Hiring an Interior Designer, is it expensive?
PART ONE: Establishing a Project Budget

How much does it cost to hire an interior designer?

It was a long believed interior design was just for the WEALTHY.  Not anymore! Today's interior design clients come from all walks of life, and EVERYONE has a budget.  Whether the budget is $10,000 or $1,000,000 — there is always a budget.

When it comes down to the costs of hiring an interior designer, there are TWO CATEGORIES OF COSTS to consider —

1) The Project Budget

2) The Designer's Fees

First, let's talk about BUDGET.

How much does a bag of groceries cost?  It depends. Is it a bag full of spaghetti noodles or filet mignon and champagne?

So the first thing to talk about when determining the cost of hiring an interior designer is WHAT YOU ARE PUTTING IN your bag of groceries. Are you an integrated Sub Zero or a Kitchen Aid fridge type of family?  Do you pour your morning coffee from a self-cleaning, built-in espresso maker or a Mr. Coffee pot full of Maxwell House? (No shade to Maxwell House.)


Do your ceilings have coffers? Is your shower loaded with marble and wall jets? Does Siri open your garage doors or dim your lights at sunset? Is your kitchen outfitted with fully custom cabinets; how about the primary closet and the home office? 


And that is just the FIXED MATERIALS! 

There are TWO CATEGORIES OF BUDGET to keep in mind:

1) the FIXED MATERIALS budget

2) the FURNISHINGS budget

Let's define what we mean by the term "furnishings." Many people mistakenly believe that "furniture" and "furnishings" are one and the same. But when designers say “furnish” a home, we are referring to rugs, lamps, furniture, artwork, draperies, and yes, even the tableware and decorative books and accessories we use for styling! Anything that is NOT permanently attached is a furnishingThe things that you would take with you if you moved — the sofas, rug, arm chair, coffee table books, drapes, candles, artwork, bath towels, kitchen tableware, accent table, throw pillows, and the brass horse sculpture on the bookshelves.  ALL FURNISHINGS.


Construction finishes, or the items that are quite literally fixed or attached to your home are "fixed materials." The flooring, cabinetry, millwork, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, tile, wallpaper.  ALL FIXED MATERIALS.

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What if you have no idea what a REALISTIC "fixed materials budget" or "furnishings budget" should be? 


This is where an experienced designer can HELP! They live and breathe design, construction, and furnishings.  They can help you with budget planning and outline what similar projects they have done have cost.  They will ask you key questions to suggest a budget that allows them to confidently meet (and hopefully exceed!) your expectations.  This is where those "do your ceilings have coffers and how do you make your coffee" type questions prove very valuable in managing budget expectations for BOTH sides!

How does budget affect design fees?
Simply put a $200,00 kitchen REQUIRES MORE TIME TO DESIGN than a $35,000 kitchen. The complexities and level of involvement required vary substantially between the two. So when meeting with a designer, establish your expectations and the BUDGET early on.  This allows them to better calculate the number of hours the project will require and the associated Design Fees for your project.

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BUDGET EXAMPLES with Tera Janelle Design ....

While we do not have specific room-by-room minimums, there are some general investment starting points we use as reference. The following aspects of a room will affect those numbers —

  • The size of the room

  • The space plan

  • How many overall pieces you will need

  • The quality of the furniture 

  • How many custom pieces we design (upholstery furniture, wood furniture, art, lighting, throw pillows)

  • The number of window treatments needed 

  • Taxes, shipping & warehousing costs

  • Additional labor: installation & professional services ie. wallpaper installation, furniture installers, art install (a gallery wall takes much longer to hang than one large piece of art, etc.)

Keep in mind the following numbers are starting costs for our projects — with our aesthetic, our focus on durability, and our approach to comfortably filling a space. Another designer may recommend various investment levels. But these prices reflect the level of design that is important to us and our clients have come to expect. Our clients value customized, uniquely functional, well-thought out, layered homes. As such fully custom cabinetry, drapery, art, and furniture are a hallmark of our designs.


Much of the "Fixed Materials" costs noted below are construction/build costs that are paid directly to your contractor. "Fixed Materials" costs through Tera Janelle Design generally include light fixtures, custom cabinetry, decorative cabinet hardware, wallpaper, bath accessories (mirrors, robe hooks, TP holder, etc.).


Kitchen Renovation (NO furnishings)​

Design Fees: $10,000 - $20,000

*Fixed Materials: $75,000 (construction costs, appliances, custom cabinetry, lighting, paint, fixtures, flooring, etc.)

TOTAL: $85,000 - $95,000

Kitchen Renovation + Kitchen Furnishings​

Design Fees: $10,000 - $20,000

*Fixed Materials: $75,000 (construction costs, paint, appliances, custom cabinetry, lighting, fixtures, flooring, etc.)

Furnishings: $15,000 (island bar stools, breakfast table and chairs, art, decorative accessories and tableware)

TOTAL: $100,000 - $110,000

Primary Bedroom and Bath Renovation + Furnishings​

Design Fees: $10,000 - $20,000

*Fixed Materials: $50,000 (construction labor, paint, appliances, custom cabinetry, lighting, fixtures, flooring, etc.)

Furnishings: $25,000 (bed, bedding, nightstands, dresser, accent chairs, draperies, towels, art, and accessories)

TOTAL: $85,000 - $95,000

New Build — 4,000 sqft  (NO furnishings)​

Design Fees: $75,000

*Fixed Materials: $750,000 (construction labor, millwork, appliances, cabinetry, lighting, fixtures, flooring, etc.)

TOTAL: $825,000

New Build — 4,000 sqft  + Whole-Home Furnishings​

Design Fees: $75,000

*Fixed Materials: $750,000 (construction labor, millwork, appliances, cabinetry, lighting, fixtures, flooring, etc.)

Furnishings: $150,000 (furniture for all rooms, to include foyer, living room, dining room, bedrooms, etc.)

TOTAL: $975,000

*The majority of these "fixed materials" fees are paid direct to your contractor for the build materials and construction labor.

So you understand budget. Now WHAT ARE DESIGN FEES?

We have created a post entirely on that subject!  You can read it here: UNDERSTANDING DESIGN FEES.

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