How Much Does Interior Design Cost?

Interior Design could cost you nothing, or something, or everything. This is a complicated question because the occupation is varied and there are multiple ways designers are compensated. Simply put, there are residential interior designers and commercial interior designers, and those who design both, like me.

Interior Design Charges

Interior designers charge in any of the following ways or even a combination thereof: flat fee, hourly fee, cost plus on goods, retail, or a percentage of interior design cost.

Perhaps this question stems from excessive HGTV, TLC, and DIY channel watching. You will notice that almost without exception, labor costs, design fees, and most materials costs are not mentioned. Vendors and fabricators grab at the opportunity to be on TV and donate their products and services in trade for advertising spots. This sets up unrealistic expectations in the real world with real clients, not to mention the fact that there is no “one” designer on these shows but a team of dozens who create these interiors.

I’d love to convince you that the professional services of a qualified interior designer are indispensable, as this is what I believe. But, it is entirely possible to complete any interior, residential or commercial, without a designer. Breathtaking interiors have been created thousands of years prior to our profession being formally recognized in the 1930’s. Since then, the field has become more technical and exceedingly broad in scope.

Interior Designers Scope of Service

Interior designers can practice with little to no formal education, experience, or examinations. Many are happy to do so, and I won’t belittle them by calling them “interior decorators”. On the other end of the spectrum, are interior designers like me, who have earned an accredited college degree in interior design, passed the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualifications), and have decades of experience. We can all take CEUs (continuing education units), join professional associations, specialize, and earn additional certifications. I specialize in kitchen and bath renovations, but I still enjoy whole house design and commercial interiors.

When I approach a design project, I bring all of my education, experience, examination knowledge years of CEUs, specialization, and God-given talent to bear. Design for me is not about matching colors, or cuteness, or character. Anyone can do this. As I create, I instinctively evaluate a myriad of features like: functionality, durability, cost, sustainability, product life cycle, safety, family dynamics, and codes to name a few. Next layer of the design includes: aesthetics, acoustics, texture, pattern, rhythm, light sources, site lines, placement, etc. There isn’t room here for an exhaustive list! I see the space in 3D in my mind well before it’s completed, considering all surfaces in context as elements of the whole design. The design must be communicated to others through documents like floor plans, elevations, perspectives, and room finish schedules. The “frosting” for me, is the material selection, and subsequent project management, which includes: procurement, inspections, scheduling, and installing.

If a project is simple, and you do it yourself, interior design may cost you nothing. By not hiring a qualified interior designer appropriate to your project, it may cost you everything from change orders, time overruns, cost overruns, family stress, and an unsatisfactory interior design. However, by hiring the right interior designer for your project, and paying commensurate with credentials, the interior design will cost you something, and you’ll enjoy the rewards for many years to come!

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