The Design of Your House: Are Virtual Interior Decorators Worth It?

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When I was growing up my parents owned an interior design store. I remember in high school sitting in the backroom, mystified by the endless books of fabric swatches and design boards and samples. I’ve never been able to look at a room and imagine what it could be. I truly believe Joanna Gaines and Shea McGee are miracle workers and I have no idea how they do it.

My husband and I bought a house about five years ago that we absolutely adored: a tree-lined street, a big backyard, and lots of character. But we were moving from a modern townhouse downtown to a house fit for a family. I had no idea where to begin with decorating! We chose some shades of grey and had the house painted and then…that was it.

Our house has a rec room that we’ve affectionately called “the boat room.” It was originally a deep blue with a nautical themed border, blue carpet, and wood paneling on the ceiling to make it feel like you were in a boat. I loved this room and knew it had so much potential but didn’t know how to make it feel more like ours (we are not, after all, into sailing). I Googled and created Pinterest boards but still couldn’t decide how to lay out the room or what furniture to buy. And it’s a small room – it didn’t seem worth it to hire a full-service interior designer to help me make my decisions.

That’s when I discovered the magical world of online interior decorators. I decided to use Havenly (if I remember correctly, they were having a sale at the time) and was so happy with the results. My designer recommended buying some large art for a sitting area, a budget-friendly TV stand from Target, and pillows that really tied our existing couch together with the new aesthetic of the room.

Since then I’ve used online decorators to help rethink the basement, main living room, nursery, home office, and backyard and have been thrilled to refresh our house without needing a huge budget. I’ve tried out Havenly, Decorist, and Modsy and found them all to be similarly helpful.

A few tips if you need some virtual help like me:

  1. Double check measurements

I’ve only had one truly disappointing experience and it was with the desk/chair combo we bought for our office – the chair doesn’t fit under the desk! Both were beautiful pieces but I wish I’d done my homework to ensure they’d work together.

2. Be honest with your feedback.

If you don’t love something, just say so! And if you get a few room designs back and love pieces of each, you can always combine. Our basement is a hodgepodge of two design boards but I’m so happy with how it turned out.

3. Plan out your budget ahead of time.

I always think that if I love something enough I won’t be too worried about the price – until the designer informs me she chose five $100 pillows. If you’re upfront about your budget and specifically where you want to splurge and save, you’ll be much happier with the products your designer uses.

Maybe you don’t need the expensive pillows but they can’t point you in the right direction if you are honest up front!

One more thing – more and more furniture companies are getting into this game for FREE! I just used Crate and Barrel’s free design services for the first time and had a good experience. For smaller projects, I think this is a wonderful option to have – but for a larger project, I personally like having the flexibility of using a few different brands.

Happy designing!

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Sarah is a new mom to 6-month-old Henry. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, she graduated from the University of Illinois in 2013 and moved to Columbus to pursue a career in retail. She currently works at the Victoria’s Secret PINK Home Office. She lives in Clintonville with her husband, son, and dog who very much misses his days as an only child. Outside of work and family she enjoys reserving books at the library and then forgetting to pick them up (but somehow still reads a few books a month), exploring Clintonville by foot and bike, and oversharing on Instagram stories (add her at @Sarah_Kaechele). She enjoyed traveling prior to becoming a mom and is hoping to get the hang of it again sometime in the next five years.