Interior Decorator Fees: How Do They Vary?


When interviewing designers for your home or business, you should inquire about their structure for interior decorator fees. This will help ensure that you are hiring an interior designer that fits not only your personality and design sensibility, but also your budget.

By the Hour

One of the most common structures for interior decorator fees is based on an hourly rate. This is very popular for the initial consultation phase with a designer, since the client is still in the interview process for the beginning stages of a project. An hourly rate will vary based on the region and the experience level of the design specialist.

While on a project, a decorator can continue working on an hourly basis for time spent planning, shopping, coordinating, or designing. There is sometimes a cap placed on the hourly rate as part of the contract, so that the client knows ahead of time what the maximum design fee may be.

Flat Fee

Some designers like to charge a flat fee for certain types of projects. This is more common with decorators who focus on a particular service and can easily estimate the time and cost which will be involved on the project. A fixed fee structure can give peace of mind to budget conscious clients who are looking to avoid unexpected charges. Flat design fees are more often applied to services rather than tangible products. This can include color selection, design concepting, or shopping trips.

Cost Plus Fee

Designers who specify and order products for their clients often used a cost plus method for calculating the item's final price. In many cases, decorators purchase goods at a wholesale or discount cost from suppliers or vendors. They will then add on a set percentage such as twenty percent to compensate for their services and time. This will usually result in a great savings over retail prices for the client. To emphasize this discount, some designers offer their clients a set percentage off the retail cost of specified items.

Percentage Based Fee

For large design projects, a seasoned decorator may specify a percentage of the total project cost as their compensation. For example, a designer may charge a ten percent fee on the overall project expenses. If they select and design a whole house of custom window treatments and furniture costing $20,000, this would result in a final designer fee of $2,000.

This structure ensures that the decorator will receive appropriate payment based on the size of the job and that additional costs are covered if the scope of the project changes. Many percentage-based designers will only accept projects that are planned to total a certain amount or higher, such as a minimum project expenditure of $10,000.


Fee Based on Square Footage

Another popular structure for interior decorator fees is to charge a set rate per square foot of interior space. This is more common in new construction projects where a designer is selecting the initial hardware, flooring, fixtures, cabinetry, and wall finishes. Although fees based on square footage fluctuate by location, it generally starts around one dollar per square foot and goes up from there.

Retainer Fee

Some interior designers offer their clients the option to retain their services with a set rate. This retainer fee is generally good for a specified time period such as one year and can help keep a client's budget in check. What services are included in the retainer fee will vary from designer to designer, so make sure you understand what it covers in the beginning. The retainer fee is often combined with a cost plus or percentage based fee structure for items and products purchased with the help of the decorator.

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Interior Decorator Fees: How Do They Vary?