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The Right Price: Interior Design Costs

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

Ever wonder what it costs to hire an interior designer and furnish a home, but were too afraid to ask? Well, you are not alone. This is a common stumbling block for many homeowners. Let’s jump right in and look at some analogies. Ever heard of anyone who hired a real estate agent with absolutely no budget range to buy a home? Similarly, it’s rare to go shopping for a car without budget in mind. Yet, many interior design clients feel lost when determining expenditures on furniture, art and remodeling expenses, as well as design fees! A sofa can vary as much as an automobile, so should you buy a Lamborghini or a Hyundai? Of course, if you live in a multi-million dollar home, it often looks best to choose high-end furniture that goes with it. Whether a standard or luxury home interior, a great designer will help guide you towards a budget that’s right for your project and your pocketbook.

With 14 years of experience running my interior design business, as well as 10 years of selling fine art and furniture in the corporate world, I have created a few guidelines to help clients determine an interior design budget to fit their every need. A general rule of thumb is to spend approximately 10-20% of the home's current value on furnishings, if you start from scratch. It's important to keep in mind not only the cost of an individual home interior item, but its life cycle cost and resale value. If you decide to splurge on name brands or famous designers, they will hold their value for a very long time – and may even increase in value over time. If you purchase low quality items that need to be replaced often, it may end up costing you more in the end.

A typical budget for living room furnishings and artwork is around $15,000 and increase from $50,000 to $100,000 for a luxury project. Much of what you see in Architectural Digest magazine or celebrity homes is well over $100,000 per room. Add a piece of original, collectible art and the sky is the limit. It is important to understand your priorities, goals and limits along with your passions and vision. A great interior designer should be able to help prioritize and make the most out of your overall investment.

So what about interior design fees? Interior designers charge by either flat fees or hourly rates, plus the commission on products purchased for the home, such as furniture. A general rule is that the design fee usually amounts to around 20% of the total budget. However, if the budget is too low, this can make the project more difficult and time consuming for the designer, so that does not always guarantee a low design fee. Sometimes, a square footage method is used to determine design fees, which usually means $5-10 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the project. The number of hours that a designer spends on a project can add up quickly, so if you are concerned about budget, it is often best to choose a flat-fee instead of an hourly option.

Any design is only as good as its execution, and designers know the best workrooms, carpenters, vendors and painters, so they have the connections – and the clout – to make sure the job will be top-notch. In the end, you get what you pay for. So spend your money wisely and make the best choice in an interior designer that will make your house a home.

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