have to spend, as they fear the designer will plan to spend it all AND more. Letting me know what you want to spend, but also your expectations of quality, will determine the scope of your project and the product choices we recommend.

It is my job to find you the best quality products within your price range. The quality may not be the finest, but it’s the best you can get for your budgetary level. Will that matter to you? Quality is usually tied to a price tag. Price tags become your budget.

I tell my clients the following:

    • I give you a great plan
    • You might be inclined to go out and try to find similar products that cost less; and yes, you may spend a few dollars less, but making changes usually modifies the plan – most often diluting it…and the quality may end up being diluted as well.
    • Maybe you will need to wait on some purchases…So try to stay the course; you will thank me in the long run.

How much do you charge for your services? What will my project cost?

Since the work I do in each home or commercial space varies, I do not have a set fee. My fees depend on the type of project, scope of work involved, level of service you request, and the location of the project. My clients range from DIYers, who just need some advice and direction, to those who desire full-service support. My services are calculated either on an hourly or a flat fee basis (as preferred by the client). This fee is determined after my first consultation meeting with you, and identified in my proposal once I understand the scope and complexity of your project.

Consider these things:

    • Valuable, practical suggestions
    • Years of knowledge
    • Ability to see and envision what you can’t
    • Ideas that come forth that WOW you
    • Expertise of knowing where to go to find things
    • Guidance that is freely given
    • Trained eye that knows when something is NOT right
    • A discreet listening ear for your wish list and your desired lifestyle
    • Saves you time, aggravation, and worry – reduces stress
    • Saves you from making costly mistakes

Why do you have a design fee and a purchasing fee on product?

Since I am a service oriented business (as opposed to a sales oriented business, such as a showroom or furniture store), I charge for my time and expertise, which can include the design concepts, solutions to the problems, product recommendations, meeting time, and advice on any purchases.

For products which I recommend to you that are to-the-trade, I am able to pass on some discounts I may receive from manufacturers. For this reason I have a long list of carefully selected vendors, which offer high quality and unique products that often are not available directly to the public. When a product is ordered through me [e.g., my designer sources] and not local retail stores or consumer internet sites, there is a great deal of time spent on producing and following purchase orders. Additionally, time is spent on coordinating deliveries and generally ensuring that the whole process runs smoothly until the item is delivered to you (includes ordering, following the order, backorder / cancel notifications, inspection, damage resolution if appropriate, delivery, and set-up).

Whether or not you prefer to take advantage of my access to quality and unique sources or prefer local stores, I will offer you my best and honest advice based on priorities and preferences.

What I Do

What are your qualifications?

I have an Interior Design degree. I have a wide range of knowledge and experience in color analysis, aesthetic and functional design, textile composition, furniture construction, space planning practices, code considerations, project management, and computer aided design (CAD) drawings.

I was on the 2006 & 2008 RPO Symphony SHOW HOUSE Designer Committee.  I was a designer for the Home Theater Room in the Landmark Builders 2009 HOMEARAMA house, which took 1st Place as “Best Use of Technology”, and the Home Theater Room in the 2010 RPO Symphony SHOW HOUSE Philharmonic House, which took the 2nd Place “Peoples Choice” Award.

What exactly do you do?

We outwardly viewed as experts in creativity—possessing knowledge of different periods and styles, a multitude of fabrics, spatial relationships, and the mystery of selecting color; all key factors to arranging a perfect home or commercial space. Each project, small or large presents challenges; whether it is lack of storage, poor traffic flow, color scheme, unusual windows, or maximizing light and space. You might have a difficult room that is oddly shaped, has too many focal points, or architectural details that are in the wrong places.

When I look at a space, I always base my perception on the principles of design: scale and proportion, balance, rhythm, emphasis, and harmony. For a room to come together well, all these principles should be considered. I also pay attention to the elements of design: space, line, shape and mass, texture, light, color, and pattern. As designer, I use my knowledge in these areas to envision, plan, and outfit spaces in a way that makes them physically and psychologically comfortable, as well as beautiful and functional.

I balance aesthetic considerations with structural planning to reflect your lifestyle, set the desired mood, complement the home’s architectural features, and ensure that less glamorous details (like electrical outlets and air vents) fit into the scheme. I offer innovative ideas and solutions, and will provide you with a finished project often exceeding your expectations.

Implementing the plan requires understanding scheduling, lead times, dependencies, critical path, and resource availability. I cultivate relationships with trusted artisans,vendors, and others who execute the design; and I can guide your project from concept to implementation / completion, overseeing the work of contractors.

Below is a list of typical deliverables for an interior design project:

  • Create a Design Concept
  • Provide space plans and perspectives of the design
  • Coordinate all interior elements/selections (e.g., color analysis, flooring, wall finishes, architectural detailing, lighting design, furnishings & artwork selections, re-upholstery design, and window treatments)
  • Design site-specific elements such as built-in cabinetry, stair railings, tile and stone patterns
  • Provide access to distinctive furnishings & materials
  • Purchase, deliver, and install product
  • Guide a project from concept to completion – Oversee work of Contractors

Please check out the list of “Services” I provide on my website.

What is it like working with your firm? How do you work?

Design is a very personal as well as time consuming process. I have found that my most successful projects and happiest clients started with a great connection on a personal level. I like to begin with a complimentary phone consultation to determine whether or not I am a good match for your project and to discuss your project goals. If you are interested in proceeding to the next step, I will schedule an in-home visit (see FAQ – What happens at the 1st meeting). My job is to work with your budget; and more importantly, listen to you, assess your needs / wants / dreams, and then create an original design that fits your space perfectly. I work across the range of styles. I don’t go into my work with preconceptions or a design agenda. My goal is to help you achieve your vision and to take that vision to its full potential.

Rather than throwing everything out and starting from scratch with all new purchases, I carefully evaluate your existing belongings to explore fresh new ways to utilize those items. I have access to exclusive trade sources that aren’t available to the public. I research materials and finishes and develop new and innovative ways to create amazing spaces. In addition to my “to the trade” resources, I also like to utilize local stores for sourcing products. I find the right pieces, present you with options, guide you through the decision-making process taking time to explain the design plan, and then can handle all of the logistics involved in purchasing and delivery, if desired. If your project calls for built-in and custom furniture design, I will create a design and work with our tested trade resources to ensure every detail is considered and the pieces are carefully crafted.

Good communication is essential. During my work, I keep in close communication with you through email and/or phone. I welcome any and all questions at any time during the process. I end up delivering a notebook of the design concept that has the entire “road map” of what I recommend, showing you product samples as available, and presenting “how” the design and product selections meet the goals of your project. The design concept normally takes into consideration all the contiguous interior spaces to insure the aesthetic integrity of the design as a whole, and considers lasting, sustainable, and resourceful use of space and furnishings. My success is through using a collaborative team approach and tending to every detail as well as and striving to make each project a journey to be enjoyed.

What is your firms decorating / design style? How will I know if I will really get a style that fits my personality?

My firm does not have a particular decorating or design style. The interior’s style direction will depend on my client’s preferences, the architecture of the home or building, and the budget. I aim to create interiors you love to live in and spaces that reflect your distinctive taste, not mine! Understanding your aesthetic taste with regard to objects, furniture and space, your dreams, needs, and wants, and how you like to live and work in the space is a necessary and critical part of my design process. I aim to enhance the living or working environments of all my clients, and I take pride in my ability to create solutions that are tailored to your liking and budget.

My design solutions focus not only on functional enhancement of your space, but on its aesthetic and emotional appeal as well. Together, these attention areas add real value to you and your lifestyle, and result in a place you love to live in…a space that is reflective of your personality and your lifestyle.

What size projects do you take on?

I can help you with any type or size of project. Whether you need to decorate your first home, redesign your second, or start with one room, I can help you conceptualize, visualize, and realize your dream. I will also just help you select the right paint color for the space. I will help you with as little or as much as you want.

What size projects do you take on?

I can help you with any type or size of project. Whether you need to decorate your first home, redesign your second, or start with one room, I can help you conceptualize, visualize, and realize your dream. I will also just help you select the right paint color for the space. I will help you with as little or as much as you want.

What size projects do you take on?

I can help you with any type or size of project. Whether you need to decorate your first home, redesign your second, or start with one room, I can help you conceptualize, visualize, and realize your dream. I will also just help you select the right paint color for the space. I will help you with as little or as much as you want.

Can I see samples of your work?

Click here to see a good sampling of my portfolio. But remember that the illustrations reflect other people’s tastes, not necessarily mine, and probably not your own. And please consider following me on Houzz.

When should I involve you in our project?

To put it simply, the earlier the better. I can not take every project that is presented to me, so the more notice I have, the better I can plan ahead and serve you. If you are downsizing or retiring, I can help you decide which pieces to keep before you schedule the movers. If you are thinking of remodeling your home or building a new one, I recommend you call us as soon as possible.

Ideally, a designer/decorator should be brought in at the beginning of the space planning and development stage, before the drawings reach the “final approval” stage. At the very least, a designer/decorator can “eyeball” the plans and drawings just to make sure that everything is working the way you envision. If it’s not, there is still time to make changes. It’s one thing to reorient a window on paper; it’s another entirely to move it after installation. Together as a team, the architect, homebuilder, and designer/decorator each come to the table with special areas of expertise. Everyone benefits from this collection of talent – especially YOU, the client.

Do we have to use your contractor or architect?

No. I are happy to work with your builder, general contractor, or any other trades person you would like to work with. HOWEVER, I have many different types of sub-contractors that I work with on a regular basis and can highly recommend. I have a strong philosophy of working as a team. I have spent years creating an excellent work team. Whether you need re-upholstering, custom window treatments, carpet installation, wallpaper installation, painting, custom built-ins…I have the right resources.

How does purchasing work? Do I have to make purchases through you?

Your completed design project will include a detailed list of all the materials, furniture, and accessories that will go into the space, along with their costs. I identify the pieces you can order, if desired, and the ones through my trade resources. When you are ready to order, I create invoices or agreement documents; once you return the documents with your deposit check, I will order your selections and provide you with delivery timelines.

Why Hire Me?

What sets me apart from other designers?

I love design and I LOVE what I do. With my keen eye for color, proportion and scale, I bring personality, passion and flair to your spaces.

I pride myself on impeccable attention to detail, consistent open communication and top notch service.

Many people have difficulty visualizing how a space will look when structural changes are recommended. I use a variety of visual tools to help you see your space in ways you might not have imagined. I can provide 3-D digital renderings that are pretty realistic, which greatly helps communicate the design.

Why hire Karen Hill Interiors?


At Karen Hill Interiors, I take the “overwhelm” out of coordinating colors, fabrics, fixtures, flooring, countertops, lighting, accessories, paint and “more”. I help save money by avoiding costly mistakes, and eliminate the uncertainty of your decisions, all within a realistic, workable budget. My objective is always to invest your budget in a smart way, while focusing on quality. The more effortless and stress-free the whole process appears to you, the harder I will be working by applying my knowledge, project management, and problem solving skills.

I am passionate about design and are dedicated to staying up-to-date on the most recent industry-specific research, design trends, and sustainability topics. My approach to every project is intensely personal, while uniquely collaborative. My training and experience allows me to provide you with solutions, which may not have occurred to you, and I can offer guidance about products specific to your needs. My designs take a holistic look at your home and lifestyle; integrating beauty and function, comfort and style. After all, the most spectacularly “decorated” room is no good if it doesn’t work for you.

Are you ready to hire me?


Here are some signs that you are ready to work with me:

    • You have a pile of design magazines with pages torn out, or dog-eared, and you are tired of just dreaming about changes. You want to start making changes.
    • You look around and you are exhausted (aesthetically) of living in your space.
    • You feel depleted when you are at home and unsure of what to do about it.
    • You are yearning for custom furnishings and showroom exclusives. (A designer not only has exclusive access, but can save you money off retail.)
    • You are open to suggestions. Hiring a professional interior designer does not necessarily mean relinquishing total control. It does, however, require having an open mind to their professional suggestions and solutions. If you find that you naturally micromanage all projects around you, no designer would ever be a good fit or satisfy your expectations.
    • You can see the value in bringing in a professional. You probably don’t give yourself a haircut, or fix your own plumbing, so why decorate your own home?

Getting Started

What happens at the 1st meeting?

As with most designers, I charge for our first visit, spending about an hour or so, conducting an in-depth interview to identify your project objectives and goals; listening and observing, getting to know your interests, dreams, and what you really like…how you want to live and work in the space. I walk with you through each individual room; take a look at what you love, what you are not so thrilled with, what you would like to replace over time. I take notes and pictures. We chat about your short term and long term plans. I may ask you about your hobbies, your family, your color preferences, your pets, whether you entertain at home, whether you frequently have overnight guests. By learning about you and analyzing your requirements, I put together the first building blocks of the eventual design.

I answer any questions you may have regarding my work, my processes, and my initial thoughts for your project. If you just have a few questions you want answered, or ideas for a quick design dilemma, I can potentially assist you during this visit. If your needs require more extensive thought and research, I use my notes and pictures to create a proposal or letter-of-agreement identifying my understanding of your project, what I can bring to the project (the design concept and product recommendations), how I will charge, and a rough estimate of the cost [or a fixed project cost] for my services; emailing you the proposal within a few days. If you decide to work with me, you sign the agreement to go forward and give me a retainer…and I get started!

What should I have at our first meeting?

If possible….

    • Know what you want to accomplish / your objectives; what the room or house should do for you when finished. [It is very important that you speak with your spouse, partner or family and come to a consensus about the overall look you are trying to achieve BEFORE bringing a professional into the picture.]
    • Know your lifestyle needs, preferences, and hopes.
    • Collect clippings from magazines and photos of items and decors that appeal to you.
    • Think about colors, styles and effects you like AND don’t like. Are you formal or  casual, traditional or modern?
    • Establish a time frame in which you would like the work to be done. Is there a specific deadline that must be met?
    • Decide on the dollar amount you are willing to allocate toward the project. Only you can set your budget. I can tell you what choices will fit and how to make the most of your budget from an investment perspective.
    • Please be honest and direct with me so that I can best serve you. Don’t be afraid to tell me if you don’t like something.
    •  Share all of the above with me.

How involved in the process will I need to be? What do you expect from me as your client?

I welcome your participation and your ideas. You may be involved as little or as much as you like, as long as I understand your desire from the onset. This helps avoid double work and cost to you. However, if you find that you naturally micromanage all projects around you, no designer will ever be a good fit or satisfy your expectations.

How do I provide input to the design? What if I don’t like the ideas you come up with, or dislike the design altogether?


Tell me. There won’t be any hurt feelings! This is a process, a conversation, and most of all a two way street. I always keep in mind that it’s your home. You deserve to live in the house of your dreams.

In most cases I am able to develop the initial design concept within three-four weeks of starting. I present the design concept, color scheme(s), some product samples, and an initial budget at a preliminary presentation meeting to make sure I am on the same page and you love the direction in which we are going. It’s a rare client who loves 100 percent of a designer’s suggestions right off the bat. I might recommend a piece of furniture, light fixture, or a wallpaper pattern that you’re iffy about, but please don’t say no without giving the idea some time to sink in. Chances are when you ask me why we chose it, and when you take a little time to think about it, you’ll appreciate the reason it works.

Once I receive your feedback, I develop the final drawings and presentation, obtain fabric and wallpaper memos if appropriate, and finalize the budget, in order to begin creating your dream space.

The house is yours, the money you pay for the project is in your pocket, so the final decisions are yours. However, please understand if you insist on something contrary to my design opinion, the final result winds up in one of three ways:

1. You end up with something not all that bad, and we [the designers] may even admit it.

2. You are convinced you made a good choice even though you are the only one who thinks so.

3. You may realize you made a bad decision, whether you ever admit it out loud or not.

I have pieces with sentimental value. Do we have to get rid of items to fit the new design concept?

I can incorporate the pieces you have into the design of your space. With judicious repurposing, I show you how to create a custom look that is surprisingly cost effective. Merging the old, such as vintage pieces and family treasures, with the new ensures that your space tells a story…and has soul.

How long will my project take?

The initial research and development phase varies according to the complexity of the job; however, in most cases I will make a preliminary presentation to you within about 3 or 4 weeks of receiving your signed agreement and deposit. This will include my design concept, space plans, color scheme, key fabrics and furnishings, and initial budget.

I then move into the final design phase as soon as you provide feedback of any adjustments you would like made to the plan. Depending on their complexity and availability of the trades people that may be needed on your project to meet and provide cost estimates, it could take another 3 to 6 weeks elapse time to provide the final costs, item by item, on everything needed to complete your project.

Full-scale projects, such as room additions or kitchen remodels, can take six months or longer to plan and complete. A living room remodel may take a month to design and 2 months to receive and install all product and furniture. A bathroom remodel may take only a couple months from start to finish. While my Styling Service will provide you with instant gratification.

If time is of the essence, I can come up with solutions to meet your requirements. The duration of the project is not set in stone and hinges on many factors. If you make decisions quickly, the project will be completed sooner. If you need a little bit more time to mull things over, it could increase the time necessary to complete the project. It is best to contact me as early as possible to discuss your potential project.