Whether you are redecorating your kitchen or building an annex to increase your home's usable living space, tackling home improvements by yourself is a daunting prospect. Even before you start drawing up plans, there are many questions to consider: What building codes apply? Where should you position windows to get the best light? Do you need to move electrical outlets? What kind of paint creates the most welcoming environment?
If your head is starting to spin and you aren't sure where to start, it's time to call in the professionals. Employing an interior decorator or interior designer helps to keep a project on schedule and on budget; however, the services of these talented individuals come at a cost. Fortunately, having a designer on board often creates savings in other areas by helping to bring a project to completion on time and leveraging trade discounts for materials.
It's important to realize that interior design and interior decorating are two separate professions. Designers are usually more expensive, but they bring a wider set of skills. Understanding the difference between the two roles ensures you employ the right person and helps to keep your budget under control.
The Cost to Hire a Professional
Homeowners employing the services of an interior decorator or designer usually pay $1,839 to $8,842 for materials and labor, with an average of $5,296. Small projects cost as little as $499, while large projects cost as much as $17,000. Costs vary significantly based on the skill of the designer or decorator, the geographical location, and the scope of the project.
Interior Decorator vs. Designer
Do you need an interior decorator or an interior designer? They may seem like interchangeable terms, but they actually describe two different professions. Before you start shopping for quotes, you need to know your project requirements and what services you actually need. Understanding the different skill sets decorators and designers bring to a project makes it easier to make the best choice for your needs.
As the job title suggests, decorators are primarily concerned with aesthetics. They choose and implement the decor that gives a room its unique appearance, such as window treatments, paint, wallpaper, and accessories. Decorators don't design or build spaces, but they dress them stylishly, introducing new color schemes and decorative elements.
Decorators don't require any formal training, and therefore many aren't qualified to remove existing structures, build new structures, or change the wiring in your home. It's important to check what qualifications a decorator has before agreeing to any terms.
Interior designers are qualified professionals who become involved with projects at the construction stage. They often work with architects, using their skills and knowledge to create functional, quality interiors that match a homeowner's requirements. Designers attend an accredited college or university to major in Interior Architecture or Interior Design, and then they complete an internship. They also pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam to attain state recognition as part of acquiring a license.
Designers have knowledge of building codes and regulations, making it possible to create a functional environment that is aesthetically pleasing while also adhering to all applicable construction laws. Their level of training and their ability to help plan, schedule, and execute a project make their services more expensive than those of a decorator.
When you're shopping for quotes, comparing rates isn't always as easy as you think. You may get a quote that seems too good to be true, only to discover the designer is using a different pricing structure than the one used by other professionals you have approached. Knowing the main ways designers price a job makes it easier to compare quotes to get the best deals.
Generally, decorators and designers use one of four ways to charge for their services: cost plus, fixed rate, hourly rate, or square foot. There may also be additional charges, such as retainers (usually a percentage of the project cost) or consultation fees (a flat fee for the designer to visit the property ranging from approximately $200 to $300).
Designers using the cost plus method purchase necessary products and then bill you for the total, including a markup you agree to when drawing up the contracts. The markup is usually around 20 percent and pays for the designer's services. So, if the work costs $10,000, the designer bills for $12,000.
A fixed rate, or flat rate, is a single price that covers all of the work, materials, and other expenses. This is the simplest way to cost up larger jobs, and it's helpful for you as the customer because you know exactly what you need to pay.
Some designers charge by the hour, with rates ranging from $50 to $200. Because the total fee depends on the amount of time the project takes to complete, designers often reserve this method for small projects where there is less risk of complications and spiraling costs.
By the Square Foot
Commercial designers often charge by the square foot. This is effectively a flat rate based on the size of the property. Some designers implement a minimum charge to cover the amount of work involved for a small room, so you pay the minimum fee, or the fee based on the actual room size (whichever is greater).
Interior designers help to facilitate your ideas, making your dream home a reality. Before you contact a designer to work with, it pays to think carefully about your requirements. Pre-planning lets the designers know your expectations and helps to guide any consultations. Consider the following:
Define your goals: Building an extension on your property entails planning permission and the services of a designer. Changing the color scheme in your living room is much simpler, and only requires a decorator. Having clear goals makes it easier to know which professionals to hire and helps to ensure your contractors know exactly what you want.
Get inspired: There are certain styles you love, and others you hate. Give your designer a clue by cutting out pictures from magazines or printing off images from the Internet.
Set your budget: Let your designer know your spending limit. Once a designer knows your budget, it's much easier to shop for suitable decor.
Stay in charge: Designers are trained professionals with a keen eye for detail, but only you know what you love. If a designer is coming up with suggestions that don't match your tastes, say something. It's a good idea to express any strong opinions you have on sustainable and organic materials, animal skins, "Made in America" products, upcycling, and child safety features.
There are many reasons to employ a decorator or designer:
They save your time: Professionals know where to shop and have a lot of business contacts, making it easy for them to find exactly what you need for your project. This insider knowledge speeds up the project because you don't have to waste weeks hunting down the perfect decorative elements, comparing prices, or researching the benefits of different types of fixtures and fittings.
They have necessary skills: Designers and decorators are very knowledgeable. Decorators have an artist's eye for color and composition, and they know how to arrange furnishings to create a welcoming environment. Designers go a step further and know how to create a space that utilizes acoustics, lighting, and temperature.
They have the tools: Professional contractors have all of the equipment and materials they need, so you don't have to worry about sourcing tools and products to get the job done.
They simplify a project: Designers have in-depth knowledge of building codes, and they work in association with architects and builders to keep your project running smoothly. Designers and decorators identify and resolve problems, minimizing the delays that can cause costs to escalate.
Before you hire an interior designer or decorator, make sure you understand what you are paying for. If you just want to reinvent your living space with a new look, calling on a designer isn't the most cost-effective solution. However, if you are planning a complex project starting from construction, hiring a designer helps to keep the work on track through planning and execution.
When shopping for the best deals, get at least three quotes to choose from, and consider employing designers with certification from the American Society of Interior Designers to ensure you get the best results.