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Is Interior Design Expensive?

“Affordable Interior Design”. We see this everywhere today- retail stores offer free design services, designers do free consultations, and e-design is available for very low rates. On the other hand, we look at Architectural Digest and see homes designed for the elite. There is a definite range and it ultimately comes down to the designer you choose, your expectations, and a good old fashioned reality check.

I spoke with someone recently, letting them know that a good rule of thumb for budgeting their design fee was to set aside 15-20% of their overall budget. The response, “other designers told me 10%” was not seen as a lie or an attempt to get me to drop my rates at all. Instead, it is simply the reaity of variation in pricing based on professional training, experience, and demand.

Free Design Services

There are absolutely ways to get design services for next to nothing. Looking for furniture and happy with retail offerings? Great- hop over to just about any retail store today and you will find an on-staff designer ready to help. Maybe you do not want to furnish your space exclusively from one store. No problem. Select the pieces you really love from the one store, and take that design to other locations. Now you have sourced furnishings from multiple stores to provide an varied aesthetic at no cost to you other than the furnishings. Some of these designers may have professional training as a designer. Others may have simply been trained as salespeople and are using the title of designer. What I can tell you is that they will likely know their product better than I would.

Now, what about kitchen and bath remodels? Many kitchen and bath locations offer free design services with the purchase of their cabinets. They make their money with the mark up on product. So, if that is the product you are happy with, then by all means- utilize this service! Most, but not all kitchen and bath designers have SOME design training. These locations are likely more focused on the sale than they are the design, but not in all cases, and it is again a great option for someone working on a tight budget.

E-design is a fantastic option for those who want to shop retail online. My big buyer beware here is that the online design companies typically cannot guarantee the merchandise and the designers are being paid horribly so they aren’t particularly invested. Revisions are essentially done on their time and are irksome. Customer service will go down after that first presentation. If a designer offers e-design through their own website/business, this is always a better option, but will likely cost significantly more.

Low Cost Design Services

If you have a little bit of money to spend on design services, but still aren’t looking at the high end, consider a recent graduate or new business. Recent graduates should have professional training before launching their own business, but this could be a safe bet for a simple furnishing project where they are specifying retail goods. Often times a new business can work with a kitchen and bath shop to ensure they are specifying all the right parts and pieces while providing designer insight for balance, symmetry, line, texture, etc.

New interior designers should always have SOME kind of design training, but that is up to you as the consumer to verify. This isn’t a career that one can switch to without some kind of introduction and mentorship.

Expect to have to do a bit of legwork and be prepared to have several revisions, and a few basic human errors. Expect to set aside 10% of your design budget for this type of service.

Mid-Range Design Services

This is for the middle class homeowner who is ready to invest in a space they plan to stay in for over 5 years. They are done with Ikea and hand-me-downs and want their space to be artistically created to fit their needs. Full services are expected, with little-to-no legwork on their end. This designer has established consultants and may be starting to handle permit application. They will expect to stay on your project through construction to ensure the design is carried through and properly documented. This is a start-to-finish design service. Expect to set aside 15-20% of your design budget for this type of service.

Luxury Design Services

Here is the designer that will sweep into your life with a very refined process. They may offer design-build, architectural services, landscape services, and decor. They may have staff to ensure every call is answered, and interns to manage smaller tasks such as errands, product delivery, note taking, and more. This designer will likely have been practicing for 20+ years, is confident, and will have clear expectations of you as well. This designer will have a brick and mortar location and will have staff available during all business hours to answer questions and accomodate your needs.

Services will be concierge services- meaning the expecatations this designer has of you is simply to provide information. They will take over and manage every aspect of the design. Expect to set aside 15-20% of your design budget, and meet a minimum design fee for this type of services.

Is Interior Design Expensive?

I guess that depends on your outlook on the service, your expectations and budget. Those looking for free design will most likely find the Luxury Designer exorbitantly priced, and the Mid-Range designer expensive. When looking for a designer to fit your price range, look at their staff size, experience, professional training, and demand. Like many other businesses, this will give an idea of their rates. Waldron Designs currently lies between the mid-range and luxury point. We serve mid-range very comfortably, and step out of our comfort zone a bit for luxury, but are working our way there! We are unlikely to be the best option for very tight budgets to no design budget.

Questions? Ask away in our comments below! We always respond!