Tips for Hiring an Interior Designer
If you consider hiring an interior designer, one of the first questions you will have is – how much does an interior designer cost?
We’ve outlined a very comprehensive guide on average costs, price rates and steps to hire a designer in this article.
By George Nicola (Expert Stager)
How much does an interior designer cost?
The design of your home includes both the feel and function of the space and can affect the mood, productivity, and overall health of those who live there.
Unfortunately, as most houses are built in a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all method, very few people live in an optimized home for their unique needs and taste. Yet, matching the design of your home to your needs can take a lot of research to design and then even more hours to fulfil.
As a bonus, many interior designers have discount contracts with suppliers, meaning you could get the luxurious furniture, paint, or flooring at a significantly lower price than if you bought it yourself.
At the end of the design process, you could still choose to DIY the vision, but you’ll know for sure that all the pieces fit together perfectly.
Still, many feel unsure how to hire an interior designer or feel confident that they were hiring a qualified designer. An even bigger worry is how much a professional design would cost.
Since very few designers have quotes easily viewable on their websites, many simply stall their designer search and continue living in a poorly-fitted home.
This article will help you understand what to look for, a wide variety of pricing situations, and help you understand why you can’t easily find a price on an interior designer’s website.
We’ll even walk you through what to expect in a design contract. After reading this piece, you’ll be prepared to confidently hire your interior designer and get one step closer to the home of your dreams.
Prepare for a Meetings with an Interior Designer.
Before getting into pricing, let’s talk about what you are paying for when hiring an interior designer. Here are a few questions to have answered as best as possible before hiring one:
“Keep in mind that you don’t have to have fully developed mood boards if that’s not your thing– your designer will do that for you. But, if you have inspo pictures on Pinterest, Instagram, or magazines, feel free to bring those along.”
George Nicola (Expert Stager)
What do you want to achieve from the project?
Having a problem to be solved brings direction to the interior design project.
Multiple factors determine the price of your interior design project, and it’s your job to set the path and scope for the designer. If they are misguided, that will affect time delays and incorrect pricing, which will take additional time to resolve.
Get clear on what you want to solve – are you looking to brighten up or customize your builder-grade design? Do you need to increase accessibility or want to go luxe without paying designer prices?
How many rooms need designing?
The number of rooms you need help with will significantly impact the price.
Are you looking for the main floor refresh with living and kitchen spaces, a single room as a surprise for a spouse or child, or are you looking to redo the entire home for resale or Airbnb conversion?
What features do you require?
Don’t confuse desired features with a problem to be solved– while they are closely related, they are different questions.
For example, if certain aspects of your current design need to be left alone, be sure to make that clear.
Or, if you are looking to create an open concept requiring wall removal, stairs levelled, or more accessibility in your design or floor plan, make sure to specify as well as you can.
Do any repairs need to be made?
A final consideration is any necessary repairs. Repairs will change your bottom line.
Research and Hiring Interior Designer
After you have compiled your wish list, you can move on to researching and hiring interior designers. Again, it’s essential to know what you are looking for before hiring designers since each interior designer will have a different speciality.
When researching designers, you will be qualifying two categories: expertise and price.
Interior designers’ expertise and experience can vary broadly, so even one with great reviews and a beautiful portfolio may not be the right fit for your project.
As you review portfolios, one of the first things to filter is whether your design is commercial or residential.
This will largely determine the function and level of design and require very different skill sets. Of course, you may find designers that offer both, but be sure not to assume this is the case.
Another significant factor in pricing is how big is their team. Do they work alone, hire external consultants or have an extensive in-house team of designers. We’ve written about interior design team members in this article.
Next, you’ll want to see what style(s) the designer gravitates towards. Are you looking for something luxe, traditional, modern, or rustic?
While accomplished designers can be very flexible in applying these different styles, they will typically be more expensive. Newer designers can be cheaper but will likely have more limited experience and be proficient in fewer designs.
Keep in mind that you may find a great local interior designer, but you could also find a great fit with a virtual designer. We’ve listed 22 of the most popular online interior design resources in this article.
You will significantly increase the number and range of available designers by considering a virtual interior designer.
Everyone looking to hire an interior designer’s first question is, “how much is this going to cost me?” and unfortunately, this information is rarely available just by researching a designer’s website.
The lack of a transparent fee structure isn’t because interior designers are trying to hide their price– it’s simply because each project will vary widely based on the number of rooms, the size of the space, and the work required to achieve the design.
Let’s cover a few basics of what to expect from interior designer's pricing structures
For example, although you will rarely find a static quote on a designer’s website, you may be able to find out their base structure. Here are a few ways a designer may bill for their services:
- Per house
- Per project or a fixed flat-rate
- Per hour
- Per square foot or square meter
- As a per cent commission on the sale of the home or building
- Monthly retainer (typically reserved for high-end clients or companies who change their home seasonally)
- Free (typically for new designers looking to build up a portfolio)
There is no particular fee structure that is automatically better than others. It depends on the experience and demand of the designer and the size and looks of your design project. Knowing how you’ll be billed will help you compare designer to designer.
While prices will vary greatly, we’ve compiled a list of prices in a few countries so you can get a feel for price ranges.
Remember that the bottom of the spectrum typically includes new designers, while the high end is for high-demand, experienced designers. Your actual price will, of course, depend on your designer’s experience, the size of your project, its complexity and budget.
How much an Interior Designer cost - price list per country
Note: Prices are listed in local currency.
Have Your Consultation Meeting
Consultations are a great way to actively interview a potential interior designer – it gives you both a chance to discuss the room, your goals, budget, and vision, and then see how the interior designer captures a part of your vision.
The consultation should be held live in your home if possible. However, a virtual interior designer should produce great work with a video walk-through and a variety of high-quality photos from different angles.
Depending on the designer, your consultation may be free or be billed. Be sure to know beforehand, so you aren’t surprised by charges later on.
Review and Sign a Contract
Once you have selected an interior designer, they should present you with a contract. Like any other contract, the purpose is to protect both you and the interior designer during this process. Here are a few of the sections you should expect to see in your contract.
Names and Contact Information:
The first section will include your name as the client and the interior designer’s information, including address, contact information, business name, and a license number if applicable.
Scope of Work:
This section will include a detailed write-up of the agreed elements of your design. Be sure to review this section carefully, as the price you sign is only binding for the specified projects.
It will also be an excellent time to check the understanding of your interior designer. If something has been left out or miswritten, it may simply be because they didn’t understand part of your desired outcome.
The Scope of Work section should also detail the expected timeline for stages of the project – dates for the design mockup to be shown to you for approval, time for adjustments to the design, purchases, delivery, accounting for potential backorders, and so on.
You’ll want to make sure that these deadlines are written as best as possible to prevent stalled or incomplete projects.
The fee structure will detail how everything will be billed. Keep in mind that you are paying for the designer’s time, but you may also be paying for them to purchase furniture or accessories, they may need to travel or ship items, and other fees. As discussed previously in this article, the designer can charge hourly, per project, per square foot or square meter, or by flat rate.
Be sure to understand how and what you are paying for.
Refunds & Cancellations:
There are sometimes inevitable situations where you may no longer be able to fund the project, or it simply isn’t a good fit with your designer. This section will stipulate how to cancel the contract, the situations that could entitle you to a refund, and any fees you will be required to pay upon cancellation.
For example, if you cancel after the furniture has been bought, you may receive a refund for time but not for the furniture.
This section will lay out when payments are due and the amount. You will likely be required to make a deposit before the project may begin, including funding of supplies and furniture. How much of the designer’s time you pay ahead of time will be explained here as well.
Liability & Insurance:
There will be a certain amount of risk with any design project, especially if you are including repairs or construction work in your design.
The contract will be spelt out that if any construction contractors or consultants are used to fulfil the design work, the interior designer is not liable for their actions. If something were to go wrong during the fulfilment of any structural changes, it would be up to the contractor or consultant performing the work to repair.
You may also be required to have insurance for any moving fees for new furniture or other miscellaneous events.
Finally, there will likely be a section where you can permit to use your home in promotional photos or be included in the designer’s portfolio.
You cannot be required to allow your home in these photos, but keep in mind that portfolios are how interior designers prove their skill.
The design of your home or office can greatly impact the mood, health, and function of your space.
While you don’t need to be an expert in design to hire a fantastic interior designer, you should understand a few basics to make the right choice:
- Be sure to create a thorough wish list before researching designers, including any problems you’d like to solve, pieces and color palettes you’d like to incorporate, any needed repairs, and so on.
- Research designers according to the space you need (residential or commercial), and be aware of your budget. Your actual budget will depend on the designer and your project, but you may be able to find out how the designer bills from their website.
- Be sure to carefully review designer portfolios to make sure that they will be able to match your desired style and outcome.
- Get the most out of your design by having a thorough in-home consultation. This will allow the designer to get a feel for your space and more thoroughly show what you are looking for.
- Carefully review your contract before signing, so you fully understand what will be included in your payment, when payment is due, how refunds or cancellations will be handled, the timeline of your project, liability and insurance concerns, as well as the rights for photos of your home to be used in marketing or advertising.
Have more questions about your design project? Contact us at TallBox Design to get started on your consultation today.