How Do Interior Designers Charge For Their Services – When it comes to interior design fees, there is no set standard for hourly rates, let alone fee structures. Trying to understand the wide variation in industry pricing can leave homeowners scratching their heads.
To try and understand this question, I’ve broken down the three most common interior design fee structures, detailing the pros and cons of each.
How Do Interior Designers Charge For Their Services
Some designers charge by the hour at a rate of $150 to $500 per hour. Other designers will charge a percentage of the total project cost of 10% and 25%. The main advantage of the interest rate is that there is no upfront payment. However, some might argue about the potential ethical conflict associated with this fee structure. When higher expenses equal higher designer profits, it makes you question your interior designer’s material choice motives when the prices get a little higher.
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When it comes to the complex costs of new construction, the differences in labor and building materials are only minor. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the choice of finishing materials. Prices vary widely, from $1,000 to $50,000 for a single chandelier + hardwood can cost as little as $5.00 per square foot or $30 per square foot if imported from Europe. Countertops can range from $2,000 per slab for something basic and can quickly reach as high as $6,000+ per slab for marble. As you can imagine, there are so many variables in the price of finishing materials that can quickly add to your overall project cost.
You start to wonder if the $30,000 chandelier was chosen because it was the best design choice or because your designer wanted an extra premium on the final bill. I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable with a fee structure that makes me question the vision or reason for every big ticket item. Any fee structure that can blur the ethical line is a turn off for me. For contractors, the percentage fee makes sense because they are not the ones choosing the finishing materials, which are often more than 40% of the cost of a new build or renovation.
You know the exact percentage of your design fee at the start of your project, free or no charge.
Similar to layering, there is the classic flat hourly fee structure where the designer bills for the entire project based on an hourly rate. The average price for a master designer is around $250-$300, but the difference can range from $150-$500.
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Often times, a designer working on an hourly rate structure will need a retainer to begin work on your project. Depending on the amount of work, it can be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.
Some hourly developers will prepare a quote based on the total amount of work, stating the number of hours they think it will take to complete your project, and invoice you based on the total estimate. Other designers will charge a small retainer and bill bi-weekly or monthly.
You know what your hourly cost will be, and for a client who needs a small amount of work, this can be a cost-effective way to work with a designer.
Designing a home from top to bottom is a LOT of work, and more often than not, clients underestimate the time investment required to create their dream home.
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You’re less likely to waste your designers’ time on indecision and repeating questions when you know you’re paying per second.
What one interior designer can do in a day may take another designer a week. Because interior design is such a creative process, it is difficult to determine the use of time.
Unlike a lawyer who tracks their time spent on administrative and research work, a designer’s time investment is anything from emails, phone calls, designing, site measurements, fabric selection, vendor phone calls, order processing, creating presentations, and this list goes on and on.
This fee structure can quickly take the fun out of the design process. If clients feel like every minute of a design meeting is dictated, it can add unnecessary stress to the project.
How Online Interior Design Services Works
Of course, it takes a little more work in the beginning. The project must be adequately evaluated and a detailed scope of work determined to accurately specify the client. This often involves a set number of design meeting hours with a limit on the design revisions requested. However, the actual hours required to create a complete design concept would be all included in the package fee.
The beauty of a flat fee structure is that you have a great understanding of your design investment before you sign a design contract. It is a single fee structure that has the most transparency without potential ethical conflict.
There are no ethical conflicts in the accounts. If your designer recommends a sofa for $5,000 or $10,000, you don’t have to question their motives.
Full flat rate design contacts often build highly padded hours to include admin and project management hours. Each client’s needs vary greatly. To account for the number of design meetings, calls, emails, and total hand-holding required to see a project from concept to completion, the actual flat-rate contract will be conservative. As a result, it’s not uncommon for designers to overestimate the number of hours they think it will take to complete a project to deliver results.
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Then there are the combined fee structures that some designers use. Some designers will charge an hourly rate plus a markup for all items purchased on their behalf, while other designers charge a flat rate per design concept with a percentage of the items purchased on the project.
My preferred fee structure for a CHCC curated house: a flat rate design fee with an hourly rate for project management.
I want the design journey to be enjoyable for our clients, and nothing can ruin the dynamics of a larger project faster than hourly billing. I also don’t like the ethical conflict of taking a percentage of our customers’ purchases, so I’m not interested in percentage bills. The talent our team brings to our clients is the same whether our clients budget is $100,000 or a million dollar budget. My A game remains the same regardless of the client’s budget. If anything, working on a limited budget is more of a challenge. When I recommend an expensive chandelier or painting, it’s because I think it’s perfect, not because I have any vested interest. I never want my designs to be questioned
Now, the only variance I have structured into our CHCC Curated Home design fees is the hourly fee for project management.
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Of course, I could technically put 50+ hours into the contract, assuming our clients would need a large number of calls, emails, and site training. However, experience has taught me that each client varies greatly in how much coaching/project management they will need. So I don’t think it’s fair to over bill customers who don’t need a lot of sticking to compensate those who do.
I’ve worked with clients building large custom homes that required only a few appointments and minimal guidance to see their projects through to completion, and I’ve worked on smaller projects that required double the time investment. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the biggest unexpected costs in a project are often the result of micromanagement and indecision. The more trust you have in the team you hire, the better your design and construction journey will be.
Now that you have the inside scoop on interior design fee structures, I hope this gives you the insight you need to feel more confident about choosing the right designer and the fee structure that resonates most with you.
If you are an American, consider the benefits of working with a Canadian design firm. With logistics teams strategically located throughout the US, we are able to offer superior digital design services with a white glove approach. Upon request, we can also travel to meet your needs. Tax benefits also allow you to maximize budget equity in your home.
Our Design Services — Basil + Tate
Call us at 604-564-0404, contact us online or visit our design store at 1637 W 3rd Ave, Vancouver.
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