How to Work Smartly With Your Interior Designer in Singapore

November 27, 2023

How to Work Smartly With Your Interior Designer in Singapore

As much as you think you can do it, renovating your home by yourself is an incredibly herculean task in itself, with many moving parts happening concurrently. Balance that on top of a full-time job, which most of us have, and the process becomes even harder to manage. That is why for many, the decision to renovate your home is followed by another pivotal decision: Should I get an interior designer, or enlist the help of some renovation contractors?

How to decide between an ID and a Contractor

In short, an interior designer can bring a creative vision to your project and offer valuable input on aesthetics and functionality. They'll help you with design, space planning, and selecting materials. On the other hand, if you engage a contractor, you’ll have to do most of the planning yourself as these guys will just do the heavy lifting and build. This decision often boils down to your project's complexity, your design preferences, and your budget.

If you seek a cohesive, well-designed space and appreciate professional guidance, an interior designer might be the right choice. However, if you have a clear vision, a smaller budget, and are tackling a straightforward renovation, a direct contractor could be more suitable.

Thankfully, the availability of information and the increasing knowledge of consumers have evolved the process of home renovation significantly. Homeowners are more educated than ever, and the days of blindly following the lead of scammy interior designers are long gone. Today, you have the power to take control of the conversation, even if you aren't deemed the ‘expert’. With resources and inspiration at your fingertips, renovation is no longer an arena for manipulation. It's about working smart, making informed decisions, and actively steering your renovation journey.

Selecting the Right Interior Designer

If you do decide to go down the ID route, it’s important to understand how to foster a successful partnership. After all, a renovation is a substantial investment, and we want to ensure our hard-earned dollars are put to the best use in the best hands. Selecting the right interior designer sets the stage for a productive and harmonious collaboration, making it one of the most critical decisions in your renovation journey.

Tips for Choosing the Right Interior Designer

Portfolio Variety

Examine the interior designer's portfolio to ensure they have experience with a variety of design styles. This indicates versatility and the ability to adapt to your preferences, whether you lean toward modern, classic, minimalist, or eclectic designs.


Look for a consistent quality of work across projects in their portfolio. Ensure that their previous designs exhibit a level of professionalism and attention to detail that aligns with your expectations.

Client Reviews

Seek out client reviews and testimonials to gain insight into the interior designer's communication skills, project management, and the overall experience they provide. Positive feedback from past clients is a good sign.


Don't hesitate to ask for references from previous clients. Speaking directly with those who have worked with the interior designer can provide valuable information about their work ethic, reliability, and ability to meet deadlines.

Site Visits

If possible, reach out to these clients and ask to visit their completed projects in person. This allows you to see the quality of the designer's work firsthand and evaluate the functionality and aesthetics of their designs. Don’t forget to ask them if there are things they would have done differently!

Budget Considerations

While a talented interior designer can make a significant impact, it's important to consider your budget. Interior design fees can vary, so it's essential to find a designer whose services match your financial resources. Be upfront about your budget during the selection process to avoid any surprises later.

Chemistry is Important, Too

It's crucial to find an interior designer whose vision aligns with your own. Pay attention to your conversation with your ID—you wouldn’t want to work with someone who keeps putting down your ideas, or a ‘yes man’ who simply agrees with everything you say. A professional ID will listen to your ideas, and offer their professional input, advising you on what is feasible and what is not. You want to work with someone who understands your style and can translate your ideas into a cohesive design. This compatibility ensures that the end result reflects your preferences and needs.

Setting Clear Goals and Expectations

Establishing clear goals and expectations with your interior designer is essential for a successful renovation. It’s not something you can agar agar, you need a well-defined vision and a shared understanding of how to achieve it.

When we say “well-defined”, we mean having everything in writing, from design concepts, material selections, project scope, timelines, and financial agreements. Having everything in writing provides a clear reference point and minimises potential misunderstandings. Here are some things you should align with your ID before the signing of any contract, or the commencement of any work!


Work with your interior designer to create a layout that optimises the functionality of your space. Discuss how the layout should support your lifestyle and preferences, ensuring that it meets your specific needs. Once work has started, it can be a pain in the wallet to ‘undo’ any work, so be sure that the agreed layout is one that you are entirely sure of!


Collaborate with your interior designer to establish a project timeline. This timeline should include key milestones and deadlines, allowing you to monitor progress and ensure that the project stays on track. They should be able to list down all the steps in this process, and the services that they will be providing to you. 

Establish a Realistic Budget, Together

Discuss your budget openly and honestly with your interior designer. They should understand your financial constraints and help you develop a financial plan that maximizes the value of your investment. Make sure that you get the costing for every item before you sign anything, as you don’t want to get caught by hidden fees!

Get Multiple Quotes

Before finalizing your budget, it's a good practice to obtain multiple quotes from different interior design firms. Look around and consult with multiple firms, ideally ranging from 3 to 10, to gauge the cost of your project more accurately. This provides you with a clearer picture of the prevailing market rates and helps you identify any potential outliers in terms of pricing.

Don’t be Tempted by Social Media

We know, those fluted panels and natural stone sinks just look so, so good. However, their prices may not just be as attractive as their appearance. An experienced interior designer can provide insights into cost-saving measures and advise you on choosing materials and design elements that balance aesthetics and functionality. On the other hand, a more unscrupulous interior designer would try to tap into your temptation to upsell premium materials that you may not need. Be sure to ask about the pros and cons of each material, so that you can stretch your dollar and have a home you can be proud of!

The Design Process

Great! So you’ve chosen an ID! It’s now time to design your home. Remember, the design process is a dynamic and collaborative journey that you can actively participate in decision-making. It's during this phase that your ideas and visions come to life, so be sure to voice out any concerns you have and not be led by your ID blindly!

Here's an overview of the stages involved in the interior design process:

Initial Consultation

The process begins with an initial consultation where you discuss your objectives, preferences, and any specific requirements with your interior designer. Here, you’ll delve deeper into the things you have discussed during your initial meeting, and iron out all the finer details

Concept Development

Following the consultation, your interior designer will create design concepts that reflect your style and needs. These concepts encompass layout, color schemes, materials, and furniture recommendations. Remember that you have the opportunity to provide feedback and collaborate on refining the design!

Space Planning

Once you have approved the concept, the interior designer will proceed to space planning. This involves creating detailed floor plans that optimize the use of space while considering functionality and traffic flow. Your active participation is valuable in ensuring that the space meets your specific needs.

Material Selection

Materials play a significant role in the design process. Your interior designer will guide you through selecting materials for flooring, walls, countertops, and more. They will provide information about the pros and cons of each material, enabling you to make informed choices. Here’s another friendly reminder to not be tempted by social media and choose what best fits your home!

Furniture and Fixture Selection

Collaborate with your interior designer in choosing furniture, fixtures, and decorative elements. An experienced ID will offer recommendations that align with the design concept and your lifestyle preferences, and a solid ID will help you get good deals on these items.

Design Refinement

As the design evolves, there may be iterations and refinements based on your feedback. This iterative process ensures that the final design aligns perfectly with your vision.

Overcoming Challenges - Ask the Important Questions & Get Them Down In Writing

Renovation projects, no matter how well-planned, often encounter unexpected challenges and surprises. To prevent these surprises, we strongly recommend having a Whatsapp group with your ID and other relevant parties on the onset, and request for weekly updates on the project. That way, you can address challenges proactively and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Common Renovation Problems

Structural Issues

Renovation projects may encounter structural problems, such as weakened foundations or load-bearing issues. These issues can impact the project's progress and budget.

Unforeseen Costs

Unexpected expenses can arise during a renovation, such as the discovery of hidden damages or the need for additional work that was not initially planned.

Unexpected Delays

Delays can occur due to various reasons, such as permit issues, adverse weather conditions, or unexpected design modifications. Delays can disrupt the project's timeline and potentially increase costs.

Tips for Handling Problems and Disagreements

As you’ll see from these tips, many of the solutions to problems and disagreements will come from what is outlined in your agreement, which is why it is important to have everything in writing. Your agreement will dictate in advance how these situations will be handled, especially in terms of cost responsibility. Having a clear agreement in place ensures that both parties understand their roles and commitments.

Open Communication

Maintain open and honest communication with your interior designer throughout the project. Discuss any disagreements or unexpected issues as soon as they arise to prevent them from escalating.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

Clarify the roles and responsibilities of both you and your interior designer in addressing these challenges. Understanding each party's obligations can help prevent misunderstandings.

Mediation and Conflict Resolution

Consider incorporating a mediation or conflict resolution process into your agreement. Having a neutral third party can help facilitate constructive discussions and reach mutually agreeable solutions.

Cost Allocation Agreement

In your agreement, explicitly outline how additional costs resulting from disagreements or unexpected issues will be allocated. This ensures that both parties are aware of their financial responsibilities.

Agree on Change Orders

When changes are necessary due to disagreements or unexpected issues, agree on change orders that detail the scope of work, timeline adjustments, and any associated costs. These change orders should be documented and signed by both parties.

Consider Implementing Payment by Milestones

Payment by milestones is a payment structure that links disbursements to specific project milestones. This method can help prevent issues by ensuring that payments are made upon the successful completion of each stage. It provides financial security for both you and your interior designer, as payments are tied to the achievement of predefined goals.

Project Completion and Evaluation

Hurray! Your home is coming along nicely and we know you just can’t wait to move in. But before you get too excited, it's essential to ensure that every detail aligns with your expectations. This phase involves thorough evaluation and finalization to ensure that the project is not only completed to your satisfaction but also that you are financially protected.

Do One (or more) Final Check Before Signing Off

Before officially accepting the completed project, conduct one final, meticulous inspection of the work. This inspection allows you to identify any areas that may require adjustments or refinements to meet your standards. Don;t be afraid to nitpick, as you may not get another opportunity to rectify any problems for free in the future!

Release Payment Only When Everything is Satisfactory

A crucial aspect of your agreement should be ensuring that payment is released only when you are fully satisfied with the results. Specify the conditions under which payment is disbursed to your interior designer, and be sure to emphasise that it is contingent on your approval. 

Warranty Period and Coverage

Understand the warranty period for the work completed, and what it covers. A warranty offers you peace of mind in case any issues arise after the project is finished. Clarify the terms of the warranty, such as the duration and the extent of coverage for various elements of the renovation beforehand so you can continue to hold your ID accountable!

Make the Journey Easier with HomePay

We know that money is not easy to make, and navigating a renovation project may be as hard, if not harder. That’s why HomePay is here to make the process even smoother and more secure! Our solution helps to navigate conflicts and enhance your renovation experience. With HomeProtect, you have the assurance that funds are held in escrow, only to be released once you are fully satisfied with the completed works. You have 7/14 days (TBC) to meticulously inspect the project. If any defects are found that require rectification, you can proceed to reject the works, ensuring that your financial resources are well-protected.

Incorporating HomeProtect into your renovation journey adds an extra layer of financial security, making the entire process stress-free and providing peace of mind. Turn your renovation project into a seamless and rewarding experience today!