Hiring an Interior Designer, is it expensive?
PART TWO: Design Fees
How much does it cost to hire an interior designer?
You have a project and you know you want the help of an interior designer. But how much does an interior designer really cost? When it comes down to the costs of hiring an interior designer, there are TWO CATEGORIES OF COSTS to consider —
1) The designer's Design & Project Management fees
The accumulated DESIGN TEAM HOURS for design work and project management
2) Product & Procurement costs
Line item pricing for the PRODUCTS (lights, furniture, hardware, cabinetry, window coverings, etc.) and the SPECIALIST LABOR to produce and install those products (custom drapery workroom, upholsterer, wallpaper installer, art installer, white glove delivery team, etc.)
We discussed budgeting for your project here: ESTABLISHING AN INTERIOR DESIGN BUDGET.
So now let's talk DESIGN & PROJECT MANAGEMENT FEES.
Designers charge for their expertise either hourly or by the project ("flat fee"). Fees can range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the project's scope and the designer's experience and business model.
Most designers develop their fees based on some sort of criteria. Some do it based on a fee schedule by room, some based on the home's square footage, some on a percentage of your build cost or furnishings investment. Others (like us) set our design fee based on the estimated number of design hours anticipated for the project.
Key things designers consider when estimating how many design hours a project will take ...
Will your designer simply be consulting on the design or providing full-service design and installation services. (Read more about that on our post IS FULL SERVICE INTERIOR DESIGN RIGHT FOR YOU?)
What level of construction is involved? Working with trades, selecting materials, visiting the construction site, and creating floor plans and cabinetry elevations, that takes a greater amount of time than selecting furnishings.
How much purchasing is involved? Believe it or not, the selection and design of the materials and furnishings only accounts for about 15-20% of the design time. The rest is spent in ordering; tracking; troubleshooting delays, backorders, and damage; coordinating installers; and the final multi-day "all hands on deck" installation and final reveal.
What level of customization and complexity does the job involve? As we discussed in ESTABLISHING AN INTERIOR DESIGN BUDGET, a $200,000 kitchen REQUIRES MORE TIME TO DESIGN than a $35,000 kitchen. An intricately tiled shower with multiple shower heads and wall jets requires more hours of drawing, collaborating with trades, and sourcing than a subway tile tub/shower combo.
How decisive are you? Do you need to see several rounds of options to be sure the first option your designer showed you was the best one? We do a Client Deep Dive early in the process to fully immerse ourselves in your style and the way you live in your home, so that our proposed options options are tailored to your needs and aesthetic. We are happy to offer alternative selections, but keep in mind, that requires additional time, and time is money. If we are offering alternative selections for every proposed item in your home, that time adds up very quickly.
Pricing by TYPE OF SERVICE: Design Consulting vs Full Service
Design Consulting —
Note, consulting is not a service Tera Janelle Design currently offers. Our project availability is presently running at-capacity with full service design projects, so we are not presently offering design consultations as a one-off-service.
Perhaps all you need is a jumping off point — some great direction in a single design consultation (usually 1-2 hours). A consult usually runs anywhere from $75 - $500/hr, give or take and depending on the designers level of experience and the number of designers present for the consultation.
Some designers also offer larger blocks of design time, such as Designer for a Day. This is where you work side-by-side with a designer for a half or full day, making decisions and selections together, and then you take over and facilitate the design on your own. This is a great option if you need more than a single consultation but full service design is out of your budget.
Full Service Design —
No secrets here — full service interior design is a financial investment. I would also argue that it is an investment in your QUALITY OF LIFE and your HOME'S VALUE. But let's talk numbers...
Design, Procurement, and Project Management fees typically range from $5,000 – $15,000 per room, with the designer managing the entire process, start to finish — from initial conceptual design to design drawings, design presentations, budget planning, placing and receiving all orders, collaborating with contractors, partnering in construction, and installing the final design.
Many design firms, including ours, have a minimum design fee expenditure. Our projects average 6 months to two years. The minimum "design fee expenditure" is $10,000 for local projects and $25,000 for travel based projects (anything outside of a 45-minute radius of our Lynchburg, Virginia studio). For new builds, the minimum design fee expenditure is $75,000. Just a reminder, those design fees are for the work hours invested by our design team. The design fees do not include contractor fees or furniture or fixtures. Projects less than that minimum investment end up spreading us across many projects. Instead we focus on a limited number of projects a year, allowing us to turn designs around quickly, offer concierge level service, remain fully up-to-date on our clients' projects and progress, and be timely available to our clients and their contracting teams.
DESIGN & PROJECT MANAGEMENT FEE EXAMPLES with Tera Janelle Design ....
The below design fee averages include our design team managing the entire process, start to final installation and reveal. Keep in mind the size of room, the complexity of the design, and the amount of furnishings needed affect the number of hours involved in designing the room. But here are some average design fee investments —
Kitchen (construction design + furnishings): $10,000 - $20,000
Living Room (furnishings); $5,000 - $10,000
Primary bathroom (construction design + furnishings): $5,000 - $10,000
Basement rec room and lounge with secondary kitchen (construction design + furnishings): $15,000 - $25,000
Primary bedroom and bath ensuite addition to home (construction design + furnishings): $20,000 - $35,000
New build 4,000 sqft (construction design): $75,000
NOTE: When interviewing a designer, remember to ask if they have a design fee or project minimum. Most full-service designers have some form of a project minimum, which keeps them from spreading themselves thin on too many projects and sacrificing the design or client experience. At Tera Janelle Design, the minimum design fee expenditure is $10,000 for local renovation and furnishings projects, and $25,000 for travel based projects (anything outside of a 40-minute radius of our studio). The minimum design fee expenditure for new builds is $75,000.
EVALUATING DESIGN FEES
A past client once said — "Spending $50,000 on a designer to ensure the $500,000 I am spending on the renovation is worth it, that's a worthy investment!"
No one wants to get to the end of a big, expensive project and be disappointed that their home doesn't look or live for their family the way they dreamed. And I cannot tell you how many clients have called us to redesign a room after they've just purchased a sofa — waited 6 months for it to go through production and be delivered (thanks pandemic) — only to move the sofa into the house and it is way too big or awkward in the space. And now we are redesigning the room and purchasing a second sofa that is an ideal fit for the space, a sofa to replace the one they just bought.
A designer can help you do it right the first time, and save you from making costly mistakes. Their expertise and experience allows them to provide you with selections or layouts you might never have thought of. Partnering with a designer that fully dives into discovering your style and the way you live (or want to live) results in not only a beautiful and polished design, but a home that truly FUNCTIONS for your family.
Is bringing on a designer worth the investment?
Just ask our clients (and we are happy to provide references!). As we wrap a project and interview our clients about their experience with our team, these points come up in nearly every conversation and review —
"We had no idea how much work goes into a project like this. You saved us SO MUCH time and worry."
"You understood our style even better than we did."
"It was absolutely worth the investment. Our home is better than we ever imagined it would be."
Want to hear more from our clients? Read what they had to say about working with our team on our CLIENT TESTIMONIALS. And if our design process sounds like a fit for you, we cannot wait to learn more about your project!
Interested in our design services?
Want to know what's next?