You’ve closed on your dream house. You’ve interviewed several interior designers and made a decision to hire one. Do you just show up for the first meeting and hope for the best?

Many designers suggest that it is important to prepare for that first crucial meeting with your designer. In order to help you create an environment that authentically reflects your personality, designers need to understand as much as they can about your likes and dislikes. Communication is essential, and the quicker the designer can learn about your needs and desires, the better job he or she will do.

Everyone instinctively knows what they like and don’t like, but not everyone can express their preferences clearly. One easy way to get your ideas down in concrete form is to cut out pictures from magazines of spaces or objects that inspire you, or collect images of objects that represent the feeling of what you like. Most people process information visually, so finding images that best represent your personality will send the right message about what you are most drawn to.

At their first meeting, one client presented her designer with a shoebox filled with bits of moss, stones, and tree bark. The designer said she understood immediately that the client was trying to tell her that she wanted a home filled with soft, natural materials in muted colors, with varied textures, made into furnishings that were comfortable both to look at and to touch. That's what they did, and the result was a harmonious collaboration and a beautiful home!

Pay attention to the spaces you visit during your daily activities, and take note of how you react to your surroundings. Another client saw a “water wall” in a shopping center and remarked to her designer how calmed and centered it made her feel – like an oasis in the midst of a frazzled day of errands. The designer translated that experience by altering the design of the inground pool to add a fountain at one end, which filled the home with the calming sound of falling water.  Another way to create the same feeling is to install a custom-designed tabletop fountain in the entryway of your home to create a transition from the "outside world" to the sanctuary of your home space.

Think about the décor style that appeals to you most – always remembering that a good designer can incorporate elements of more than one style. The designer will be able to identify the main aspects of your preferred style from the images that you collect, but it will help to familiarize yourself with some of the main features of the style you like most. A few of the most popular styles include Traditional, French Country, and Contemporary. Each of these showcases specific furniture styles, colors, and accessories. For example, a Contemporary style generally features clean lines, spare furnishings, and monochromatic colors.

If you are planning to purchase or build a new home in the near future and intend to use the services of an interior designer, start now to collect pictures of things that you love. Create a scrapbook, folder, or box filled with expressions of yourself and your life. It could include small fabric swatches in colors and textures that you like, or pictures of artworks that inspire you. Include mementos that mean something to you, such as a souvenir from a favorite vacation spot, or a treasured heirloom that holds an important place in your family's heritage. The collection of images, colors, and styles that you accumulate will provide valuable clues to the type of home environment that means the most to you, and it will help make that first meeting with your new designer a rousing success.