If you have decided to work with a designer, you will probably have two initial questions – “who do I choose” and “how do I know for sure they will be any good”?

Design means taking an instruction or vision presented by you, the homeowner, and the designer then imagining the space and the materials that will best meet these. It is not an exercise in arranging rectangles and shapes and then putting in holes for windows and doors. It is a process that requires experience and skill to execute.

You can choose to engage an architect, building designer or draftsperson but paying someone loads of money is not a guarantee that you’ll get a great outcome or experience. As with any profession, there are some who are great at what they do and some who are not. However, a great designer is worth far more than their fees will ever cost you as they will mitigate risk, provide connections to a collaborative team and improve the value of your outcome through their expertise.

To find this designer, you will need to assess their degree of organization, communication skills, honesty of advice and level of experience.


From the moment you phone or email the designer, you have the opportunity to assess how organized and efficient they are and in your initial meeting, they will demonstrate what they’ll be like to work with.

The designer should be able to clearly communicate their client and project process, indicating their expected timelines and methods of communication. You will be able to start making assessments too at this stage as to how practiced and experienced they seem to be and whether they are listening to you, as the potential client.


You need to feel comfortable that the designer communicates well, not just in what they say but how they say it. Do they help you understand the things you are unsure of and check to see that you are not confused or overwhelmed? Are they patient rather than patronising? Do they listen to you rather than talk at you? Can you speak to builders they work with or previous clients?

If you feel unsure about their communication skills, you probably need to speak to some other designers before making a decision about who to engage as the success of your renovation depends hugely on you and the designer being able to clearly convey and discuss ideas and make collaborative decisions.

Honesty of advice

You need to be satisfied that the designer will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Unfortunately, some designers will be unwilling to tell homeowners the truth about their projects for fear of losing the job and, as a result, the project will inevitably end up over budget, overtime or not going ahead at all after a lot of money has been wasted on professional fees.

If you’ve been told the same thing by a number of designers and finally find one who says “yes” to all your requests that everyone else was saying are difficult to achieve for your budget and timelines, it probably needs to be investigated thoroughly.

The best designer is one who is respectful in helping you decide what you’ll invest your budget in and who works responsibly to support you through your project, keeping you on track and reminding you of your budget.

Level of Experience

A designer with little experience may have difficulty in designing to budget or determining approximately what a renovation might cost. They may also not be fully aware of planning regulations that are relevant to your property which could result in Development Approvals being rejected and homeowners having to start again with design, repaying fees and approval costs or having to abandon the project altogether.

The best designer is one who can bring their expertise and experience from many other projects to yours after you have clearly communicated your ideas and aspirations.

To find a designer experienced in your type of renovation, ask family, friends and neighbours for recommendations. Then look at their last few projects and, if possible, speak with those homeowners. Better still, if you have chosen your builder already, ask them for their recommendation – since they will be responsible for the build, they won’t recommend someone who does not know what they are doing or that they have had trouble with in the past.

Once you have chosen your designer, it is important that you are fully open and honest with them. You will not get the result you are chasing if you are hiding information, keeping things close to your chest or being secretive about your budget.

This article and the information contained herein is general in nature, and not intended to be professional advice.