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Choosing the Right Interior Designer

By Kim Armstrong

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

I fell into the interior design industry backwards, I would say. I began college as a very successful athlete, being offered a full scholarship to attend the University of North Texas to play volleyball. I was the starting setter for a school in one of the toughest volleyball conferences around at the time (the Big West Conference), and went on to break the school record in assists. After much assessment, I decided to follow my true passion for soccer, which I had decided to steer away from due to my asthma induced by the highly aerobic sport. Despite the struggle, I tried out for the team and was offered a scholarship to join. Going on to become co-captain, I was unanimously voted first team all-conference.

I say all this because my life to this point had been almost entirely sports centered. So naturally, I thought my career would follow in the same direction. That is, until I was three days into anatomy and hating every second! I had no passion or desire for any of the course work as a kinesiology major. One thing I did know about myself, however, was that I could do anything I had a passion for. Knowing that, I meticulously began going through every single major offered at my university, worrying that I'd never find anything I was excited to excel at. At last, I landed in the arts- the BFA section. I had always enjoyed art, taking four years of it in high school, I always loved and exceled at being creative and inventive. So as it grasped by attention, I continued to read... Fashion, no? Sculpting, no? Painting, fun, but not as a profession? and then it hit me, interior design! I read the course work descriptions, and instantly had this innate sense of belonging. At that moment, I knew this was the direction and the next chapter in my life. That was a pivotal point in my life; a decision that drastically altered the direction I thought I was headed, and it couldn't have worked out more perfectly.

Now, the story of how Kim Armstrong Interior Design came to be is just as unconventional. I was a young, naive 25 year old with big dreams, a great work ethic, a creative drive, and complete confidence that I would succeed. Yes, I was lacking experience, worldliness, depth of industry knowledge, very little industry contacts, etc., but I decided to deposit a whopping $200.00 into a business account and start my own interior design business! It was a rough road at first, but never once did I doubt that design was my destiny, and failure was never an option. Today, eleven years later, I am one of the best up-and-coming interior designers in Dallas, Texas. I own my own office building (a most adorable cottage), I have a full time junior designer on staff, we have been recognized for numerous awards, and have been published on a variety of different platforms including the most recent publication in Texas Home and Living. We were the cover and the feature article of the 2014 Spring issue, gracing eight pages of the popular regional magazine.

As an interior designer, how do you make sure you're understanding of what your client wants?

I have a questionnaire with set questions to begin the process of understanding my clients. I typically go rogue, and jump away from the questionnaire fairly quickly because no one client is ever the same. My intuition leads me to ask the right questions, and really understand what they sometimes didn't even know they wanted or needed. When I am programming a client (programming is the industry's term for "getting to understand"), the session can be as short as thirty minutes or as long as a few hours. I let my "gut" guide me, and when I get a deep sense that I really know the direction the project needs to go and the desires of my clients, I know the programming phase is over.

I also request that my clients do some "homework" in advance of us meeting, meaning they gather images (whether tangible or digital) that capture the style and elements they are looking for. Between the verbal interview, the visual representation, and my intuition guiding me, I feel like I am one of the best in the industry in what I call "Getting inside my client's heads", and it is proof, that time and time again, when clients from aesthetics from earthy contemporary to colorfully eclectic say to me, "You just get me, this home feels like an extension of me."

In your opinion, what are three qualities that every interior designer should possess?

As an interior designer you wear so many hats, so it's really hard to pick out just three qualities. However, there are some must-have qualities that every successful designer should possess. A really good designer needs to be able to be a team player, adaptable to the ever-changing needs of a project, creative, confident, organized, a good communicator, have a large connection of quality industry contacts, a deep understanding of spatial arrangements, knowledgeable about construction, and never without a sense of humor. It can be a stressful process, and a designer has to be able to put the clients at ease.

What are at least three questions every homeowner should ask their interior designer before hiring them?

Like I said before, every client is unique and different, so it's important for them to deeply assess their needs so they are able to communicate exactly what it is they want. Some good questions to ask your designer once you've established your wants and needs are as follows:

As a homeowner, it's important to realize that rarely do price, quality, and timeframe live cohesively. It's important to ask yourself which are your priorities, and not expect to have all three at once. Even if your answers vary per item, find out what is your most common decision-making factor, and which one you care about the least.

Know what level of "finish out" you are after. Do you want a home that is livable, but also magazine worthy? Do you just desire more function and cohesion? Are you truly looking for a fully designed space and if so, do you understand the amount of work and costs to get to that professionally attained aesthetic? Always know the main objectives for calling in a professional.

Have a budget. How much are you willing to spend to ultimately achieve your goals? What value does the design bring to your life? Everyone has a different answer to this question, and its important that your wishes match that of the vision of your designer. You need to know this before you begin interviewing designers.

What was your most memorable project?

Wow, that's a tough one. I would have to say that each project I do tends to be my favorite while I'm in the moment and in the process of it. I truly get so excited about every project! I would go so far to say that design is like an energy high. Helping my clients create their dream home or a successful environment for their businesses to grow and flourish is just an irreplaceable feeling.

I do have some standouts, however. My colorful Lake Forest project was close to my heart because I helped re-build a home and a life after my client lost nearly everything in an electrical fire. Another standout was a complete floor-to-ceiling renovation of a 4800 sf home in North Dallas. I helped a family from California create the home of their dreams through an unbelievable transformation. In my most recently completed project, I helped a couple renovate an outdated 50's ranch style home with an awkward layout in Old Lake Highlands. We really transformed the home through interior architecture transformations and were able to create something beyond what they could have imagined.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

The best way to get in contact with me would be through phone call, my phone number is 214-500-0600. You may also e-mail me at kim@interiorsbykim.com

or our website www.interiorsbykim.com

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About The Author

Kim Armstrong is emerging as one of Dallas' most talented, up and coming boutique...

Phone: 214-500-0600

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