Interior Designers - Understanding the Value; Agreeing the Cost


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 Interior Designers -  Understanding the Value; Agreeing the Cost

One of the most common questions asked on interior design discussion panels is how interior designers charge for their services. This can vary depending on whether the designer is independent or part of a large studio or retail outlet - so understanding the different ways designers charge for their services couldn’t be more important.

1. Fixed Design Fee

Except for the most complex of projects, this is the approach we take at Julie Maclean Interior Design. We work out how much time we think the project will take and charge a fixed fee for the service. We believe this approach works best as both sides have a clear understanding of the work that will be undertaken and the amount payable for that service.

It’s important to agree a payment schedule and to understand what the time commitment is up-front. It’s also important to agree a clear design brief and budget so that your designer knows what they’re supposed to be delivering. If the brief is clear, succinct and accurate the designer should be able to meet the brief.

Usually a couple of changes can be made without additional charge, but it’s important to be reasonable about this.

2. Time Based Fee

This is popular with some designers, particularly in the USA. The designer works on an hourly rate and logs their hours. We started out working in this way but, as we found ourselves working on so many projects, it became harder to quantify the exact number of hours to allocate to each client. And of course it’s hard for a client to understand why some things take a long time to source.

3. Price per Room Fee

Occasionally designers charge a ‘price per room’ or ‘price per square foot’, but this is less common. We often use a price per room as a rough guide when initially discussing the cost of a job with a client, confirming a fixed fee after a home visit.

4. Margin on sourcing product

Often combined with a design-fee, this is where the designer purchases materials and products at a wholesale price and sells them on at a retail price. This is how we work at Julie Maclean Interior Design as it enables us to keep our design fees relatively low. It’s important to know and understand how your designer works. A transparent relationship is a happy relationship.

Some clients expect a discount from their designers; we don’t offer this unless there’s a special reason for it, particularly because many of our suppliers feel that it undermines the value of their products. Again, understanding and agreeing the basis on which goods are ordered and delivered is an important part of developing a trusting relationship with your designer.

5. Project Management

Often designers, like architects or project managers, will charge a fee for managing the project; ensuring trades and materials are on site when required and keeping the project on track. The fee can be time-related, a percentage of the total project cost, or (less commonly) a fixed fee agreed in advance.

For smaller projects we often don’t charge a specific management fee but, for larger and more complex projects that consume a lot of time, we charge a percentage of the total cost which is built into the overall cost for the job. Again, it’s important for the client to know and understand what this charge is in advance.

6. Summary

As a client it’s important to understand the work that goes into completing a project, much of which cannot be seen (there’s a lot of running around and figuring out solutions to problems behind the scenes). Our advice is to choose your designer wisely (make sure you get on well and have references as to the quality of their work), then to value them! Discuss any problems or misunderstandings as they arise. As with any relationship, honesty and transparency is the best approach.

Every interior designer has a responsibility to deliver a result their clients will enjoy. At Julie Maclean Interior Design we take this responsibility seriously.

We listen carefully to our clients so that we understand the brief.

We combine creative thinking with a friendly and practical approach to delivering the brief within budget.

We try to bring new ideas to our clients to help them to see opportunities and expand their horizons.

We use reliable and reputable suppliers and our trades are first rate.

We appreciate being asked to work in your home and we take a responsible approach to everything we do.