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How much does an Interior Designer cost?

August 20, 2010

from Interior Design Angle,
Angela Todd’s Portland Oregon Interior Design Blog

How much does an interior designer cost in Portland, Oregon you might ask?  How do they charge and what can you expect from the relationship?

Initial Consultation: Your initial consultation with an interior designer is a method for both of you to determine if the interior designer is the right fit for your project.  Some designers charge for initial consultations, some do not.  In that appointment your interior designer will discuss with you your preferences, the scope of your project, and what you want to achieve.  Some clients aren’t sure how to articulate their taste or preferences.

Your designer can help you by asking questions, talking cues from pieces you enjoy in your home, and also by sharing photos and getting your input.  A successful interior designer is a good listener, and can learn a lot by these three methods.  During this initial consultation, the interior designer will likely ask about the amount you would like to invest in the room. You might have a very specific number or not know.   Some clients find this question daunting and don’t know how much things cost – for example in a home remodeling project.  Your designer can help you with investment ranges to give you an idea of costs.  In a decorating project, good design can be achieved at many budget levels, so your interior designer may ask you questions about where you typically shop to get an idea of the quality of pieces that are important to you.

Initial Consultations: What to expect from Angela Todd Designs

We do charge for initial consultations and I have found our clients don’t mind.  I have found that doing so allows me to relax in the first appointment, roll my sleeves up right away and discuss detailed ways to address what the client wants to achieve.  I have also found my full schedule does not allow me to buzz around Portland, Oregon offering complimentary interior design consultations, while my clients aren’t getting serviced to the extent they deserve.  I should mention we do credit the initial consultation fee towards remodeling, build or larger decorating projects.  This happens most of the time.

Retainers
Some residential and commercial interior designers ask clients to place a retainer upon signing an agreement for design services. The retainer is an up-front fee intended to cover costs for you during the planning stage of the project. When the job is completed, the retainer fee is deducted from the last invoice.

Retainers: What to expect from Angela Todd Designs
Retainers aren’t typically part of our agreement, but in the case of a quick timeline of implementation it makes sense for some clients.  For example, lets say you have 60 days for your room to be completed before the holidays, in this case having a retainer on file allows us to order furnishings with your approval without needing payment before processing the order.  (Just a a point of reference, everything you purchase will be approved by you prior to ordering.  Everything.  This ensure you get exactly what you desire.)

How interior designers charge for services and products?

Interior designers charge in a variety of ways, and many may use several of these methods depending on your project.

Fee Based (Set Price)
After evaluating all aspects of the interior design project at the initial consultation including expected hours of work, square footage, materials needed, and your desires – the interior designer determines a lump sum for the design portion of the project.  If your accept the agreement, the amount is paid in increments as items are received and delivered and/or services are rendered.

Square Foot Based (Set Price)

This method is most often used for larger build or commercial projects. It can be a bit tricky for the novice interior designer, because interiors with the same square footage may have completely different needs. For example, while one homeowner or business owner may want a minimalist look, another homeowner or business owner of the same size could be going for a complex mix of styles that require custom finishes, cabinetry and tile work.   In those cases the interior designer places a higher square footage cost on projects that require more creativity and planning.

By the Hour
In this model, the designer assists the client on an hourly, as-needed basis.  From my experience, interior designers in Portland, Oregon, hourly range from $75 to $175 an hour.  This range generally depending on the interior design professional’s level of expertise, and their demand for service. It is most important to feel good about the interior designer you select.  Do you have open dialogue?  Does he or she “get” you and your lifestyle.  Does he or she listen?  Once you have answered yes, go with who you feel comfortable with,  Understand designers under the rate range  mentioned above might not have the experience or vendor connections you need for your project, and designers higher than the hourly mentioned might come at a premium due to their experience or popularity.  There isn’t anything wrong with either if you feel comfortable, but understand designers at the top end of the range or the bottom of the range have reasons for charging that way.

Cost versus Retail AND Cost Plus
If you haven’t worked with an interior designer before you may not know that interior designers do have trade accounts with some of their vendors, essentially offering them a discounted retail price.  Please don’t imagine this is a deep discount.  Sometimes it is 0%, sometimes 10%, and on more custom orders perhaps 30%.  Some interior designers pass this on to their clients with a fee upfront to partake in the savings.  I know several interior designers in Portland that offer their cost savings to clients, plus a specified percentage on the discount.   (20% is a common average I see here locally in the Portland area.  Keep in mind in this scenario the interior designer will also charge a 20% percentage on items they purchase through retail pricing.)  The third way interior designers may charge in this scenario is “you pay retail, and sometimes less depending on the trade discount and customer’s volume.”

Retail/Commission
This is common in retail showrooms that hire interior designers and decorators – or with interior design business owners that own a retail store that sells furnishings and accessories.  Here in Portland, Oregon you can find these interior designers at furniture showrooms like Parker Furniture, Ethan Allen and Paul Schatz Furniture.  The interior design fee is essentially paid by the retail showroom that employs the interior designer.  The interior designer’s commission is paid by what they sell to clients.  Working with a designer in this category can work well, particularly if you work with a furniture showroom with a good variety of manufactures and styles. The drawback can be that it is very unlikely an employed designers will recommend outside of what their showroom sells – but again if you select a showroom with a large amount of manufacturers it can be a good experience.  Keep in mind also that an independent interior designer can work with you at these showrooms.  Each of the stores mentioned above have outside interior designer programs and they welcome independent designers in the area to use their showrooms with their clients.

How interior designers charge for services and products: What to expect from Angela Todd Designs

Our interior design firm works both by the hour and with fee based pricing.  For smaller projects, working by the hour just makes sense for our clients.  In the case of a color consultation for exterior or interior paint for example, it doesn’t make sense to put together a flat free agreement.  In the case of new home construction, remodeling or a decorating project that involves selections, space planning, project managing, coordinating contractors and vendors we set a flat fee for our services for the project.   This amount only changes if there are changes or additions to the project.   In the case of a flat fee prject, we draft an agreement that includes the scope and the estimated hours for our client’s review.

Okay.  What about cost versus retail pricing you ask? Here I am writing this blog thinking, are my interior design peers going to kill me for posting such an honest blog about cost versus retail?  It makes me giggle. Actually, I do want you to know I am in the business to create stunning interiors for my clients.  I love that many of them over the years have become great friends, and oh yeah, I am in business to make money for my family.  There I said it.  Angela Todd Designs charges retail.  We have found marking up a flat rate for a wholesale price (savings to you), and charging a retail price plus percentage (surcharge to you) pretty much comes to the same sum for the client.  The true reality is that the amount of money an interior designer saves in wholesale to retail pricing can sometimes be very nominal, and for some stores and manufacturers the discount doesn’t exist.  We take responsibility for our client purchases, and for that we feel that discounts are part of our cost of doing business.    That is why our pricing is referred to as “wholesale” or “to the trade”, with this pricing comes responsibility.

What do I mean by by “taking care of client purchases” you might ask?  When a fabric is discontinued that you have approved, furniture isn’t manufacturerd properly, the wrong carpet was shipped at the order desk, a cabinet door has a defect, handmade tiles are installed with color way difference that are unacceptable, or a handmade area rug is damaged in shipment – we take care of the issue for you.  Fabric has to be reselected, we may have several visits and phone calls with a manufacturer, and we may visit  your home with a tradesperson to make sure your expectations are met.   It wouldn’t be ethical in my opinion to bill a client for this time because the hiccups (which inevitably happen at least once on a project) aren’t the client’s fault.  By the way, all of the examples above have all actually happened.  Each of these examples ironically came from clients that rave about me, have sent me referrals, and hired us for additional home and business projects.  What my father tells me appears to be true, “When you do business with someone, you get to know their quality and ethics most by how they handle your problem.”  My client relationships are paramount to me.  You can count on us to take care of issues for you sometimes even before you know about the issue at hand.

It warms my heart when I have clients tell me how much they love their spaces and that our interior design services were a great value.  To be honest, I am just softy when it comes to making people happy.  Creating exceptional spaces for clients that reflect their personal, unique style is simply why I wouldn’t want to do anything else for a living.

  
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