Question about working with a designer
beverett1December 6, 2013
I have found an interior decorator who I think I want to work with. She has an hourly rate, but she wants a retainer fee of $1000 before she starts working with me. She has requested the fee now and she will be able to work with me starting in January. When I have worked with a designer years ago, she had an hourly fee and I paid her as the work progressed. When I recently redid my kitchen, the contractor, did not ask for a retainer. I paid set amounts after specific work. The same is true for painters that I have used. The retainer will be used against the time that she works with me. I am wanting her to walk through my house and help me identify things that I need to do to update the look of my home as well as help me establish a color scheme for my home. I know that I want help in redoing the master bedroom, especially window treatments and bedding.

I don't personally know this individual. But she has been in the community for a long time. I have spoken with her and I have seen her web site which shows her work which I like. Is charging a retainer a common industry practice or should I be concerned?
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This is very common. Interior designers have a retainer fee. The fee depends on each designer. If the one you chose has good reviews, I would go ahead and pay the fee.
    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 6:27AM
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Clear Lighting and Electrical Design
Request and contact the references of every person and contractor that you may hire. Ask the tough questions about scheduling, overall satisfaction of their project and would you hire them again. Our firm does request up front fees before starting a project.
1 Like    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 6:48AM
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Kitchen Designs by Jeffrey F. Krider
You could be in a catch 22 situation. I can understand being hesitant to put up a $1000.00 retainer prior to the work starting, however if the person is in demand you may have to part with the $1000.00 ahead of time to ensure your schedule is met. You may want to trust your instincts on this one. Good Luck!
1 Like    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 6:49AM
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Yes, common but, the retainer amount is part of a larger amount named in contract agreement which is signed by both parties. Clients can and will have many distractions from all kinds of sources that can interfere with a designer providing services in a uniform consistent fashion.

Receiving a retainer is the only way a designer (also a business person) knows the homeowner's seriousness and intention. Also, a retainer should cover a professional for their initial investment of time on your project. We often have upfront think time, drawing time, research time, showroom time that homeowners never witness yet, needs to be performed in order for us to properly and successfully address the interior design challenges from the beginning.

Discuss your concerns with your chosen consultant. If they are credible they should welcome any and all questions. You are both building a relationship and just like any relationship it should be based on a foundation of trust and open discussion.
    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 6:49AM
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Did you have an initial face to face interview to see if your personalities and design aestetics mesh? I wouldn't hand over a cent until I knew this was the person for me. :)
1 Like    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 7:01AM
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Thanks so much for your feedback. This is so helpful. I have spoken to her in person about a year ago and I liked her met her at a home and garden show and got to speak with her during a non-busy time for about 20 minutes. I have held on to her name until the timing is better which is now! I will go to the next step of contacting her references. She has not shown me a contract yet, but has giving me her fee schedule and what it covers (for example, all time involved including phone calls, emails, etc.). She said that she will give me a quote on any custom work prior to ordering. The retainer part just surprised me off since I have not experienced this.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 3:31PM
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HERE Design and Architecture
Coming from the professional side, something that happens with alarming frequency is that people start a project when they aren't really prepared to pay for it. They will sign a contract and then, when you are a week into it with significant amounts already invested, change their minds and be shocked that you expect them to pay for the work you did at their request. Others get tired of paying after all of the myriad project expenses etc. or they run out of money and decide to stiff the designer. This retainer is an important sign of seriousness of intent, etc.

Some pros use it as an initial payment, others credit it back in the final project invoice. Some just hold onto it and cut the client a reimbursement check at the end.

Personally, I would be concerned about a designer who did not ask for a retainer. I do not know a single experienced professional who doesn't.
1 Like    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 3:40PM
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Patricia Colwell
I find this high for a decorator not a designer. I am a designer and when I charge a retainer it is for actual design services not for picking out drapery and bedding, which generally comes at the end of my contract.
2 Likes    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 3:42PM
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HERE Design and Architecture
I don't understand your comment, Patricia? If they are specifying furnishings, that constitutes design services.
1 Like    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 3:50PM
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Personally, I would NOT give a retainer fee, designers hourly rates are high to begin with, and how do you really know how much time she is actually spending on your project. If she wants your business she will waive this fee. I have worked with some designers that I thought would be wonderful and only to find out later in the project I didn't like some things that they did and I had to find another designer.
    Bookmark   Thanked by beverett1    December 6, 2013 at 5:36PM
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Any professional that has rent to pay, consultants to pay, liability insurance, advertising costs, travel expense etc, etc, etc needs to have projects with clients serious about their improvement and design goals. if they are serious, they have a budget. Part of that budget should go to the specialist that shows the client how to meet the improvement and design goals with skill, talent and artistry.

Now the percent of the budget that pays for the interior designer's input is debatable and driven by many factors and varies from region to region and project to project. Just ask a lot of questions and try to get a sense of value for what you are getting and what you are being charged to get to that end result. Too, many people try to pay the very least amount for "design" that they can and that's not effective. Some people hire based on reputation and that's not always right. So, I reinforce what has already been said here about talking to the professional's references and I would encourage spending some more time with her too, so, you can both get to know each other better and then go from there. Maybe she can take you to a couple of her projects! You're the client and your choices and aesthetic needs to come through so, choose a professional that can make that happen.
    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 6:10PM
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Don't think I would go with 1,000 retainer fee. Would prefer to pay higher hourly fee.
I just have something about paying for anything before work is done.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 6:13PM
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Sounds like you have to pay a designer to earn your business. Spend time getting to know them but they get paid first. Does a designer warranty anything? Do you just pay for the time they say you owe for? Are they held accountable for time and results?
    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 6:28PM
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Anytime you don't understand something in a financial transaction ask! Do the same with your doctor! Don't make assumptions or be afraid to ask questions. Any professional would rather you be happy question asker than an angry check writer! :)
3 Likes    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 6:42PM
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HERE Design and Architecture
Many industries charge based on hourly rates. It is not unique to design.

On a practical level, a design job can take months or years, and a designer has to be able to allocate their resources accordingly. If you show the designer that you are serious by entering into a contract with them, that allows them to responsibly schedule time for your project. Otherwise, they are squandering their own resources.
    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 6:51PM
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