Designer Marketplace Post: 10 Service Providers Every Designer Needs On Speed Dial

I am happy to share an article I wrote for Designer Marketplace.  This article is directed at designers but, any DIY’er needs to have this list too.


10 Service Providers Every Designer Needs On Speed Dial

By Holly Phillips

10 Service Providers Every Designer Needs On Speed Dial

As an interior designer, you’re only as good as the arsenal of service providers you have at hand (or in your cell phone).


Obviously, creativity is a big part of interior design but, once the creative process is complete the vision has to be executed. And you can’t do this without the expertise of the supporting cast. Having friendly and efficient working relationships with these specialists, artisans, and craftsmen can truly make or break the reality of the creative vision.

A few things that truly apply to any service provider you ever hire are:

  • Get multiple references and see their work in person not just pictures. Always ask about reliability and punctuality.
  • Are they licensed? Insured? What about workers comp? If a mistake on the job will they provide the materials or money to fix the problem?
  • Be careful with the answers to these questions as some (or all) of these costs may have to come out of your pocket.

Here are the top 10 service providers I count on daily and suggestions for hiring each of those individuals and why.

10 Service Providers Every Designer Needs On Speed Dial

1. Painter – A skilled painter is a must. The walls, floors, trim, and other treatments become the backdrop for any room design. Check references, see his/her work, and know their work ethic. Meeting the time budgeted, and maintaining a clean work environment is a basic expectation of every client. Also, get confirmation the painter is applying the paint to your standards such a lacquer finished and hand brushing versus rolling.

2. Carpet Installer – Carpet is heavy, bulky, and subject to damage when handled by amateurs. Make sure the installer has a warehouse to receive all sizes and types of product. High-end axminsters are quite different to install than regular cut pile. Can they seam 36 wide Wilton? Do they know how to best install seagrass wall-to-wall? Do they provide shoe molding after installation? These are all questions to consider above and beyond the basic work ethic and a clean worksite. This is another area where mistakes can cost you and your reputation.

10 Service Providers Every Designer Needs On Speed Dial

3. Wallpaper Installer – A wallpaper hanger is an important piece of the puzzle as well. They must be skilled at the art of wallpaper hanging. Sure, some papers are pre-trimmed, but, you must know that an installer can handle the untrimmed, complex repeats, hang murals, etc. Wallpaper always costs a fortune so this is not advised to search for the “cheaper guy” because you will pay for it in the end. Mistakes with wallpaper multiply exponentially, and can kill a project budget. Trust me, I have done the leg work.

4. Curtain Installer – The most beautiful curtains in the world will be disappointing if not properly installed. Hire a skilled professional that has solid references.

5. Receiver and Delivery Service – Most designers do not have the need for a large retail space with a loading dock, but rely on custom manufacturers that have long lead times. Shipping to a receiver that can inspect items immediately upon receipt can save the designer a lot of time and expedite returns in the case of damaged goods. This also helps the designer avoid missing return windows. The entire process runs smoother with a dedicated and reliable receiver.


6. Workroom – The designer’s workroom is relied on to transform amazing fabric into the essential custom curtains, pillows, and trim that separate custom design from basic “decorating.” You need to see their work not only in the workroom but hanging in the space. Do they hand sew? Do they provide linings and interlinings? Be upfront with your expectations and make sure they are upfront with their production times.

10 Service Providers Every Designer Needs On Speed Dial

7. Upholsterer – Be sure to see the breadth of the upholsterer’s skills. I often need legs changed, swivels added, or custom pieces made. Every good upholster should be able to do basic work as well as do custom pieces such as banquettes etc. Experience, lead times, and efficiency must be vetted.

8. Refinisher and Furniture Repair – Basic refinishing and repairs are always needed. Custom pieces can often get damaged during delivery, shipping and moving – every installation has its issues. The designer needs to have these fixed fast. Of course clients don’t need to have full knowledge of minor problems, which are easily resolved.

9. Fiber services – I feel strongly about sealing most soft goods in all homes. It can prevent a slight spill from becoming a major accident. This service provider can also be a genius at stain removal. You will undoubtedly need this in a pinch when a child spills their icee on the cream velvet sofa before the client’s party.

10. Accountant – As designers, we are creative. by nature. Hire a professional to do your bookkeeping and billing. It is more efficient to spend your time with clients and selling. It helps separate you from billing questions that clients have. They can be directed to the accountant keeping you the designer, not the banker.


All of these supporting cast members come together to help make the vision a reality. Which means occasionally showing up with donuts and coffee on install day can do wonders for getting your calls answered and not sent to voicemail. Treat your entire team with respect and thankfulness and you will always get the best results.

Holly Hollingsworth Phillips is an interior designer and owner of The English Room and the creator of popular The English Room lifestyle and design blog. Her work has appeared in Southern Living and many other publications. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, three children, two dogs, hedgehog and bearded dragon. Follow her on Twitter,  Facebook,  Pinterest,  KEEP or Instagram.



  • October 18, 2013

    What a great blog post Holly! This is so true and we LOVE our peeps!!

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