Welcome to Design track mind by Melissa Gulley

I am an interior designer from Newton, MA having a lot of fun writing this blog between client appointments, kid stuff, kid school stuff, dog stuff, husband stuff, husband's company stuff (http://www.fueldog.com/), life stuff, old house stuff, family stuff, extended family stuff and the rest of the detail stuff. I am not a writer (clearly) so please ignore the typo's, spelling mistakes and desperate need for proofreading.

How to Hire the Right Design Professional. Decorator vs. Interior Designer

A couple of posts back, I tried to answer the question “Why hire an interior Designer?”.  Now I would now like to go into the natural follow up to that question.  What type of Design Professional is right for you and how do you find the right person?
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TV Show Designing Woman
There are a few different types of Design Professionals you could hire for your job.  The decision of who to work with is very important, as it is a very close relationship based on many levels of trust.  This is someone with whom you will work with for at least a few months and usually more like a year or two (I have many clients that I have been working with going on 10 years).  You have this person to your home and they work with you to make decisions about how you want to live.  It is a very intimate working relationship. 

The first decision you will need to make is do you want a “Decorator” or an “Interior Designer”.  A Decorator is usually someone who handles the finishing details of a project: color, window treatments, furniture, rugs and accessories.  An Interior Designer does everything a Decorator does but also can be involved in the architectural design and building process (not in place of architect or builder but in conjunction).  An Interior Designer reviews architectural drawings, lighting plans, molding, millwork and built in plans, bath and kitchen design, tile layout and design, flooring decisions….then they finish with the color, furniture, carpets, window treatments, accessories, art, etc..  The Interior Designer can provide a soup-to-nuts solution, from construction design to finished house, or help you with any point in between.

Not to confuse you more, but there is another decision to make when it comes to hiring a Design Professional.  Do you want to hire this person for their style, or do you want to hire someone to interpret your style? 
There are many Decorators out there who have incredible “signature” styles and your house can look just like that with the guidance of this type of person.  Sort of like,  if you know that you love Ralph Lauren clothing exclusively - you love the look and fit and the store is your only “Go to” destination for your wardrobe, then you might find someone who’s “signature” style you love and go for it!  Look at their portfolio- it will likely reflect slight variations on a single style and be very consistent. 
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Ralph Lauren Home
If you want your house to reflect you, then look for someone who has the ability to listen and understand exactly what you want.  Most people in this category may know they want their house to reflect them and their family but they may not know exactly what they want or how to achieve what they’re imagining.  This is where the Designer proves their value.  They will guide you and your family (always balancing the individual needs of all members of the family… can you say design therapist!) through the process of decision making and learning about your likes and dislikes.  This type of Designer must learn who the clients are, how they live, work, relax and entertain, where and what they study, their hobbies, ethnicities/family history, where they’ve traveled, etc…the complete identity and function of the family.  Then the Designer sets forth to help make all design decisions through the filter of this client’s identity.

When looking for a Decorator or Interior Designer ask your friends, neighbors, co- workers, relatives.  Word of mouth is the best way to find a designer.  When looking at a portfolio (keep in mind unless you’re hiring this person for their style) the pictures represent the client the Designer was working with, not the Designer’s taste or your project.  You may really like a room but hate the weird chairs flanking the fireplace- naturally you would doubt the Designer’s judgment.  But don’t - most likely those chairs were the client’s favorite grandmother’s and the Designer needed to use them to make the client happy.  The best way to vet a Designer after you’ve gotten their name is to not only look at the portfolio, but to ask their former client’s if they are happy with their home.  Did it turn out how they wanted, did they have a good trust relationship with the designer, did they have fun and enjoy the process?  Secondly, meet the designer.  Do you like this person, do you think you could spend a lot of time with this person, do you feel listened to and heard, can this person make you feel confident in the decisions you need to make (all 300 million of them). 
At the end of the “finding a designer process” the final decision comes down to a gut reaction.  There is no science here - is this person likeable and good at what they do, do they make their clients happy?

I have never actually had clients do this but I have received very nice notes of gratitude.


  1. Thanks! That was really helpful! Now I know why This Old House chose you for the Auburndale project. I hear that airs Oct. 7th? I'll be looking out for that. Can't wait to see your work!

  2. If you look at the post on the THIS OLD HOUSE BLOG (http://oldhousemyhouse.thisoldhouse.com/), you can see the client AND the interior designer (Melissa Gulley of DesignTrackMind) having a blast working together. Chemistry Folks! That's makes a great match! I think I'd follow Melissa to hell and back b/c she'd make that a fun journey (and a renovation is kinda like a journey to hell and back!)

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