People renovate or build a home only once or twice in a lifetime; so, it’s not surprising if they are unfamiliar with the process of hiring help. Asking the following five Ws—the what, who, where, when and why—of hiring design professionals can help keep you on the right track.

  1. What needs to be done?

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to estimate the cost of an idea. It’s harder still to get permits without documentation. Before your call a buddy to move a wall in your house, hone your ideas into a plan.

Make sure you list your project requirements, such as:

  • Creating additional space
  • Changing the use of space (e.g., basement storage changing to family space)
  • Altering the access or privacy of a room or floor
  • Remodelling the bathroom or kitchen
  • Selecting colours, trims and other finishes
  • Choosing someone to manage the project with your best interests in mind

Consider hiring a professional interior designer to help you with any of these processes. They can figure out the best use of space for you, as well as draw up floor plans, elevations and details that you can understand and a contractor can use for estimates.

  1. Who’s out there? A professional interior designer is trained in effective space planning in terms of use and function within the space. Accessibility, materials, code compliance and drafting for construction are all part of the designers’ expertise. As of 2012, interior designers are in the NS building code as having authority to stamp drawings for interior renovations. In Nova Scotia, the legal title “interior designer” can only be used by professionals with seven years’ education and experience, along with successful completion of the qualifying exam.You will need to consult an engineer for site and access, structure, drainage and comfort systems. Professional interior designers have established working relationships with architects and engineers they can call to collaborate with on your work.

    In Nova Scotia, residential planning and renovation services are available from members of:

    With so many listings available, diligent research is advised.

    1. Visit the web-site of the professional association for the work you require. Membership lists are usually posted, or you can contact the association.
    2. Follow referrals from friends and always check references. Listen closely to both the positive and negative points.
    3. Read testimonials; ask specific questions where information is either vague or overly glowing.
    4. Phone possible contenders (minimum of two) for an appointment to meet and discuss your job. Ask about experience on similar projects.
    5. Ask about professional liability insurance.  Is there a good personality fit?  If something doesn’t seem quite right, address it. Work through it and be sure you are satisfied with the answer, or stop and find another person.
    6. When you’ve found the fit, be sure to agree upon it in writing. Ask for a simple letter of intent outlining the scope of work, timing and fees for services. Be sure HST and expenses are mentioned. Once you’ve signed on, be sure to continue the communication and ask questions.
  2.  Where?

Where is the project and who works in that region? Who is registered and licensed to work in your area? Can you hire locally? Building design is taught and practiced as a discipline of urban culture; so, finding a designer outside of a major centre may require some research.

  1. When?

The interior designer you hire will help you refine the overall schedule. Your understanding of all aspects of the job will help you find the person whose schedule fits yours.

To schedule your project, establish an end date and work back to the start date. Allow time to pack and move out at the beginning, as well as time to settle back in at the end. Construction time is usually the longest, but also allow time for design, estimating, shopping and shipping, as well as seasons and weather. Know how your life will be affected and do not plan to stay in your house during major renovations; it only slows the project down. Projects are most successful when sufficient time has been allowed in the planning stage.

  1. Why go to all this trouble?
  • You will know what you’re getting within your budget before the work starts.
  • You get the best job done by using talents and expertise of qualified and experienced people.
  • You will save your time and money in the long run.
  • It’s the best route to minimize frustration and anxiety. You can keep on with your life, doing what you do best, while the qualified people deal with your renovation.

Lifestyles Magazine Summer 2017

Fran Underwood BID, IDC, IDNS and Kelly Moore, IDNS, LEED AP ID+C are the design team “Underwood & Moore Interior Designers” in Chester, NS.

Fran is the 2013 president of the Interior Designers of Nova Scotia ( of which she has been a member since its inception. She is also a past president of 1DC (Interior Designers of Canada.) Her mandate as IDNS President is to inform the public about what interior design is and what interior designers do.