May 18, 2022
May 18, 2022

How To Choose An Interior Designer: An Introvert Renovates (Part 4)

Renovation Journeys

How To Choose An Interior Designer: An Introvert Renovates (Part 4)


Symmetry 2
6 min read

When it came to renovating my flat, I learnt my lesson from my property search – I needed help. 

I knew I needed an interior designer, less so for design because I was pretty sure of how I wanted my flat to look, and more so for their project management experience and relationships with the various contractors and tradespeople.

If you’re confident in your project management skills, you can always go the contractor route and save some money. But I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to manage a full-scale renovation on my own.

I knew from my hit-and-miss approach in finding a property agent I could trust, that I needed to be a little smarter and a lot more discerning before settling on an interior designer to work with to build my dream home.

Entry Before 1

Fortunately (and unfortunately) for us homeowners looking to renovate, interior design firms are a dime in a dozen. Choose the right one and your renovation can be (mostly) smooth sailing. Choose the wrong one and you’ll be in for a nightmarish journey of miscommunications, upsets, delays, and expensive corrections.

How does the solo introverted renovator choose the right interior designer? 

Here are some guiding questions that helped me narrow down my selection and find the one interior designer that was right for the job.

1) Do you like their work?

You can save yourself a lot of misery by picking interior design firms with good reputations and glowing testimonials. But beyond that, just see if you like their past work.

Some firms may specialise in certain interior design styles. Others may be better at highly customised carpentry. And others may be more familiar with working in HDB flats and/or private property. Choosing an interior design firm that has already renovated a home that’s similar to yours and in the way you want is already half the battle won. 

Instagram is your best friend here. Searching the hashtag #sginterior is a good place to start. Every interior design firm worth its salt has an Instagram page showcasing the homes they’ve worked on. A word of warning here: it is a huge red flag if the interior design firm only posts images of 3D renders, and never of the actual properties.

sginterior IG

From their Instagram feed, do a little more sleuthing on the firm. Do they have a website that’s well maintained? Does their design philosophy resonate with you? How large is the company?

It was through this thoroughly scientific approach (I joke) that I found the six interior design firms that seemed best suited to deliver my introverted home to me. Armed with my 30-page interior design brief, I approached each of these firms for quotations and design proposals.

2) Are they introverts as well?

After making contact, there should be an initial meeting with the interior designer. This meeting is for the designer to ask questions about your brief. But more importantly, it’s the chance for you to meet and suss out the designer.


I know you’re not shopping for your next bff, but ideally, your interior designer should be someone who operates on the same wavelength as you. After all, while you should be as clear with your expectations as possible, this person is quite literally supposed to be reading your mind. It only stands to reason that a fellow introvert would also be into quiet, calming spaces, or at least understand the intent behind your interior design preferences.

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule though, so don’t be dismissing any interior designer who’s not your twin with AutoCAD certification. Some excellent interior designers are great at translating their client’s wishes into beautiful interiors, regardless of their personality. But as someone I’m going to be working with, I’d prefer if we shared the same temperament.

During these initial meetings, there was an interior designer from a reputable firm who was obviously an extrovert. Our conversation eventually grew lop-sided as the designer began to dominate with her loud voice and exuberant gestures. She’s a nice person, no doubt, but I could only imagine how exhausting our future exchanges would be. Nonetheless, I still looked forward to the designer’s proposal, and the ones from the other five designers as well.

Here are other questions you can ask to get a sense of the working relationship you’d have with the interior designer:

  • How would you describe your taste in interior design?
  • Which is the most favourite project you’ve worked on?
  • What sort of clients do you prefer to work with?
  • How often do you update your clients during the renovation?
  • How do you resolve disagreements with clients?

3) Are they listening to you?

A few weeks later, the interior designer should contact you to go through their design proposal. While the first round of meetings made me anxious (I’m typically anxious when meeting new people), I was actually excited for this second meeting. 

This was when I’d see how the designers interpreted my design brief. (I felt a bit like Tim Gunn.) I ended up with six very different design proposals, and I could immediately tell which of the designers hadn’t listened to my wishlist or read my brief carefully, if at all. 

One designer proposed an obviously cookie-cutter interior, which included a generic TV feature wall and banquet seating for the dining area, even though I’d specifically requested to avoid these. Another designer was strongly encouraging me to carpet my entire master bedroom, which would’ve been a nightmare to upkeep.

Ultimate bachelor pad
If only I had the luxury of space..

A third interior designer submitted the most imaginative design proposal for an ultimate bachelor pad, effectively transforming my four-room flat into a one-bedroom apartment with a huge focus on entertaining. There was a large dining area and an extensive bar counter. I admit I was extremely tempted by this proposal. But I’m an introvert, and I wasn’t going to be throwing large parties anytime soon.

In all, I found this exercise extremely fascinating. The proposals were so varied and different even though all six designers started with the same brief and consultation with me. But it became very clear which of the six had been listening to me, and who hadn’t.

A side note on budget: all six designers had gone over my stipulated budget to varying degrees, but I was expecting that based on my design brief. A friend of mine had also wisely advised me to indicate a much lower budget, leaving at least 10 to 20 percent headroom for more expensive quotations and unexpected costs during renovation

4) Can you trust them?

It’s never easy to judge how trustworthy a person is, especially only after two brief meetings. But that’s why I went with Hans as my interior designer, who runs the boutique outfit @whiteideaspteltd with his wife. I’ve been friends with Hans for almost two years and I knew I could trust him.

White Ideas IG

Wait, wait, wait, I hear you say. Hold on. Then what was the point of approaching the other five interior designers? It really doesn’t seem fair to them, doesn’t it?

Well, I had approached Hans immediately after beginning the resale process for my flat. But it was actually Hans’s idea that I shop around for an interior design firm, to find one that would best suit my needs. And he wouldn’t be offended at all if I chose another designer.

Hans put in a proposal and a quotation just like everyone else. I chose Hans because I love all the work he’s done in the past. We have similar personalities and tastes in interiors. And he’s a really good listener – he was able to come up with a design that aligned with my vision for my introverted home. He simply was the best person for the job.

I definitely had a shortcut with Hans, but it may not be so straightforward for you. But fellow introverts, I believe our inward-facing nature makes us more sensitive and better judges of character. Give yourself time and space to think, never be pressured or bullied into making a decision, and listen to your instincts. And hopefully, you’ll find an interior designer that will be worthy of your trust and building your dream home.

Dealing with surprises

Hans may have been my best choice, but that’s not to say we didn’t run into any issues during the renovation. As with any renovation process, there are bound to be surprises. But because I trusted Hans to act in my best interests, and we communicated well with each other, we were able to resolve problems quickly and relatively painlessly. I’ll be talking about some of these instances in Part 5, so be sure to come back for that.