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I teamed up with Milwaukee-based designer Lisa Mohindroo for a little Q&A to demystify what it’s like to work with an interior designer, explain the benefits of hiring an interior designer, and questions to ask a designer before you hire him or her. Lisa has been in the industry for 14 years and worked at various award winning high-end residential design firms before launching her own interior design firm, Mohindroo Interiors. She is also a mom and is just a super nice and down to earth person. You can check out her blog here and her portfolio here! I hope that you find the information helpful! Let’s dive in to the Q&A, shall we?

Mohindroo Entry with custom iron work

What is your background? How did you get started in interior design and how long have you been working in the design industry? 

I been in the industry for 14 years although I didn’t start off in design.  I was actually in college for psychology and by junior year decided that psychology was not something I wanted to pursue anymore. It was right around the time when Trading Spaces (one of the first interior design realty shows) was on air and I could remember being so critical of the rooms and screaming at the tv screen about every decision.  Watching those shows I realized I had a passion for design and wanted to pursue a career in interior design.  Shortly after realizing this I went back to school for ID and went to work at various award winning high-end residential design firms. About two years ago I decided to start my own design firm, Mohindroo Interiors.

What are the 3 biggest benefits of working with a designer? 

1. Designers have access to materials that you will not see anywhere else or be able to purchase at a local store. Designers source daily for multiple projects and are always looking for something different and unique (ALWAYS). We love using things that no one else has access to.

2. Designers keep your project on schedule. Designers know there are a lot of moving parts on a renovation / construction project, and we are making sure things are sourced and ordered before contractors or sub-contractors are even requesting those items.

3. Hiring a designer can save you thousands of dollars! Time is money and who has the time to go to multiple showrooms to find the perfect sized subway tile for your kid’s bathroom? We also will provide you seasoned advice so you are not making costly mistake.

Mohindroo Powder Room Floral Wallpaper

What do you think is the biggest misconception about working with a designer?

One big misconception is that we are expensive. Designers are not cheap, but the amount of money we save a client by providing clients with seasoned advice in my opinion makes us priceless.

At what point in their project should someone hire a designer? Should you hire a designer before you hire a contractor? Before you hire an architect?

Immediately! I’m a strong believer in putting together a solid design team in order to assure your project will run with little delays and minimal change orders (which in the end every change order will just add to the bottom line and timeline). Unfortunately, making the mistake by hiring a designer after construction starts will only delay your project and inhibit you to change things unless you are willing to increase your budget.

A professional designer’s main goal in the beginning of a project is to truly understand the way you and your family live in your home, help you to define your style, and make sure it’s personalized for your family.  Once this goal is understood, we can then help with layouts of the rooms and how to place furniture, storage needs, lighting plans, millwork plans, material selections and so much more.  And all of these design elements are so much easier to fix during the construction document phase than during the construction or demo phase of a project.

How do you know when a designer is a good fit for you? What qualities should you look for? 

First, check out his or her style and make sure it’s in line with your taste. But, more importantly, make sure you can get along with the designer and there is no personality clash. Some of my projects can take up to 2+ years to complete, so you need to make sure you enjoy working with this person.

What questions should you ask a designer when you’re considering working together? 

I find that I have two types of clients.  My first type are clients who have worked with me on numerous of projects throughout their house or multiple properties. My second type are clients who have never worked with a designer before.  I think the reason they feel comfortable moving forward with me is because in our very first meeting I have laid out my design processes & systems, what to expect when working with me, while providing them an overview on the timeline.

Make sure that at the end of your initial consultation you understand how that designer works.  You’ll need to understand their fees and estimated timelines and also have a clear, documented scope of work, project goals, expectations, and a plan for addressing issues. Finally making sure both parties understand the overall scope of work and next steps is critical to ensure a successful design project.

Mohindroo Tablescape Casually Chic

How much time should someone expect to allocate to the designing and planning part of a project? i.e., how much time up front should someone expect to spend planning before beginning demo or actually making a purchase?

From the day, we “kick off”, which is the day I go in and take measurements and meet with trades, to the final meeting where they sign off on estimates can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks (this may go up depending on the size of the project and/or if the client can make decisions in a timely fashion).

What advice would you give to someone thinking of hiring a designer? 

Make sure that you understand your scope of work and be clear on your budget in order to find the best designer for your project. For example, if you don’t have a big budget but still want a fabulous home, then search for an e-designer.  There are tons of very talented e-designers in our industry that can make sure you have a fabulous home that is in line with you budget.

Anything else you would like to add?

It’s not always fun!  When I tell people I’m a designer the first thing they say is OMG how much FUN!  While I agree with them on most days, there are times when it can be stressful. Delays on projects can affect your cash flow for your business or even the ability to add to your work load, and it is not as easy as the realty shows make it look.


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