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How to Choose the Right Interior Designer for Your Dream Home: An Interview with Alice Chan of Alice T. Chan Design

By Alice Chan

Alice T. Chan is an innovative home renovator and designer who has been featured on HGTV, along with the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She comes with over 20+ year of experience in the industry, which is why we thought she would be the perfect person to interview. We wanted to know how people can make sure they find amazing interior designers, like herself.

Tell Us About Yourself and Alice T. Chan Design:

I have been a design enthusiast since childhood. My love for model homes inspired me to "stage" my own homes for sale before I even knew what home staging was. I have successfully prepared and sold four of my own personal residences, two before becoming a Professional Home Stager in 2003. Since then, I have consulted on millions of dollars worth of real estate sales, and was the one who provided the creativity to convert them into gold!

Combining my knowledge from the 20+ years of designing and renovating my own homes, along with the 10+ years working with real estate clients as a Professional Home Stager and Home Selling Strategist, I'm known for delivering high-impact, low-cost, customized home selling strategies for turbo-charging properties at all levels to incredible home selling profits, as well as customized home improvement strategies to maximize my client's budget while creating extraordinary spaces for real life.

Aside from managing private client projects throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, I have lent my skills to the small screen as a Co-Host and Interior Designer for HGTV's reality real estate show, "Power Broker." I also worked as the Production Designer for HGTV's Flip It to Win It.

What Does Your Company Strive To Do?

To create extraordinary spaces for real life.

Three Most Important Questions to Ask Your Interior Designer:

  1. What is your aesthetic, and what design styles have you created for clients? (Of course, ask to see a portfolio of their work)
  2. What kinds of budgets have you worked with and what was accomplished within those budgets?
  3. Can you please provide some examples of projects you've completed, and what the time frame was for completing it?

Legal Contracts and Your Designer:

Having an agreement that outlines what services and responsibilities are included is highly recommended, as well as a tentative timeframe that the work will be completed is advisable. No one wants a project to drag on for months with no end in sight.

Three Qualities Every Interior Designer Should Have:

  1. An open mind: the design process is not about what the interior designer likes, but what the clients likes, which may take the designer outside of his or her comfort zone, but it's important to not impose personal aesthetic preference onto client's homes. The end result won't feel personal to them.
  2. Good listening skills: when a designer listens, he or she will learn about personal things that are important to the client, and incorporating those into the design is the cherry on top of good design.
  3. Strong project management skills: keeping a project on schedule and on budget is not an easy task. Contractors and vendors will often accidentally derail designers. Staying on top of the details, and not letting strong personalities and other people's agendas get in the way, is the high level service that client's are paying top dollar for. Also, if the designer can sense that a vendor is not going to be cooperative, eliminate that person or company from the equation as quickly as possible, or they will affect the rest of the project negatively (speaking from personal experience).

Beautiful spaces can be created at different budget levels. The most amazing spaces mix high and low budget items. Although clients want a finished polished look, they don't want to live in a museum or a showroom. Creating a collected look is the ultimate goal. It's very obvious when someone just buys everything from one store and displays it in their home. It's too contrived. It's also very important to design around their lifestyle so that they can be comfortable and live practically. For example, if you have a young family with very young children in the home, ultra modern furnishings with glass, mirrors and hard edges will not suit their lifestyle.

It is my job as a designer to advise clients based on the information provided to me about what I feel would work best for them. All too often, I've spoken with young couples who have a design aesthetic that is not conducive for a home with young children. It's a reality they have not come to terms with yet due to inexperience. As a parent myself, and their designer, it's my job to help them strike that balance.

How Do You Make Sure You're Thinking with the Client In Mind?

Constant communication throughout the entire process. I always begin with an in depth consultation at the start of the project to understand what it is the client is looking to achieve, what they envision, what's on the wishlist, and what their lifestyle and budget is. They provide inspiration photos to help clarify the vision. It is my job to then decipher and translate that into reality based on their budget and timeframe. As we get further into the design and procurement phase, my client's and I are in close contact via text, email and in person meetings. Many clients have a better understanding of what they want and like once they start seeing what's available in the marketplace.

How Important is it to Have the Same Designer from Start to Finish?

This is extremely important. Most of my clients hire me to assist them with executing the initial design concept through installation. Although I do offer DIY options to serve those with tighter budgets, I see that pulling the entire project together is more challenging in those types of situations because design is a fluid process. Purchasing all the right items does not equate to a polished, finished space. Knowing how to maximize on those items, and being able to add and edit as needed, comes with training and experience. Clients across the board want that finished model home look which usually requires a professional to pull off.

Ideal Client/Designer Relationship?

Client's who have a sense of what they want and want to be involved in the process, but allow me to have creative reign to make things happen. They are able to make decisions quickly and are somewhat realistic about what their budgets can afford. Design is a very intimate relationship and you learn a lot about yourself and each other during the course of the project. Having good communication, feedback and ongoing conversations throughout the process is imperative.

What Services Do You Offer?

We offer a full range of Interior Renovation and Design services from design concept, DIY options to full service project management. My newest service is called the "As Seen on TV Makeover Experience," which is a one-of-a-kind experience that'll have you laughing, crying, and O-M-Ging out of control. You can learn more about my services at

How Can New Clients Contact You?

They can visit us online at and submit a project inquiry 24/7 at

They're also invited to connect with us on Facebook!

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3 days ago

Justina Fischer

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About The Author

"As we evolve, our homes should, too." -Suzanne Tucker Interiors The Romance of Design

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