9 Mistakes People Make When Hiring a Designer

(An excerpt from the Californian Council of Interior Design Certification.)

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There is a definite distinction between a trained professional interior designer and someone with a knack for decorating. Here are some mistakes that people make when looking for an interior designer.

1) Not Taking A Business Approach in Your Decision

Make sure you know with whom you are doing business. Research several interior designers before hiring someone. Get a list of “Certified Interior Designers” in your area by visiting CCIDC.org.

2) Not Being Clear About Your Expectations

Know what you would like to accomplish ahead of time. Try to establish an investment amount that you are comfortable spending.

3) Not Checking Their Qualifications

Ask them if they are a CID. This stands for Certified Interior Designer and is the only title recognized under California state law. Ask how long they’ve been practicing. Do they have an interior designer education? What interior design related examinations have they taken and passed?

4) Not Checking Their Work

Call for references. Look at their recent work. Ask how long their similar projects might have taken and why? Ask if their projects come in on budget.

5) Not Asking for a Proper Agreement or Contract

Ask them to prepare a letter of agreement. If you have an attorney, run it by them. It is always better to understand ahead of time what you are agreeing to. Make sure the agreement spells out the scope of work and a payment schedule is included. Ask about their insurance coverage for anything you plan to purchase from them. And make sure there is a dispute resolution clause as well.

6) Not Establishing a Budget

There is nothing worse than getting started on a remodeling project and running out of money part way through. Ask for a preliminary budget to be created before you begin. It is better not to be surprised where your money is concerned!

7) Being Unprepared for the Unexpected

When beginning a new project, understand that sometimes things will not go the way everyone expects. Items may take longer than expected to arrive, or simply be unavailable. Be prepared to compromise to keep things moving along. Know that the unexpected may cost more and take longer due to unavoidable circumstances. Be prepared to spend as much as 10-20% more than you originally plan on just in case. Listen to you design professional who has experience and can guide you through the process.

8) Being Unaware of The Trauma of Remodeling

Expect things to get stressful and also dusty! If you need to move out temporarily, make plans ahead of time to do so. Some people set up makeshift kitchens or home offices in other parts of the home to avoid the trauma.

9) Not Listening to The Professional

You hired your designer so listen to them. Don’t let other family members or friends give you advice. It will confuse the issue and may end up undermining your designer’s work.

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Fifty Shades of White

Some designers will agree that white is a color too! There are many, many shades of white. Benjamin Moore offers 140 shades. Sherwin Williams has another 104 and Dunn Edwards, 100 for instance.

So how do you choose the right white for your room? In design we use a term called Color Temperature. It is measured in units called Kelvin. A higher temperature light produces blue (cool) color. Fluorescent tubes for instance, give off a blue light with a Kelvin rating of around 5,000. Incandescent lamps produce a yellow light (warm) and are usually around 2,500-3,000 Kelvin. Sunlight on the other hand, has a temperature of 5,780 Kelvin. Here is a chart of these ratings.

Color Temp Chart

While black is the absence of all light, white is actually a blending of all of the colors in the spectrum! How do you find the best whites for your room? Keep in mind the sources of light your room will contain. Every wall color, fabric, rug and accessory you select will be affected by these sources. You’ll want to test the items you plan to use under the correct conditions so bring them home, turn on the table lamps or open the curtains to get a sense of what happens to them in your future setting.

Here are the best sellers from Benjamin Moore. Of course, my favorite is OC-45 Swiss Coffee. These too should be tested before you commit to them. Please see our article in our blog on How to Sample Paint Color for more detailed information.

BM Best Whites

                Fresh, simple and Casually Elegant!

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Please see our article in our blog on “How to Sample Paint Color” for more detailed information.  Just use our search bar to find what you need!

And, just for fun….

Have you heard about the new iOS App from Benjamin Moore called Bendoku? It’s really fun and a good way to develop your eye for color. Give it a try!


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Do I Need a Building Permit?

Occasionally, a prospective client will tell me know that he doesn’t intend to obtain building permits for his remodeling project. This is not a good idea and the homeowner may be putting himself and his home at risk by doing so. In this article, I will address this situation and explain why it is in the best interest of the homeowner to insist on investing the time and money up front, to obtain permits for any home remodeling project.

Did you know that it is against state law to do a project that requires a permit without one?

According to the California Building Standards Code, no building or structure may be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished unless a separate permit for each building or structure has first been obtained from the building official.

If a contractor is caught doing work on the site without a permit, this will put the contractor’s license in jeopardy, and he will incur serious fines from the Contractor’s State Licensing Board (cslb.ca.gov). Building inspectors drive all over the city all the time. If there is a project nearby getting inspections and they happen to see work going on, they are perfectly within their legal rights to enter the premises and demand to see the permit.

According to Doug Stead, Executive Director at the CCIDC, Inc. (The California Council for Interior Design Certification),

“The homeowner will then have to go through the permit process anyway and pay double fees as a penalty.

The work already done will have to be undone and started all over again so the inspection process can take place at each phase. The city will not know if the work has been done to code without opening it all up. (Tearing the walls, floors, and ceilings apart.)

The homeowner, and the contractor’s costs will go through the roof if this happens, and extra delays will occur as a result.”

Now, consider the safety aspect for a moment. A kitchen remodel for example, will have electrical, plumbing and other technical work done that could cause problems down the road if not done according to code. Electrical work not done properly could cause a fire.

The insurance company would demand to see the permit in order to verify the inspections, and without one would not cover the claim.

Always hire a contractor who is licensed and bonded. Go online to www.cslb.ca.gov to verify a contractor’s license before hiring him. Only licensed contractors can be listed on a permit regardless of who pulls it, and they must provide proof of Workers Comp insurance.

If an unlicensed contractor is used without proper insurance and one of the workers gets injured, then the homeowner will be liable for all of that worker’s medical expenses, which could– depending upon the severity of the injuries, cost more than the project itself.

So I ask you, is it really worth it?

For the sake of your own personal safety and the expense that you may incur, wouldn’t you rather take the time and do it right?

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10 Important Questions When Interviewing a Designer


A detailed look at what you should be asking.  

Are you overwhelmed with the number of choices you have in choosing an Interior Designer?  Don’t know where to begin?  Here are 10 important questions to ask when you interview potential designers.  Asking the right questions will help you choose the right designer for you.

1)  What type of design education have you had and are you accredited in some way?

Some people don’t realize that there is a difference between Decorators and Designers.  Anyone with a “knack” for putting color and fabrics together can call themselves a decorator.  But Interior Design is a profession and one that requires years of education and experience.  In California, designers may qualify to take a rigorous exam, which deals with the California Building Code, Title 24 and California laws and regulations.  This is especially important when doing a project that involves construction and building permits.  A designer who has passed this exam is a Certified Interior Designer in CA (CID).  It is a legal title. CIDs are concerned with the health, safety and welfare of the public, first and foremost.

Debbie L. Talianko is a Certified Interior Designer in CA.   At Talianko Design Group, our designers are required to have a formal education in Interior Design.

In addition, Debbie Talianko is a member in good standing with ASID or the American Society of Interior Designers, a national networking organization that requires its members to have both an interior design education as well as work experience in the field.  In our firm, we have over 20 years of experience collectively.

2)  What makes you unique?

Ask why you should hire this particular firm.  What makes them stand out ahead of the pack?

We do things a little differently at Talianko Design Group.  Our hands on approach and excellent follow through are evident in the testimonials you may have seen on our website or otherwise.

  • We have many tools at our disposal to help us get to know you and your project needs quickly and efficiently. 
  • We also begin the planning phase with a budget.  We don’t believe our clients should ever start spending money without the end game in sight. 
  • Our accounting software is industry specific.  This means we work very efficiently when it comes to billing and purchasing, etc. 
  • Our follow through is excellent.  We treat people the way we’d like to be treated.

3)  Do you have a mission statement?

A mission statement can say a lot about a company.  What is it that drives them?  Are they a cohesive group with a common goal?

“At Talianko Design Group, LLD, Our goal is to ensure that our clients fall in love with their homes.  We make the process easy and convenient for them, because we believe this is the way people should be treated.  By listening carefully to their requests, we can thoroughly understand their needs. And in the end, we produce something both beautiful and personal”.

4)  Have you worked on any projects similar to ours in the past?

Ask to see examples of work done which is similar to your project.  Listening to the designer explain the project will give you insight into whether or not they understand your own project needs.

This is a question that will be determined when you first call us.  We will tell you if we are comfortable with your type of project and if we have had experience with similar projects in the past.

5)  What specific challenges do you think we will need to overcome on our project?

This is an important question and one that will allow you to peek into the near- future.

Our hope is to overcome any challenges by managing your expectations at the onset.  So let’s make sure we do our due diligence, plan properly and communicate with one another throughout the process in order to avoid any misunderstanding.  

6)  Are you able to complete our project on time and on budget?

A reasonable inquiry and by asking this question, you’ll get a feel for how knowledgeable and experienced your designer really is.

Your budget is your investment in your home.  We take this very seriously.  That is why we begin every project with a budget.  Time frames will vary depending on a lot of factors.  The thing to know is that we will communicate these factors well to you so that there are no surprises.

7)  Will we work with you or someone else?

Is this design firm too busy to take you on?  Will you be shuffled around?  How “hands on” will they be with your contractors, etc.?

At Talianko Design Group, we work as a team.  You will know our team members well.  We will work with you and on your behalf as your liaison and spokesperson when it comes to meeting with contractors and architects, etc.   We are careful to manage our workload in order to keep on top of all of our projects properly.  Sometimes, we will ask a new client to wait for a period of time for this reason. 

8)  How do you charge for your services?

There are many formulas for charging for design services.  You’ll want to find someone who is completely transparent and open about this topic.

We are flexible in our approach to our fees.  They are based on the scope of work required for each project and time required to complete the scope.  On occasion, we work on a consulting-only basis and this is quoted by individual project.

9)  Do you do the purchasing for us?

Some clients will want to do their own purchasing and some will not.  This may be because they know that it takes a lot of time and follow up when furnishing a room or several rooms.  You’ll want to find out if the designer you are considering has a system in place to manage this part of the process for you if that is what you choose.

We at Talianko Design Group, have industry specific software that helps us be very efficient when it comes to purchasing and project management.  It is item based which means once the information is entered about each specific item, the remainder of the process such as proposals, purchase orders and invoices follow more easily.  The more efficient we can be, the more time we have for the creative side of your project and the less it will cost you.

10)  Are there any other fees for your services?

Again, an open and honest discussion about this topic at the time of the interview is a sign that you will not have hidden fees or unexpected charges down the road.  An “open checkbook” arrangement such as hourly billing may harbor hard feelings and can ruin a relation between the client and the designer.

Before work begins, you will be presented with a Letter of Agreement, which will explain in detail, the scope of work that we will provide to you, the amount of time it should take and the fee required for this work.  Occasionally, a client will add to the scope of work so a secondary arrangement will be made.  This will be in writing, as we believe that everyone should always be on the same “page”.  There are no secrets here.


In summary, here are 10 reasons why Talianko Design Group, LLC is your best choice:

 1.     Debbie Talianko is a Certified Interior Designer.

2.     We use lots of tools to get to know you quickly.

3.     We insist on helping you to create your budget.

4.     Our team has 15 years of experience collectively.

5.     Planning is key and we do our homework.

6.     We have many systems in place, which help us work efficiently.

7.     We are hands on and you will always know to whom you should turn.

8.     Our approach to design fees and product pricing is flexible and transparent.

9.     Our follow through is unrivaled.

10.  We treat people the way we would want to be treated.


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Talianko Design Group wins Best of Houzz 2014!


Best Of Houzz 2014 Award 

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Annual Survey and Analysis of 16 Million Monthly Users

Reveals Top-Rated Building, Remodeling and Design Professionals


SIERRA MADRE, CA, February 4, 2014 – Talianko Design Group, LLC of Sierra Madre, CA has been awarded “Best Of Houzz” by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The residential design firm that specializes in a clean, calm and casual style was chosen by the more than 16 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community.

The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction honors is determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2013. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 16 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 230 million professional images of home interiors and exteriors to their personal idea books via the Houzz site, iPad/iPhone app and Android app. Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2014” badge on their profiles, showing the Houzz community their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz. Talianko Design Group, LLC has received both awards for 2014.

“Our goal is to ensure that our clients fall in love with their homes.”

We make the process easy and convenient for them, because we believe this is the way people should be treated.  By listening carefully to their requests, we can thoroughly understand their needs. And in the end, we produce something both beautiful and personal.

Houzz provides homeowners with the most comprehensive view of home building, remodeling and design professionals, empowering them to find and hire the right professional to execute their vision,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz. “We’re delighted to recognize Talianko Design Group, LLC among our “Best Of” professionals for both customer satisfaction and design as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

With Houzz, homeowners can identify with not only the top-rated professionals like Debbie L. Talianko, but also those whose work matches their own aspirations for their home.  Homeowners can also evaluate professionals by contacting them directly on the Houzz platform, asking questions about their work and reviewing their responses to questions from others in the Houzz community.

Follow Talianko Design Group, LLC on Houzz here Talianko on Houzz Page

About Debbie L. Talianko

Debbie Talianko (Allied ASID, CID) is an accomplished Sierra Madre residential interior designer, speaker and industry mentor whose firm has perfected the design of casually elegant interiors.

A San Diego native who grew up near the cliffs of Point Loma, Talianko travelled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America and received a Diploma with Distinction in Professional Interior Design from Rhodec International in London. She’s inspired by the intricacy of landscapes, Renaissance architecture and closer to home, the color palettes and feeling of serenity she derives from the mountains and beaches that surround her family’s home in Sierra Madre.

“I love classic design but without all the fuss.  I’d define my style as transitional – clean, calm and casual.”

Whether managing a complete home renovation, a formal living room design or a kitchen upgrade, her aesthetic is defined by order and fluidity; incorporating relaxed silhouettes, fine fabrics and traditional or modern furnishings that are meticulously crafted. Her passion for the design process allows her to create consistent results for clients who expect a custom interior that lets them feel like themselves at home.

In 2012, Talianko was elected Chair of Pasadena’s California Home & Kitchen Tour, a showcase, now in it’s 26th year, that features the American Society of Interior Designers’ (ASID) most distinguished designers.

About Houzz

Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality. For more information, visitwww.houzz.com





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