What to ask before hiring an Interior Designer

At my firm, Sanura Design, we love educated clients- and curious clients. An integral part of our process is ensuring our clients have all the information they need- and that includes knowing the design process, permit process, construction process, and everything in between.

So… what do you need to know before you hire me or another design professional?

1: Personality isn’t everything- but fit is really important

Interior design is an incredibly personal job- especially when designing your home. As your interior designer I know things like: what’s in your bedtime table, how you arrange your undies, what you have for breakfast, and your morning bathroom habits. Most of which I bet your friends don’t know. That means when you search for an interior designer you’re searching for someone you can be open with, and work with in their professional capacity. How do you know your interior designer is right for you (after checking qualifications, experience, etc)?  How do you know you’ll be friendly with someone?

2: Are they qualified?

Have a good look at what you’d like to accomplish for your project and what your goals are. Are you simply freshening a space by changing furniture, paint colours, lighting fixtures? That’s something you can hire an interior designer OR decorator for. Are you moving walls, changing your HVAC, electrical, etc, adding an addition, or generally altering your actual home in some way? That’s where you need a qualified professional- a registered interior designer is a regulated profession in Ontario where you know exactly what we need to know to earn our title of “interior designer” and we answer to our organization when we aren’t standing up to our code of ethics. Other design professionals do have extensive experience in renovations and may have a comprehensive skill set, if you hire someone like this the next step will be a very important one.

3: Check their references

Whether you’re hiring us, another registered interior designer, or another design professional, a very important step is asking for and checking a few references. You’re looking for past clients that have undergone similar work to your project, and a bonus can sometimes be hearing from other professionals, like contractors or consultants. You want to have a personal conversation with them and get a good idea for what their experience is like, exactly what the person you may be hiring did for them and what challenges came up. You need to check multiple references as this gives you a much fuller picture of who you’ll be working with.

4: Are they insured?

That’s their problem right? Professionals who do good work don’t need liability insurance- they never get sued.
Incorrect! Liability insurance isn’t just to cover a professional from unhappy clients, it’s also to cover the project from unforeseen circumstances- like a defective product, an incorrectly installed finish, or the incorrect product being installed (among many many other things). Mistakes happen, even with the best professionals, and true professionals carry this protection for themselves, their employees, and their projects.

5: Do they have a contract?

Contracts are incredibly important to your renovation. Both your contractor AND your interior designer should have detailed contracts for you to sign. For an interior designer they should include things like: fees/payment schedule, scope of work, details for breaking the contract, and clarify each sides responsibilities- to name a few. These contracts protect YOU the most- and I can’t emphasize that enough. If something goes wrong during the project and you didn’t sign a contract- you have no options and no protection. The longer and more detailed your professional’s contract is, the more confident you should feel in hiring them. This means they’re openly laying out exactly how they work and ensuring you understand the full process before you sign up for a project with them. A good professional is also always willing to go through their contract with you in detail to help you feel more comfortable.


Whew! That was a technical one. I’m sure I missed something (we don’t want an essay on the subject!), but it will serve as a great rule of thumb to ensure you get the right professional for your project.

Do you have any questions on what the qualifications of a registered interior designer ARE or would like to find one in your area? Check out the ARIDO website.

If you want to chat with us about your project and see if we’re a good fit for you? Get in touch with us.

This post first appeared on Sanura Design | Full Service Interior Design.

How does an Interior Designer save you time?

If you’ve been following my video journey, you’ll recall the video called Fabric Sourcing and You outlining why it’s not as easy as you think to pick out the right fabric for your sofa. That was a LOT of fabric and wallpaper, plus there was a lot more I didn’t show you on the other side of the showroom, AND the tables you see behind me have fabric and wallpaper under them. Does sorting through that fill you with dread? Well me too!

That is if I didn’t have the training, intuition, and experience that tells me what I’m looking for. AND a professional who is a partner in my project- who knows where everything is and can point me in the right direction(s).

This means what may take you an entire day of exhausting searching, takes me an hour or so to get the main choices sorted, then another small amount of time once I get the samples delivered to pick out the best one(s).

What about kitchens? Melissa, you say, I can just visit a kitchen place and pick that out myself? Hmm, well, have you or someone else ever spent a few weekends going to a few kitchen places because they didn’t quite see what they liked, and by the end probably didn’t even KNOW what they liked?

Or maybe that friend was you on a previous project. I have the knowledge and experience (and the deep understanding of you and your family) to curate the finishes in a much short amount of time, and then present you with a couple of choices you’ll like.

Let’s talk tiles. I have a favourite place to source tiles. SS Tile and Stone in Etobicoke. That’s because it has SUCH a huge selection. Have you ever walked into a tile store and been immediately overwhelmed? What about visited multiple tile stores and been even more confused? You aren’t alone!

This is a huge reason to hire me to help you when you technically could handle choosing the finishes yourself- who wants to give up their nights and weekends to do that? You’ve worked hard to save the money to do the renovation you’re doing, why should you spend so much of your precious time sifting through mountains of choices when I can make it a fun, pleasurable experience?

All of these decisions for a kitchen could be presented to you in 30 minutes and we would have the finishes chosen. 30. Minutes. Versus nights and weekends spent selecting them yourselves- and dealing with five or more different opinions on how you should do your kitchen. Moreover, almost none of those professionals have had the proper time to get to know you, what you LOVE, and how the space would best serve you.

So, why not keep your evenings and weekends for YOU? And leave the design process to me. You’ll just get a space you love, a relaxing fun process, a project on time and on budget, and your precious time back.

This post previously appeared on Sanura Design, “How Valuable is Your Time?

This luxe home mixes casual with refined details

This new build construction of a 15,000 square foot family home for long time empty-nester clients was a rare opportunity. Having lived in this country acreage north of Toronto for over two decades and accustomed to an upscale lifestyle, the design team aimed to create a refined, yet comfortable abode.

Interior Designer: Neil Jonsohn
Design Team: Shauna MacLeod, ARIDO
Design Firm: U31
Photographer: Gillian Jackson

The foyer is a bold welcome to the home, with extensive marble detailing, including a staircase clad in marble, combined with a custom bronze railing. An abstract sculpture of falling leaves commissioned by artist Dennis Lin, is integrated with ambient light and suspended through the curving staircase, adding unexpected contemporary glamour.

Moving beyond the formality of the front rooms, spaces at the back take on a more casual atmosphere, allowing for daily routine and entertaining. Incorporating white oak and durable porcelain flooring with contemporary furniture forms, Murano light fixtures and a mix of current and antique rugs, the daily areas are at once comfortable and rich in traditional reference.

The kitchen facilitates the owner’s love of and expertise in cooking, featuring an oversized stainless steel hood surrounded by carved limestone. Stained sycamore and off-white lacquer cabinets, semi-precious quartzite countertops and stainless steel detailing create the chef’s dream.

Drawing inspiration from the lush back garden and pool cabana, the inclusion of floor to ceiling windows across the entire back of the house, offer stunning views, while providing an abundance of natural light to the communal kitchen, family and garden rooms. The injection of colour, particularly shades of blue and red, two of the owner’s favourites, ebb and flow throughout the home.

These communal zones are kept light with soft whites and greys, and animated by pops of colour and beloved travel artifacts. For instance, an oversized brass Moroccan vessel, crafted with patterned cut-outs, is transformed into a glowing wall sconce, displayed above the garden room’s fireplace mantel (pictured above).

Private areas are infused with delicate, silvery-blue-grey tones for her, including silk wall covering, while his are characterized by a more robust flavour: walnut wall panelling, black and gold accents and heavily veined caramel and black marble. Vaulted and cove ceilings are intricately detailed throughout, accentuating the 10′ and 12′ ceiling heights.
The balance of rich, warm materials: marble, stone, leather and variety of sumptuous finishes expresses a relaxed luxury that the client was delighted to see achieved.

A desert oasis in Scottsdale

This private residence is situated on prime five-acre property in one of Scottsdale’s premier desert estate communities. Surrounded by mountains to the north, east and west, and vast views of central Scottsdale and Phoenix to the south, the original home was one of the earliest built in this heavily architecturally-controlled community.

Interior Designer: Wayne Swadron, ARIDO
Design Firm: Wayne Swadron Interiors Limited
Project Photographer: Roehner + Ryan

The home’s architectural styling was ‘Tuscan’ in character, although the interior finishes had been updated just prior to the client’s acquiring the property. The design team reconfigured and re-modelled the existing structure and landscape into a contemporary desert oasis while respecting strict local architectural regulations.

With grand design gestures commensurate in scale to the sprawling (largely one storey) structure, the encouragement of the clients, and the monumental contributions of a fabulous local team, the designers achieved all their goals of creating a home replete with contemporary luxury, incorporating design features that promote indoor/outdoor living, while simultaneously respecting the realities of the extreme desert environment.

Building a sophisticated design that integrates modern conveniences

For this young family of four, a warm and sophisticated design that integrates modern conveniences was paramount. The formally divided rooms of this traditional home were opened up and functions resolved with detailed custom millwork, which was strategically combined with cost-effective off-the-shelf cabinets, creating a seamless transition of function from space to space.

Project: Logan Residence
Interior Designer: Tanya Yeung, ARIDO
Design Firm: Analogue Design Studio
Photographer: Stephani Buchman

Amenity functions such as the powder room, multiple office spaces, and an abundance of storage opportunities throughout the home are concealed within the carefully detailed cabinetry; the design of which also house a plethora of mechanics such as ductwork, cables, and plumbing lines within. The lack of visible hardware further enhances the seamless aesthetic.

A restrained finish palette of walnut, stone, and high gloss lacquers was used to accentuate fluidity throughout the home. The open concept spaces, enlarged windows, and over-sized dormer also help to facilitate the natural light which permeate every corner. Enhancing this is LED strip lighting flush mounted within the walls to highlight artwork, as well as offering a dramatic graphic element.

Similarly, concealed light troughs provide a wash of light above built-in features to give an overall glow. This fully transformed 3,120 square foot home is bright and airy, spare but not sterile and exudes an effortless simplicity, all the while concealing the necessities of this family’s active lifestyle. Design features are seamlessly integrated throughout this home providing functionality and understated style at every turn.

A tight entryway was made multi-functional by treating otherwise disparate amenities as one harmonious unit. The concealed powder room door is seamlessly integrated with adjacent entry closet; the closet itself serving triple duty as a coat closet, office, and storage unit that transitions effortlessly under the open concept stairs.

This multi-functional design is sleek from the outside, yet holds everything the clients could hope for – all within a 70 square foot footprint. The mudroom functions as transition space and also houses the custom wine cellar. Standard issue wine pegs were combined with a structural walnut-clad back panel that sits proud of smoke mirror gables. A wash of lighting is emitted from behind the condenser unit above and the free-floating walnut platform below.

The second-floor kids’ area serves a dual purpose as lounge and guest room with custom Murphy bed. By day the glossy automotive lacquer panels appear as a sleek backdrop to an active play area. By night, it opens to a king bed with clothes storage and secondary office nook.

The master loft space features an abundance of built-ins that operate as a design feature and functional furniture in one. A wall-to-wall console, houses all the entertainment necessities and provides display space for artwork in the lounge, which appears to pierce through the dual sided fireplace into the adjacent ensuite, where a 15′ long vanity continues uninterrupted towards the over size picture window.

This condo mixes hotel chic with seaside calm

Casa II Penthouse was a fabulous project for from start to finish! Located in the Yonge and Bloor epicentre of Toronto, it presented some typical condominium challenges, but we overcame each one.


Interior Designer: Heather Segreti, ARIDO
Design Firm: Segreti Design Inc
Project Photographer: Larry Arnal

The client sought the convenience of living in the heart of Toronto, while enjoying jet setting to other major cities with a minimal commitment back home, was paramount. They wanted the look of a high-end hotel, infused with seaside calm, and customized millwork throughout.

The original floor plan worked, however, after consulting the client, we decided to forgo the dining room / living room combination and move the dining room to the office, and add a cozy banquette eatery, the client was thrilled!

We used a neutral palette of white and gray with a hint of warmth, drawing inspiration from the porcelain slab of the kitchen backsplash. Adding colour to this neutral colour scheme was key in taking the design to the next level. Boldly coloured artwork at the entryway is a welcoming punch, and an open concept shelving/bar area with storage below holds belongings, instead of the typical coat closet.

A gallery wall leads visitors into the suite and custom sized photographs camouflage the electrical panel. With the original dining room taking up the space of the office, to create a separate eating space. We also added a bulkhead around the living, master, and guest suite in order to mount our three-layered window treatment with roller shades.

All these changes, coupled with the coordination of trades 52 floors up, presented a challenge, but the client was delighted with the space, and this project has yielded a long lasting friendship.

Luxury meets durability in this glam Toronto home

This existing 5,000 square foot luxury condo was renovated for downsizing clients who love to entertain but also wanted to make sure they have space to host family. The clients sought luxurious yet durable finishes and furnishings throughout, because of their desire to host grandkids. They selected treasured art and antiques to bring, and asked they be incorporated in the design, and wanted a beautiful space for their wine collection.

Interior Designer: Jeffrey Douglas, ARIDO
Design Firm: Douglas Design Studio
Photographer: Michael Graydon

The design team met with the clients and conducted extensive interviews with the family to understand their private and social life, priorities and tastes. The result is a glamorous space featuring luxury materials and artisan touches, integrating a selection of collected art and furnishings into a new space suitable for both family gatherings and formal entertaining.

The design team moved key rooms like the kitchen and powder rooms to new locations in the floor plan, which can be a challenge in condos, as it can affect the surrounding units. By designing rooms strategically, the new floor plan didn’t require disturbing any neighbours.

Luxe kitchen area with large curved island and maple brown cabinets.

The kitchen was moved to a prominent place in the home to take advantage of the stunning views from the floor-to-ceiling bow window in what was formerly the dining room. A natural palette of airy blues and greens with earthy caramels reflect the natural colours of the ravine view and sky. Depth and drama were to the home by using black accents throughout.

A rotunda was introduced to facilitate an elegant separation between public and private space while maximizing flow. Side panels in the rotunda seamlessly close and create total privacy, while a shimmering silver leaf mural adds flair.