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Should we hire an interior designer? How much will it cost?

November 9, 2013
We plan on remodeling our town home (floors, paint, window treatments) I have an idea of what I want but I'm not sure I'm making the right decisions.

I got a quote from an interior designer who was referred to me. She's charging $75 per hour and estimates our project would be 10-15 hours. She does not charge for communication, research and driving.

Is this a good rate? Is it worth hiring an interior designer?

Comments (23)

  • PRO
    Sounds like a 'fair' hourly rate for interior designer.
  • PRO
    Stanton Designs-online design services
    $75.00 an hour is actually pretty inexpensive. Around where I am $100-150 is pretty normal. That is actually a great deal. Plus if you aren't sure if you are making the right decisions, that is what we are here for, we help eliminate those costly mistakes.
  • PRO
    Dorothy Greenlee Designs
    I agree with Stanton Designs about the pricing. $75 is very fair and designers do help eliminate the costly mistakes and they can give you great ideas that maybe you haven't thought of for your project. Good Luck!
  • joyfultina
    Thank you so much for your feedback!!!
  • 2dogssashatess
    well having just done some renovations.. I would say whether it is worth the cost depends on how pedantic you are ( ie how miserable you will be if you make bad decisions). If you can happily tolerate things that are not quite right. go it alone.

    If you do hire a designer listen to them and trust them as if you ignore them why hire them in the first place?
    My architect told me the floor might look a bit dark if I chose option A, but I ignored him chose A and then when I saw it down, I found he was right. Fortunately, I son't sweat the small stuff but I see other people on this site are mortified at the thought of having the wrong shade of paint etc.
  • PRO
    John J. O'Brien | Inspired Living, by design
    $75/hour is a very reasonable rate.

    Pricing strategies vary from a flat percentage of a larger project (e.g. 15-20% or a two million dollar project) to hourly rates ($50-500/hour) to "nothing" (in which case your designer brokers your purchases and is essentially paid by the difference between your full price item and his/her 20-40% trade price. In effect, an hourly rate means you know what you are paying and can negotiate getting the discounted trade rate where possible for expenditures.

    It's nice when a client realizes the value a designer brings instead of taking that for granted-the ideas are worth their weight in the next 10-15 years of enjoyment.

    On a recent project, I was able to offset the cost of my services simply by negotiating a trade rate for the client's purchase of stone, tiles, fabrics and furnishings. when the equation means you essentially get that for free, well...talk to a designer!
  • armygirl1987
    I think that it is worth the price and I would recommend it to anyone that ask. I was able to use a groupon for my initial consultation and it has been the best money spent. My designer came over and she listen while I talked, talked. She then sent me a complete write up with her recommendations and even now when I get stump for stuff she is still available to me.
  • PRO
    MS Colours Inc
    Will save you money. That is a very low fee for a good designer.
  • PRO
    Siegler Design Services + INTERIORS
    Sounds like she has underestimated her time. In fact it sounds like she is viewing it as a flat fee amount. I think you should go look at some of her work. What I have painfully learned is that there are clients who are more involved in each and every decision and clients who let the designer have free rein. Probably the situation that is best is in-between these two extremes. I make sure my clients have as perfect of an understanding of all design ideas and purchases as possible. And its incredibly challenging to do that. No surprises please....only gladness that the result is even better than anticipated.

    If the designer does not have enough client time built in then there may be surprises and that will be time consuming on the back end of the work. This designer could be trying to build her following and so, you are getting a good deal for her time investment in you. If that's the case then great and that's a win/win for everybody. But, if she is off on her time allowance then she will get concerned if you stall on decisions or want more time to look around or think about things. It's a fine balance to have a happy client and a designer content with the work pace and decision making. I would be worried if she is not charging for "problem solving / think" time, gas, some research time and client time. I charge for all those things. Maybe she is "reselling" furniture, drapes and accessories to you and therefore making income from sales. If that is the case then it does not matter how much time she spends on your project. She just does what needs to be done for it to be right. I think this is how many residential designers proceed so that would make sense to me. My process is a little different because, I have crossed over from "commercial work" to residential work. In commercial work we always try to cover our hourly time and do not get into selling so much.

    I think it will be fine ....just realize that if buying decisions drag on it could be a source of stress and the designer may have to move on to other projects in order to maintain her income stream. Hope that helps. Just ask enough questions and I think it will all shake out satisfactorily. Good luck and ENJOY! Its a wonderful thing to feather your nest with professional assistance!!
  • chookchook2
    Get checkable references for her work and also for the contractors that she uses. Set an upper budget and stick to it.
  • PirateFoxy
    Is there any concern with designers who make some of the profit from getting a cut of selling you items that they may be biased when recommending things? I mean, obviously if it's between two rugs and one she gets a percentage from and the other she doesn't, or a larger percentage, then I would have some concern that some designers would encourage the client towards the rug that has the higher value for the designer, rather than necessarily the thing the client is likely to really really love.

    (I admit I have no experience working with professional designers. My question stems from other areas were having someone who is representing you who also gets a cut of the sale does often result in recommendations that are made without keeping what is absolutely best for the client in mind.)
  • chookchook2
    In fact the Australian Government completely overhauled our Financial Advisors industry for that reason, Kris Dow.
  • PRO
    Siegler Design Services + INTERIORS
    Of course buyer always beware but, issues of trust need to be overcome before hiring the professional under consideration. All industries will have situations where there are conflicts of interest so part of the client's work is to qualify the integrity and honor of the consultant they are considering. A good and honorable consultant and professional wants clients to research them and call references. We live and die by our reputation and good name.
  • PirateFoxy
    Sieglerdesign - is that an aspect that people should specifically look into/ask about when considering designers? I would expect someone associated with a store to be biased, but I don't know if it would have automatically occurred to me to wonder about it with an independently hired designer if I hadn't heard the horror stories from other industries.

    I don't know that it would necessarily be a problem for me that the designer had that relationship with some companies, if the designer was upfront about it. Particularly if it had come about because the designer was recommending that company all the time anyway because it was a good product.
  • chookchook2
    Good point
  • PRO
    Siegler Design Services + INTERIORS
    Kris ...strong relationships and loyalties are what allow me to secure "best pricing" for my client. I am regarded hopefully as a "repeat specified". This informal status is what helps me go back to sometimes really big sellers and secure an optimal price. We're talking luxury goods here so, it's up to a client to let me know their comfort level for what they want to spend. I can negotiate all day long but, certain items just cost what they cost and I cannot affect the price. I prefer to do business with sellers where I can affect the price so the better my sources, the better the value I bring to a client. It's kind of ridiculously complicated so that's why I have a preference for providing "design services" mostly and I prefer clients to do their own shopping and purchasing.

    I like to set a standard and give an example of the item I am recommending but, then the actual purchase is up to the client. Other designers work in other ways and there are about 4 typical methods but, kind of long to go into here. Just know to ask the question, "how do you work" and a professional will expect to go into that with you as well as explain how they may be different from other professionals.

    Right now I am reconsidering how I charge because, flaws in manufacturing had escalated so much in the last few years that my time becomes a black whole for even things I have tried to remove myself from. The fact is that for the "designer's vision" to be realized, we have to be involved and it's hard to not be especially when there is troubleshooting to be done. I hope that all makes sense. Thanks for your question. :)
  • chookchook2
    That makes sense. Quality of manufacture is one reason we like vintage furniture.
  • PirateFoxy
    Thanks, that was informative. I understand about quality of manufacture - I currently have a storage unit full of pieces of furniture I brought over with me when I moved back to the US from England because even though many of them do need some TLC (refinishing, that sort of thing) they are also really solid quality pieces. Once they get the attention they need, they should be good for another who knows how many years of use.

    (And one day I WILL find a place to put the antique sewing machine. It's got lovely carving and craftsmanship so I couldn't leave it, but it's not one where the machine drops down under the table - there's a wood cover that sits over the sewing machine to hide it instead - so right now it's proving tricky to place because you can't really use it as a surface to put other stuff on. Right now I'm pondering how well it would work as a visual room divider in a long narrow bedroom to visually create a sort of 'dressing room' area where the closets are, since the closets are large but not actually walk-in. At least it's thematically connected to clothing.)
  • PRO
    John J. O'Brien | Inspired Living, by design
    SieglerDesign and I share a perspective on this. I try hard to build those relationships with supplier partners, contractors, garden nurseries, etc, etc. This gives me confidence that when assisting my clients in a purchase, I know they are paying less than the next person at the till.

    While true that this essentially offsets a considerable portion of the designer's charges, this savings comes through the clients' expenditure--it does not FEEL like a savings.I love the work and really wish I could help people achieve what they did not think possible for free! But, instead I have learned that I need to work either with clients who do not have to worry that a conversation is taking 20 minutes of billable time--or client's that have a fixed budget, big or small--and are willing to let me get them there with initial time spent to know them, and then less dialogue toward getting the result.

    I prefer not to be paid out of the difference between full price and trade rate because I do not want to find a client thinking I might be leaning toward a supplier that offers me a higher rate and limiting their choices. Clients are sometimes suspicious that there is an under the table kickback.

    Solid performance and as much transparency as possible works--bearing in mind that clients can also be irritated by too much focus on money matters. And, truth be told, many clients use a designer (and others) as a mediator between spouses/partners with very different visions (and issues) or are sometimes swayed by every single trade person that enters the work site, second guessing decisions already made. There is a responsibility on the client side as well.

    Your efforts to learn more bode well for a great client/designer relationship. Find one you respect in terms of work ethic, design aesthetic and personality--and have a good time.
  • Jim Wright

    I bought my retirement home, and do not plan to move hardly anything into it. I want to furnish it (wall decorations, window covering, furniture, lamps, etc) entirely to match a plan. However, I am not very gifted at design. I have a number of friends who have done very well at decorating their homes, that I can call on. My issue is, if I hire a designer who comes back with a plan that I wouldn't recommend to my worst enemy, they still want to get paid! I went through this with landscapers awhile back. I hired and fired, yet had to pay, four designers before I got a plan I was happy with. So, my question is, how do I know what I'm getting before I commit my budget? Should i just buy the plan, or buy the package (material included)? Although I don't think my budget is unreasonable ($30K), I also don't think there is a lot of wiggle room for error. Should I hire a pro, or rely on my friends to go out and spend my money??

  • Sohayla Bagheri

    That is a very good question and a legitimate concern. I would love to know as well.

  • lwfromny

    Jgwgator I am not a professional. I do (humbly speaking) have an eye for interior design. Like your friends, I have a reputation among friends and family for having had very beautiful homes, and often get asked to help others with theirs. And also like your friends, I'm willing and happy to help. Sounds perfect and free right? Yes - except for one big problem. Every time I've tried to help someone I find myself wanting to steer them toward what I like! Just because I can assemble a beautiful home does not mean I have the skill it takes to interpret someone else's vision. Even when they show me pictures, I find myself (at best) subconsciously trying to marry my preferences to theirs. In my opinion, it's well worth it to hire someone to help you. Otherwise your home may not reflect YOU. Also, the one thing I struggle with is paint color, and I've found that using a professional helps me IMMENSELY and I've learned enough from her that I now make better choices even when I don't use her. If you took $1000 of that 30 and invested in a few productive sessions with a professional (you'd be surprised how much you can get done in 1-2 hours) I think you would find the benefits would be well worth it.

  • PRO
    Debra Lee Darnell Designs

    Debra Lee Darnell Designs...As an Interior Designer, I would like to clear up some of the issues at hand. Interior Decorators/Designers potentially can be hired on a consultant basis (Flat rate), by the hour (typically $75-$200 per hour), by the room, by the project, by the square foot (Typically on average, $4-6 a square foot), or whole house Design/Decor, or as a project manager.

    When purchasing goods for the client, some Designers use the cost plus system. Designers from time to time receive discounts on merchandise. For instance, a homeowner may find a couch that retails for $3,000, that they truly like. The Designer may be able to get that same piece of furniture for 25-40% less, than the listed price. The Designer using the Cost Plus System would mark that item up anywhere from 20- 40%. Using an average of 30% discount and mark up, they would then offer it to their client for $2,730, a cost savings of $230, on just that one piece of furniture. On other occasions, they may make all of the purchase decisions for the client, and use a cost plus method for the purchase of goods and sometimes services. Designers price jobs in many different ways. I tend to believe that most of us do what is best and most advantageous to the client.

    On a large project Designers typically offer a discount if we manage the entire project. That may include, hiring painters, tile installers, wood workers, electricians, plumbers, seamstresses, etc. The advantage to the client is that Designers have worked successfully... with these individuals on different job sites. Additionally, we take the headaches out of your decision making process, on whom to hire. Many of the clients that I have worked with over the years shared with me their frustration of meeting with different professionals that come in give them a bid and are never seen again, or... they work for a given amount of time ask for a draw and never return to complete the job. In essence that means the homeowner pays for the potential project twice.

    As a a potential client, a homeowner should always have a specific budget for their given project to hand to the Designer. This information is imperative to the overall success of the project. As Designers we do not know if the client can afford higher end products, mid range or low end products. Designers fee for a given project has nothing to do with the clients budget. Giving us a budget simply allows us the ability to estimate or plug in figures that address room costs based on style and selection.

    Personally, I take pride in finding quality products at reduced prices, saving my clients hundreds and thousands of dollars. With the savings passed on to the client, I typically pay for myself with the money that I save the homeowners from potential mistakes and overpriced purchases.

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