Finishing touches: How to source the interiors help you need

A cosy living area filled with texture and warmth. An outdoor entertaining space that’s as elegant as an indoor zone. A chic bedroom featuring stand-out art.

When scrolling Instagram or Pinterest, or perusing the pages of a glossy magazine, there’s always something special and elevated about the interior decorating and design – and chances are, a professional decorator, stylist or designer has had a hand in creating these striking spaces.

The good news? You, too, can call in a professional to help beautify your home as the build or renovation approaches completion. Here’s everything you need to know and do before engaging their services.

Do I need a stylist, decorator or designer?

To start, determine which professional is right for your project, as there are significant differences between each of these roles.

“Interior styling is about the items that go into a space – things like furniture, rugs, artwork and accessories,” explains Catherine Heraghty, founder of boutique interiors firm The Stables. “Interior styling refers to putting all these items together in a coordinated way, in line with the style the client wants to achieve.”

Interior decorating is the next step up from this service, but still focuses on beautifying existing spaces. “It involves more permanent finishes and fixtures such as window treatments, soft furnishings and interior colours,” notes Catherine. “There is a greater level of permanence about interior decorating, as opposed to interior styling.”

Finally, an interior designer is involved in the design of the space itself, which may involve moving walls, windows and staircases.

“Interior design is the ‘heavy lifter’ of the three genres. It involves kitchen and bathroom design, finish selection and essentially the configuration of each space,” adds Catherine. An interior designer will need to be engaged in a project from the beginning, whereas a professional decorator or stylist can generally join at a later stage.

The benefits of hiring interior decorating and design professionals

The influence of the well-honed, creative eye of a decorator or designer cannot be underestimated, nor their ability to think outside the box, elevate spaces and imbue them with ‘wow’ factor. A professional will work to ensure that every element of your home functions cohesively, from the front facade and exterior to the interiors and outdoor living spaces.

“Interiors can be costly, so not only do you want to get the best possible result for your budget, you want to ensure that everything works together,” says Catherine. “Clients might be unsure if different elements they like are cohesive, so working with a professional eliminates that uncertainty. It also means that the decision-making process is more efficient, saving the client time and stress.”

A professional decorator or designer will also be privy to industry discounts, enabling them to score furniture and finishes at cheaper rates. Plus, they’ll have access to a trusted network of contractors and tradespeople who may be able to assist you throughout your build or renovation.

Checklist: What to do before engaging a professional decorator or designer

  • Define your style. Are you more drawn to a Hamptons or Box Modern aesthetic? It’s essential to consider your personal style preferences before calling on any professionals.

  • Create a vision board. Style Sourcebook is a great resource, and your mood board will prove invaluable in communicating your vision to your stylist, decorator or designer.

  • Edit your home. Decide which existing pieces you want to work into the new design, and which you’re happy to part with.

  • Set your budget and timeline. Be realistic, as these figures and dates will impact which professionals you engage. Find our detailed guide to creating your budget here.

  • Do your research. Google ‘professional decorator or designer’ in your area, browse their work, read reviews and ask friends for recommendations.

The interview: 10 questions to ask a professional decorator or designer

It’s worth meeting with at least three interior decorating and design professionals to find the one who’ll best achieve your vision. And, given you’ll be working alongside them on a highly personal project, you’ll want to choose someone with whom you have a good rapport. These questions are a jumping off point to start your conversation:

  1. What kind of experience have you had with similar projects?

  2. Can I see examples?

  3. How do you define your style?

  4. How do you calculate your fees?

  5. Can you work with my budget?

  6. How will you present your design concept and ideas?

  7. What will your ongoing involvement be?

  8. Who will be working on my project?

  9. What happens if I don’t like the design?

  10. How will you relay and resolve issues if they arise?

Interior decorating might be the finishing touch on your renovation or build, but it needs to work cohesively with your home’s overall style, structure and exterior. Need inspiration? Download our Modern Look Book and Hamptons Look Book below for more ideas and imagery.

Modern Look Book

Our Modern Look Book provides design inspiration and highlights hallmarks to help describe and define the clean, contemporary home of your dreams. Discover which modern look you love then use the images and language to brief your designer or builder.


Hamptons Look Book

Our Hamptons Look Book provides design inspiration and highlights different hallmarks to achieve the Hamptons home of your dreams. The look book can support the start of your design journey and help you identify images you like for your vision board. Get a copy of the James Hardie Hamptons Look Book now.


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