Offering ease and accessibility, virtual consultations are becoming more and more popular for everything from healthcare to legal matters. And while each type of virtual consultation varies in terms of what you can expect, today we’re focusing on interior design virtual consultations. You may be wondering if it’s even possible to capture the detailed nuances of a home via video. How do you choose fabrics or look at sketches? How are measurements taken? Read on to get informed answers from two of Nashville top interior design pros.

woman at computer looking at designs

Virtual consultations offer us an easy way to begin the interior design process!

How should we prepare for an interior design virtual consultation?

Typically, an interior design virtual consultation begins with filling out an online form or presenting your ideas via email. In advance of your call, plan to snap some photos of your home in its present state. “I typically ask clients to send current pictures of the space or spaces that we will be working with along with their wish list, including which items will stay and which ones they would like to replace,” says Jessica Jennings of Jessica Jennings Design. You may be asked to show any idea boards you’ve created, and to explain what you do and don’t love about each design, so be sure to keep those handy. Any visual aids you’ve already collected, such as fabric samples or paint swatches, can also help your designer fine-tune the details and hone in on the scope of your project. Finally, make sure your house is “camera-ready” before your consultation, in case the designer wants a close-up view of the spaces on which they will be focusing.

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What happens during the virtual consultation?

Since working with an interior designer is a collaborative process, and it’s their job to help turn your dreams into a reality, you should expect a bit of an interview process to take place on both sides. Have the designer talk a bit about their team and what you can expect during the design process, and don’t be afraid to inquire about similar projects they’ve done that might help you gauge their level of expertise. “When you are interviewing an interior designer, you need to ask them about how they work,” offers Marcelle Guilbeau of Marcelle Guilbeau Interior Design. While each designer has different methods, the first 45-minute consultation with Marcelle is complimentary. “You share your ideas with me, and ask me questions about your project and how I would approach it,” she explains. “I share my thoughts, and you get a taste of what I would bring to the table. By the end of the chat, we also discuss your budget and timeframe, and I share how I can help out, given your specific goals and parameters.”

As strange as it may sound to give a tour via Zoom or FaceTime, you will likely spend part of your consultation walking your designer from room to room so they can see your home in more detail. Jessica says, “This component of the process is very important as it allows me to see an entire view of a home and how rooms flow into each other.”

Ivy project board for interior design virtual consultation

Ivy is a business management software for interior designers owned by Houzz. This client project dashboard through Ivy shows how easy it is to design a space and move the design process forward through virtual communication. Image: Marcelle Guilbeau Interior Design

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What happens after the initial consultation?

After the initial consult, it’s time for a lot of back and forth planning. Thankfully, you can accomplish much of it via email and continued virtual communication. “We do an in-depth download session, where the client has a chance to refine their boards, and we hone in on the parameters of the project,” says Marcelle. Online tools such as Pinterest and Houzz make that a breeze, offering a way to peruse the work of world-class designers, find furniture inspiration, and even send secret boards for reference. “I love to ask my clients to send me their Pinterest or Houzz boards and to walk me through them,” Marcelle says. “It never ceases to amaze me what different people see in a room, and how they imagine themselves in it.”

On an architectural front, Marcelle mentions that a lot of custom design work can also be done virtually. “We have a centuries-old tradition of designing through drawings, which is enhanced through digital media nowadays,” she explains. “We find these documents help our clients to keep moving forward with their decisions, and our contractors to keep working, even as many of us shelter in place.” Some designers, including Jessica, even have the option to offer 3D designs to help clients visualize the space as it will appear after installation.

Once the designer has a handle on the direction of a project, they send over their ideas along with several samples and visuals. “When the client chooses a direction, we pack them a finished package with all the fun stuff in it — leaving it to sit for 24 hours before we send (per CDC guidelines) — that they can then open and peruse,” explains Marcelle. “Right now, it’s the only way to get fabrics and other materials out to our clients for review.”

Pinterest board for interior design virtual consultation

“I ask them to walk me through their idea boards (now mostly online) and tell me what they love about each of the images, and I take notes,” says Marcelle of how she utilizes resources such as Pinterest to help facilitate the design process. Image: Marcelle Guilbeau Interior Design

The Bottom Line

A virtual consultation allows an interior designer to get a broad picture of your home and ideas so they can begin translating your inspiration into a beautiful space. However, as a project progresses, in-person meetings will have to take place — after all, interior design is hands-on work! “At some point, we still have to arrange for that socially distanced on-site meeting,” shares Marcelle. “Then, we invite a contractor into the conversation, start putting together a furniture and decor package, bring in consultants, meet at showrooms, or explore materials as needed.”

Though every project requires a slightly different approach, services such as field measurements, contractor and showroom visits, and furniture installations simply can’t be done virtually. On the upside, virtual consultations allow for a safe and convenient way to get the ball rolling. “It’s not the same as meeting in person, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Marcelle says. “Being in quarantine means having more time to dream, less time to jump in and execute. This, to a designer, is golden!”

If you’d like to request a virtual consultation with Marcelle Guilbeau, click HERE. For a virtual consultation with Jessica Jennings, click HERE.

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