There is a lot of confusion as to how Interior Designers charge for their services. I truly believe this comes from these “reality” TV shows we all love to watch, they never go into detail on how much the design itself costs vs. how much the entire renovation/construction costs. Of course this varies depending on the scope of work. Another confusing aspect is that depending on the type of interior design service, e.g. remodel, décor, lighting, consulting etc. the fee structures vary.
The various types of fees are:
Hourly: is simply paying the designer by the hour for their time. This is usually the most appropriate type of compensation for consultations. The hourly fee is also used for shopping sessions, additional drafting or renderings and on-site visits outside the original scope.
Percentage: is a percentage of the total project budget this is ideal for large residential or commercial projects.
Per square foot: is ideal for small residential projects or commercial projects. It is a dollar amount times the square foot amount of a space.
Flat fee: is a single price that may be broken up into payments for the project. A deposit at the start of the design phase of the project and then further payments due after certain phases of the project are completed with a final payment at the end of the project.
Flat fee with hourly: is charging a flat fee for a set scope of work, and there after charging hourly for additional work, e.g. additional renderings, drawings, change in original design, etc. In some case this type of fee is appropriate when the client wants the designer to shop with them, in this case the designer is paid an hourly fee for the shopping sessions.
Hourly fee with estimated time is charging an hourly rate for time but there is an estimated amount of time to complete the project. The designer is not to go over that estimated amount of time. This is a good fee structure for décor projects for those who are working within a strict budget as there is a sense of how much the service fees will be for the entire project.
Consultation fee is an hourly fee to provide consultation services to the client. The designer is available to assist the client in purchasing, selecting finishes, merchandise etc. and to answer questions. This is a good fee structure for projects that do not require a contractor to do work, more DIY related jobs.
There is always an initial consultation between the client and designer where the designer comes to the client’s home or project space to discuss the project with them. The initial consultation fee is waived if I am hired for full design services. I like to determine with the client if they are looking strictly for a consultation vs. whole design services early on in our initial meeting.
There is a very good reason for this; interior designers are experts at what we do and have a lot of education, training and experience and should be (like any profession) fairly compensated. I had a few experiences of meeting with potential client’s, sharing tons of design ideas and then not hired but then the client takes all the information to home depot or another designer or even a contractor and proceeds with my design recommendations – a design that was not paid for. This is stealing and truly disrespectful to the designer and to our profession.
Lastly, when budgeting for your project, designer fees are always separate and apart from your spending budget, it is best to be honest and up front with me about your project budget. I can work with any budget so don’t worry about not being able to “afford a designer.” I will carefully create a package that best suites your project needs.