Top 5 Things to Look for in a Commercial Interior Design Firm

Your design firm sets the tone for the entire project

How to Choose a Commercial Interior Design Firm

Designing a space to get units leased and keep residents happy is easier with the help of a commercial interior design firm. However, starting the process of working with a firm isn’t quite so simple. You, your tenants, and your staff have to live with the results. You will need to choose the right design firm to deliver on your expectations—and do things right the first time.

Because aesthetics can vary widely from designer to designer and firm to firm, we recommend exploring your options before you move forward. In this blog, you will learn:

Why Vetting Your Design Firm Is a Step You Shouldn’t Skip

No two firms are alike. Some specialize in specific styles, while others work with a wide range of styles. Some firms may handle all of the creative and technical details, including working with engineers and architects during the design phase. Others may only offer cosmetic or finish selections and procurement. The firm’s experience, education, and scope of work are telltale signs they can handle your project.

Whether you’re investing in new construction or renovation of an existing space, you need a designer who’s willing to be part of your dream team. Design work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You need to feel confident your designer will not only create a space that’s visually appealing but also be able to work with other project subcontractors to achieve the desired outcome.

5 Things to Look For in a Commercial Interior Design Firm

When vetting commercial interior design firms, you’ll want to shine a light on the firm’s scope of work beyond helping to pick out paint colors and fabrics. Here are five things to look for that will help you start your project off right:


A design firm’s reputation speaks volumes about its capabilities and position in the market. Reputation encompasses a multitude of aspects, including but not limited to:

  • Reliability
  • Responsiveness in communications
  • Staying within budget
  • Providing high-quality designs
  • Being customer-centric
  • Commitment to safety and sustainability
  • Meeting deadlines

Some of this reputation criteria might matter to you more than others. Decide what you value in a design firm’s reputation and seek out information on how each potential firm lives up to your expectations.

Quality of Design

Every interior design firm will tout its “high-quality designs,” but what do these words really mean? Ultimately, successful design is all about getting layouts, decor, lighting, and ambiance that work for your space. All the designs in the world are meaningless if they are not functional while being visually attractive.

Ask questions about the designer’s process in developing a design for your space. Are they intentional about their choices? Do their clients feel satisfied with the final outcomes?

Ask specific questions related to your project use cases. For instance, if you’re hiring a design firm for a residential community, do their previous designs get leases signed? Are residents and staff happy with the property?

Looking at designs on paper is one thing; learning how that design functions beyond aesthetics is quite another. Learn more about what goes into the process and how designers arrive at decisions so you can gain a clearer idea of what they’ll bring to your project.

Professional Installation

The level of involvement in project execution may vary between design firms. The firm’s role in professionally installing its’ designs says a lot about its commitment to your project. This allows them to better manage timelines and ensure your design is executed on budget and in an accurate and timely manner.

Naturally, there are multiple subcontractors involved in every project, even those on a small scale. Ask about who you’ll be working with, your main point of contact, and who will be handling certain duties and their affiliations with the design firm. Learn how they handle potential project delays or budget overages and how it affects project execution.

Most importantly, ask how they will update you on the installation’s progress and how frequently you can expect updates. Reputable design firms will have sound processes for these things already in place and can make it easy for you to understand how they work.

Client Testimonials

Asking for portfolio samples isn’t a substitute for getting real client testimonials. While a design might look great on paper, its function and client satisfaction might not translate as well.

Design firms will have client testimonials that they have meticulously collected for you to read. These testimonials are likely to highlight the positives of the clients’ experiences in working with the firm. You can glean useful bits of information about how the firm communicates, whether they meet expectations, and other things they do well.

But don’t stop there — you should also seek out unbiased feedback in the form of online reviews and word of mouth. Check online review sources such as Google Business or Houzz to discover potential downsides or shortcomings of the design firm. Ask friends, colleagues, off-campus student apartment managers, or property owners if they’ve worked with the firm in the past. Reach out directly to clients from the design firm’s portfolio to get their honest take on working with the firm. Others’ experiences will set the tone for your own; it’s best to make an informed decision.


Some design firms are just a better fit than others. You might like the people and their personalities. Or you might love knowing the firm stands for something that’s also important to you.

A design firm’s culture indirectly impacts the expertise, quality, and service you can expect. Aligning on culture and values can enhance communication and collaboration with your design firm, ultimately leading to better outcomes.

How to Communicate Your Needs to Achieve an Ideal Outcome

While the above criteria are not the only ones you need to review, they do provide a sound starting point. Do your due diligence when choosing a design firm so you can feel confident in getting a space your tenants will love.