How Much Does Interior Design Cost? (Updated 4/19/2022)

Interior Design could cost you nothing, or something, or everything. This is a complicated question because the occupation and practitioners are  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 the project cost.

Perhaps this question arises from HGTV other unrealistic “designer” programming. You will notice that almost without exception, labor costs, design service fees, and even most of the materials costs are not mentioned. Vendors and fabricators grasp the opportunity to be on TV and often donate their products and services in trade for advertising spots. This promotes very 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. Usually the primary personality is just that, personality, and doesn’t actually perform any true design function at all.

I recently sat down for a casting call for a DIY show on HGTV, out of curiosity of course. Together with my favorite general contractor, we we asked to be silly, to engage in ridiculous banter, to be more demonstrative with our hands, raise our voices, you get the picture. I told the interviewer that this is not how professionals do business, and the “interview” quickly ended. Thank goodness. 

I’d love to convince you that the professional services of a qualified interior designer are indispensable because this is what I truly believe.But, it is entirely possible to create any interior, residential or commercial, without a designer. It may not be functional, or the best application, or the perfect products, but you could probably wing it. On the other hand, you will never know what could have been, and that’s where we “creatives” can solve your design problems in ways you never even imagined. 

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 that. 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 dimensioned floor plans, elevations, 3D color renderings, ceiling plans, and room finish schedules. The “frosting” for me is the material selection. But scope of work may also include project management, product procurement, inspections, scheduling, and installations.

In Conclusion

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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