Cover story: Designer’s help shows your style at its best

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The moment comes for some people when they move into a larger home and realize they have no idea how to use the space. For others, the inspiration to work with an interior designer springs from dissatisfaction with their color scheme or a desire to upgrade their post-college Ikea furniture to something a little more grown-up.

Once you’ve decided you want to consult an interior designer, you’ll need to find someone you can trust and work with comfortably and whose services fit into your budget.

Shannon Munn, an interior designer and principal of Ambi Design Studio in McLean, suggested starting at the ASID.org site, which has a search feature to find interior designers in your area and according to their specialty.

“If you find an interior designer that’s certified by the American Society of Interior Designers, you know you will be working with someone who has had the proper training, not just your neighbor who has good taste,” Ms. Munn said.

Tracy Schlegel, co-owner of Waterlily Interiors in Bethesda, said homeowners need to connect with their designer on a personal level as well as in terms of style.

“It’s such a personal relationship because you are spending time in someone’s home and they’re revealing things like their style differences with their spouse,” Ms. Schlegel said. “People are often the most comfortable if they get a recommendation from a friend who has worked with the designer.”

Ms. Schlegel also suggested looking online and reading local interior design articles to find designers. Most designers have a website with a portfolio of their designs, and some also write blogs that can give potential customers a feel for their style and personality.

“Ninety-five percent of my customers reference my blog when they call me for an interview,” said Jessica Bonness, an interior designer with JGB Interiors in the District. “You can look at websites and see if you think you might click with the designer and then call a few and meet with them before you decide if they’re right for you.”

Before you meet with a designer, you need to take two steps: Think about your preferred interior decorating style and establish a budget.

“Most designers have a point of view in terms of style, but they can have a range of styles they will work in,” said Kelcey Huff, co-owner of Waterlily Interiors. “Truthfully, though, a really contemporary designer won’t be comfortable designing a very traditional home.”

Ms. Munn said people sometimes get too caught up in trying to find a designer who fits in with their style.

“It’s better to look at the basics of design, the look rather than the style,” Ms. Munn said. “For instance, you can see from their website if a designer does a lot of cozy and cluttered rooms versus a streamlined look. A good designer can execute both traditional and contemporary looks.”

When reviewing various designer websites, Ms. Bonness said you should look for what appeals to you.

“While most designers will do anything their client wants, I think it works best to work with a designer whose style meshes with yours,” she said.

One of the most challenging issues for designers is to establish a budget with a client.

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