If you've always been a DIY enthusiast, or simply never had the need to call on a design professional, handing over the reins might just be the best thing you can do, advises Leigh Bramwell

Why pay someone to pull your own design ideas out of your head, reinterpret them and then bring them to reality?

Well, here are just a few reasons:

*A design professional will come up with ideas you would never have thought of.

*A design professional will interpret your ideas and turn them into a plan that other professionals and tradespeople will understand.


*A design professional will have access to information on other resources, such as new technologies that might be cheaper, or more appropriate materials than you have considered, which will give you a better and possibly more cost-effective result.

*Council, code, health and safety and other requirements are changing all the time and chances are you are not keeping up. Your design professional will be.

*If something turns to custard, you can hide in the bathroom while your design professional figures out who is to blame and sorts it out.

Now to find one. Where does one look for the perfect architect, landscaper or interior designer?

On websites, in design magazines, through referrals and through professional bodies.

Check out examples of their work online and wherever possible in reality, and choose two or three whose style seems to reflect your taste.

Architects specialise in different types of projects, so choose one who has experience with the sort of project you are planning.

It might not be wise to engage a specialist in ultra-modern glass boxes to design you a mudbrick igloo.

Similarly, interior designers and architects and designers sometimes specialise in particular styles and periods so check out examples of their work to find a good match.

Cross-check qualifications on the websites of their professional bodies and review the services they can provide.

When you've made your selection, arrange a meeting and treat it as an interview: literally, you are interviewing this person for a job.

You need to find out if he or she speaks your language, listens to you, asks the right questions, treats you as an equal and laughs at your jokes.

In short, there has to be a rapport if you are to enjoy working together.

Whether you are building a new home, renovating an old one, adding an extension, having interior design updated, creating a landscape from scratch or adding a pool and outdoor living area, it's useful to have an idea of what you like.

Approaching your designer with the words "I don't know what I want" isn't helpful, and wastes time and money.

The more you know about what you want, the easier it will be for your designer to help you to achieve it.

If you really don't have a clue, start by describing what the space has to do.

For example, is it a private space for one or two people, or is it an entertaining area for parties?

Define the basics of how big it should be and how much it should cost, and then start filling in the details around building style and materials.

If you have eco-considerations about energy efficiency or using natural products, make sure these are specified in your brief.

Discuss the brief thoroughly with your design professional and ask for help in filling in the gaps.

Be open to new ideas - he or she has a wealth of experience to call on and has done this many, many times.

Then take your courage in your hands and talk money.

Know what the costs are going to be and what the payment schedule is.

The better organised and informed you are, and the better communication you have with your design professional, the better your experience will be.

Where to find your designer


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