Hiring a Home Decorator
Is an Interior Decorator Affordable?
Maybe it’s time to refresh that outdated decor. Or perhaps you’re moving into a new home and craving a fresh look. If you’re like most homeowners, you know your own taste but have trouble putting together a cohesive design plan.
That’s where an interior decorator is invaluable. A professional decorator can take your ideas and turn them into a beautiful, functional design. They’ll find colors and patterns that work together, furniture that fits the space, lighting to set the right mood, decorative and accent pieces for style - and so much more.
The cost of hiring an interior decorator varies tremendously based on the size and scope of the job, your budget, the designer’s rates and your location. The good news is, you’re in charge of how much you spend. You can spend just a few hundred dollars for several hours of design advice, or you can spend tens of thousands for a designer to manage the process from start to finish and do all of the buying on your behalf.
Decorator Fee Structures
Designers have different methods of charging for their services. The most popular include:
- Cost-plus: A very common method that involves the designer buying all of the furniture, decorative pieces and materials at wholesale prices, then selling them to customer at a previously agreed-upon markup (often 20 percent). The markup is the designer’s fee for services.
- Fixed cost/fee based: Another common method, particularly for large jobs, that puts a fixed price on the entire job. If a designer charges $5,000 for a bedroom design, for example, that fee would include all furniture, materials, design services and installation.
- Hourly rates: A fixed per-hour charge that ranges anywhere from about $50 to $500. Most designers only use an hourly rate for small jobs. Some use it in combination with the cost-plus method.
- Per square foot: Popular for commercial work, this method, as the name suggests, charges a fixed rate for each square foot of space.
Most designers require a retainer to begin work. This is an upfront payment that typically covers the cost of the designer’s planning time. Most designers will also require you to sign a contract agreeing to the scope of work.
Should I Hire an Interior Decorator?
The decision to hire a decorator is highly personal. Your goals, you budget and your free time should all be influencing factors. Generally, it’s a good idea to hire a decorator if the following are all true:
- You can afford to spend at least several thousand dollars dollars (per room) for furniture, decor and design services.
- You generally have trouble putting together a cohesive design.
- You don’t have a lot of free time to dedicate to decorating.
Hiring a decorator is probably not a good idea if:
- Your current budget does not allow for new furniture and decor.
- You enjoy decorating and want complete control over the design.
- You enjoy decorating and you have the spare time to do it.
Keep in mind that most designers are willing to work within the budget you set. If your maximum for a bedroom makeover is $3,000, any creative designer should be able to work within that amount to make your vision a reality. Also, keep in mind that you can always hire a designer to do one room at a time, rather than the whole house at once. This is a great way to spread the expenses over the long term.
Choosing an Interior Decorator
There are tons of interior decorators from which to choose, so how do you go about finding the right one? Here are some tips:
- Ask for referrals. Talk to real estate agents or friends and neighbors. Who have they used and what did they think of the service?
- Do a web search on any designer that is referred before calling them. Check out the designer’s sample photos to find out if you like them. If the designer specializes in modern decor and you like traditional, he or she is not a good fit.
- Set up a face-to-face meeting. This will tell you a lot about whether you and designer are on the same page. Do you get along? Is it easy to communicate with him or her? Do you like the designer’s initial ideas? If something doesn’t feel right, you’re probably not sitting with the right designer.
- Check credentials. Visit the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) website to find out if your state licenses or regulates designers. If so, make sure the designer you hire is properly licensed.
- Be clear on budget. Set a maximum amount and talk about what that includes. Does it include taxes and designer fees? If there is no flexibility in your budget, be sure to point that out. Some designers will try to stretch the limits.
- Get a written proposal before agreeing to any work. Make sure it is itemized, detailing every expense.
- Seek quotes from multiple designers. Typically, it’s a good idea to disregard those that are unusually high or low and choose from those in the middle.