Ah, the age old question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg . . . or in this case, the design plan or the contractor bid.

Kitchen rendering.

I recently had a prospective client tell me she wanted to wait to schedule a design consultation until after she got contractor bids. 


In order to save yourself a lot of stress, here’s the best order of operations when deciding to make home improvements:

  1. Decide which home improvements you’d like to do. – There may be many home projects you’d like to tackle.  Put them in a list of most to least important.
  2. Have a general idea of what you can afford to spend. – In general, a full kitchen remodel can cost around 10% of your home’s current market value.  A designer will help you determine your budget based on what it is you’d like to do.
  3. Have an idea of the style you like. – Knowing what you don’t like is just as important as knowing what you do like.  Communicating this to your designer is key to having a space you will love!
  4. Hire a professional interior designer that will create a plan based on your needs, aesthetic & budget. – FYI, interior designers design & decorate, but decorators do not design.  Design looks easy, but there are many complex factors taken into account that you may not even be aware of.
  5. Approve design and get contractor bids. – A good designer will develop a schematic for your contractors to bid on, so they are all bidding on the same thing and you can compare quotes accurately. 
  6. Hire a licensed & bonded contractor.- A good contractor will make the design plan come to life!
  7. Design implementation/construction begins. – This will be stressful!  Just remember that when it’s all done, you will have a beautiful new space!
  8. Designer & contractor address any issues along the way. – Issues are inevitable but a good designer and contractor will offer appropriate solutions.
  9. Project completes. – Enjoy your new space!

Detailed elevation.

And here is a list of what not to do:

  1. Obtain contractor bids and hire contractor before designer. – This will only lead to headaches. There is a very high probability that you won’t be able to accurately compare bids since the contractors won’t have any basis to bid on.  The project is also more apt to cause undue stress and come out over budget.
  2. Forgo designer and let contractor “design”. – I’m not even going to explain this one!
  3. Watch HGTV! – This sets you up for unrealistic expectations.  Although home shows can be fun to watch, remember that they are not reality.  You can watch them to get ideas or develop a sense of what you like, but realize that the budgets and timelines depicted in these shows are not real life.

Detailed presentation page.

Below is a testimonial from a client who learned the hard way that you should hire a designer first. 


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Alicia Paley Home Interiors ©2022.  All rights reserved.

If you remember only one sentence from this review, remember this: Contractors build. Interior designers design – hire your designer first!

My wife and I decided to renovate two bathrooms in our home, in preparation for selling it. We hired the contractor first. Then, realizing that we didn’t know what we were doing, we hired Alicia Paley.


Alicia is experienced, with a great eye for design and a talent for working with nervous clients. We thought we just needed her for design – you know, picking the vanity and mirror – and she picked out great options for both that fit within our budget.

Then, she offered to handle the purchase and delivery of these items. I was skeptical. I figured I could do this myself, but, I was busy so I agreed to let her do it.


Do you know how many widgets go into a bathroom redesign? One vanity, one mirror and about seventy bajillion related to plumbing, all with inscrutable names. Alicia handled all of these – and got them right on the first try. I counted – there were over 300 separate items that needed to be selected, ordered, delivered and installed for carpentry, tile, plumbing, electrical, plaster, painting and building inspection.

It is impossible to overstate how important she was shepherding this entire remodeling. She is a delight to work with, treats you like your her only client, answers panicked emails almost instantly and is a vast, knowledgeable, reassuring presence during the entire process.

Adding Alicia Paley to your design team is a smart decision. She is amazing.

Oh! And our bathrooms turned out great!


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