Some homeowners tell Marina Dagenais, also known as the design matchmaker, that they can’t afford professional designer services. Dagenais tends to pull the rug out from under this design misunderstanding. “I tell them they need professional designer services even more than the person who feels they can afford them,” says Dagenais, founder of Designer Premier.
As a consultant, Dagenais helps clients save money, time, and stressful frustration almost always inherent in design projects—particularly do-it-yourself projects. And here’s the kicker: Clients can avail themselves of her services for free. That’s right: She works at no cost to clients. Designers pay her through their marketing budgets.
Dagenais launched her company, Designer Premier, in 2010, after seven years of serving as the director of the Denver Design Center’s program known as Design Connection. She makes matches between clients and builders, landscapers, painters, architects, designers and others. “It’s great when I get the opportunity to pull together the whole team because I know who plays well together,” she says
As with any matchmaking endeavor, personal preferences come into play. Dagenais says, “The most important thing is the personality piece. People search on the web and see somebody with the look they want. But if you can’t communicate with your designers, it doesn’t matter if they do the exact look you want. They can’t get into your head and design for you. If they can’t communicate with you, they can’t ask the right questions and design a nurturing environment.”
Dagenais works with 20 designers, and she screens them carefully. “I don’t want any designers doing cookie cutter design. I don’t want any prima donna designers who say it’s their way or the highway,” she says. “I know how to evaluate designers. And I check references.” As part of her process, Dagenais goes to a client’s home. She includes a slide show of different designers’ work. “My philosophy is to clearly understand what the client wants and to deliver,” she says.
Dagenais estimates that about half of her clients never have worked with a professional designer. “It can be intimidating to work with a designer if you’ve never done it before,” she says. “I do hand-holding. I help clients interview designers. I go to the interviews to make sure clients’ needs are met and questions are answered.” She also emphasizes education as another pillar of successful design. If clients haven’t worked with a designer before, she begins by teaching clients how designers work, how they charge, how they improve projects, and why they’re worth their weight in gold-leaf.
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