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9 Signs That It’s Time to Hire an Interior Designer

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When was the last time you had someone outside your church body assess your building’s interior design?

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Also from Visioneering Studios:

7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Architect
7 Steps to Improve Your Wayfinding
7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a General Contractor
10 Design Secrets to Creating a Killer Lobby
7 Causes of Building Project Burnout (and How to Avoid Them)


Imagine you’re out of town, it’s Friday night, and you’re hungry. So after some quick research, you finally decide to drive to a local hotspot. And though you’ve never been, you’re willing to roll the dice.

If you are like most people, before you even look at the menu, you scan the restaurant as you cross the threshold. If the appearance and mood of the establishment meet or exceed your personal standards, you’ll ask to see a menu. But if the joint feels neglectfully out of date, mismanaged or disheveled, you’ll be gone in less than 30 seconds.

You may not like it, but in the age of information and option overload, our brains excel at judging a book by its cover. We are constantly bombarded by choices in our country. Where else in the world can you find 15 different laundry detergents in the grocery store? As a result, the church must learn to adapt to reach the community and culture to which she is called.

But when margins are tight, and ministry dollars are already stretched, it’s not always clear when to hire an interior designer to help you update your space. It’s even possible that you’ve become completely oblivious to a problem that is painfully visible to all your guests. Here are nine signs that it might be time to hire an interior designer.

1. If you’re drowning in duct tape

Duct tape is one of the most amazing inventions known to man. It’s the kind of thing you use when the real solution is either out of reach or unavailable. I’ve even seen the stuff fix a car’s dragging bumper.

The problem with duct tape is that it’s not meant to be a permanent solution. It’s a workaround. As I tour churches across the country, I am surprised by how many church buildings are held together with metaphorical duct tape. Workaround after workaround may have saved money in the short term, but now you’re drowning in a sea of duct tape.

There comes a time when somebody needs to make the decision to stop using duct tape and apply permanent and appropriate solutions to the design problems that you’ve endured for years. You can’t live forever buried beneath an avalanche of quick fixes.

2. If your primary color scheme is light beige on dark beige

Have you seen Nacho Libre? One of my favorite lines in the entire movie is when Sister Encarnación announces, “Well, my favorite color is light tan. My favorite animal is poopies (puppies). I like serving the Lord, hiking, playing volleyball …”

If someone with Sister Encarnación’s design sense designated beige as your church’s primary color palette, it might be time to hire an interior designer.

3. If your carpet looks like a crime scene

Most church leaders don’t see their carpet as a problem. But seriously, take a minute and do a quick evaluation. Walk directly from your church’s main entrance to the center of the elementary classroom and pay attention to your church’s carpet the entire time. If it looks like a crime scene, either get it cleaned or hire a designer.

Now walk into your auditorium and look down. If your carpet is either red, forest green or purple it’s definitely time to hire an interior designer. No questions asked.

4. If your lobby looks like an episode of American Pickers

I actually love the show American Pickers. There’s something nostalgic about seeing a room full of furniture and knickknacks that the modern world has rejected. So, if your cassette tape ministry still sets up on a wooden banquet table every week, it may be time to an update your space.

One of the most often asked questions around updating environments is, “How often should our church update?”

The retail world has figured this out and understands the importance of keeping their store relevant and up to date. Most retail businesses subscribe to a rhythm of “routine renovation.” Though the church isn’t a big-box store that traffics in milk, eggs and frozen pizza, we offer something far more valuable to the human condition than a family-size box of Pop-Tarts. And our stakes are much higher than a monthly profit line.

You may have seen the principle of routine renovation at work while walking through your neighborhood Target store over the past couple of years. I’ll admit, the whole ordeal was honestly kind of maddening for me. Finding a box of paperclips became a tantrum-filled game of Where’s Waldo complete with stomping feet and pouty face. But there’s a big reason stores update and remodel. David J. Livingston, a supermarket consultant and principal of DJL Consultants, says, “A remodel usually brings in a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in sales.”

According to Lyn Falk with Retail Works, if your retail store is embedded in a sophisticated and affluent area near a major city, you should update your interior every two to three years with a major renovation every six or seven years. And if you are in a middle-class area or living in a medium-size city, you should update your interior every four to five years with a major renovation every eight or nine years. But if your retail store is “super discount-oriented” (think Big Lots) or in small towns, you should update your interior every five to six years with a major renovation every 10 years.

5. If your kids or teen environments include neon paint, Tiki huts or a hand-painted Noah’s Ark

Unless you’re working on a Cyndi Lauper video or distributing neon construction paper to a room full of ankle biters, eye-blinding neon should be used sparingly and with expert precision. Kids’ environments these days are beginning to have a sophisticated, clean and flexible look with less theming. There is even more emphasis on lighting, projection and interactive pieces with bold, modern color palettes. So, even though Uncle Eddie hand-painted a beautiful mural of Abraham sacrificing Isaac in your preschool room, it might be time to contact an interior designer.

6. If your lobby furniture was previously in someone’s garage

Yes, this actually happens … and I’m not kidding.

If this is you, hire a designer today and have a garage sale this Saturday. Trust me, just removing that furniture will improve your environment significantly.

7. If Pinterest exploded in your building

In the absence of a professional designer, your team spent a few weeks on Pinterest and made a list of cool things you could do to your building: pallet walls, vintage light bulbs, string lights and corrugated metal roofing for that edgy teen look. Now, your building looks like a Pinterest explosion or a sad attempt at Fixer Upper.

Churches across the country have cashed in their unique identities for the latest Pinterest fad or shiplap craze. Good designers can help you develop a timeless, tasteful look that will tell your church’s unique story, not just rip off the latest trend.

8. If you have wallpaper borders anywhere in your facility

Here is an exhaustive list of modern environments that have wallpaper borders: nursing homes, funeral homes and country greasy-spoon restaurants. If your church is not meeting in one of those spaces … well, you know the rest.

9. If your volunteer interior-design team needs a break

Every church has at least one or two women who are self-proclaimed designers who have chosen everything for the church. From silk flower arrangements to gaudy wall plaques, these ladies have reigned supreme. For years, this strategy worked. But now that 1992 is over, it’s time for those dated designs to go. There’s only one problem: Your in-house aficionados don’t have the chops to bring your church into the modern era.

And no, creating a design committee never works. So, don’t think that is the solution. Instead, hire an interior designer.

A good professional interior designer will listen to your leaders and can help your church develop a plan for your space that will accommodate growth and create a current look on a budget. A professional also can help you combine function and form while maintaining a relevant environment for your people and the guests they will bring.

Also from Visioneering Studios:
7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Architect
7 Steps to Improve Your Wayfinding
7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a General Contractor
10 Design Secrets to Creating a Killer Lobby
7 Causes of Building Project Burnout (and How to Avoid Them)

Dave Milam is vice president of strategic design at Visioneering Studios.

Visioneering Studios is a nationally licensed real estate, architecture and construction company with multidisciplinary offices throughout the U.S. Visioneering has partnered with many of the fastest-growing ministries in the world. VisioneeringStudios.com.

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