How do interior designer/decorator services work?

I am at the point in my home construction where it is time to make choices such as paint color, textures, cabinent styles, etc.

My problem is, I don’t know where to start. I have ideas about what I like and dislike, and when I see a house or a photo I can immediately say “That is what I want” or “I hate that color”. However, short of copying a room exactly from a magazine, I’m stuck.

So I thought I would turn to professionals. The first couple of Interior Designers that I visited in my town were really just selling their wallhangings, or lamps, or accessories. It seems that you have to already have a scheme and come to them for finishing touches. I need help with the basics.

Has anyone used a professional Interior Designer? Is this the norm, or should I seek elsewhere?

I am bumping this because I want the answer too.

I have some insight, although I am curious for what other people say. Can’t believe we dopers don’t have an interior designer in the bunch! Anyway, lots of furniture stores have people with some interior design experience. My mom went to oone of them after deciding to get rid of our terrible wrought-iron-and-avocado-and-gold 70s couch monstrosity. She sketched them her room layout and told them what colors she wanted, and they recommended a couch and two chairs in coordinating fabrics, plus reupholstering two other pieces, and laid out how to arrange them. No knickknacks or pictures, just the furniture.

I’d go to an interior designer if I thought they could arrange my square living room with attached open kichen so I have a separate dining and living area without blocking the big wall of windows. I’ve tried several ways myself but I’m not sure if it really works; I need to get some furniture but I don’t want to buy the wrong size for whatever layout I end up going with.

We’re using an interior decorator for some redecorating around our house. We’re getting window treatments from her, and some of the furniture; that’s how she makes her money. Which is fine - I could perhaps get the stuff cheaper by doing the legwork myself but this really works out to be a time-saver for me. And she provides ideas that I wouldn’t think of.

How it’s worked so far: she came over, looked at the rooms in question, chatted about what sort of things we like vs. hate (“plaid = bad”, “blue = good so stop me from going overboard and painting everything blue including my spouse and childen”). Took measurements. Started looking through samples of wallpaper, window treatments, etc. - she has a studio whose walls are lined with shelves full of wallpaper and fabric samples.

She also serves as a sounding board for ideas I’ve already got - for example, I’d already fallen in love with some specific bedroom furniture, and I had my eye on some particular lighting that I discussed with her. She’ll let me know if an idea I have would, down the line, turn into something I’ll regret. AND - she has a lot of resources and contacts in the local community (which lamp shops are good, who can make glass tops for dressers, good kitchen remodelers, etc.).

Some decorators work by hourly fee rather than by commission, which might be what you want here, Tragically Dip (love the name, BTW). Given that a lot of choices are just picking options from the builder. The designer would help you choose cabinet colors, for example. Then if desired, help you pick window treatments etc. that go with your existing (or planned new) furniture.

I’ve had some dealings with interior designer, but only in a professional setting. The thing to remember is that interior designers get paid in two ways, by the hour, and they get a percentage of whatever you buy through them. Sign a contract before you go with a designer and remember that they bill hourly. Something else to verify is that in the event that you decide not to do the project or things go south with the designer, that you be allowed to keep fabric swatchs of the design choices you have chosen or that you be given the color names of what paints you have chosen. They won’t always give you these.

After seeing how this stuff works, I would be hesitant to use one. The costs can very quickly escalate, and the results are not always worth it.