There are four ways in which interior designers generally charge for their services.
The first is a flat fee. It is becoming more common for interior designers to charge a flat fee covering the cost of the entire jobs design time but I think this approach is dangerous for both the client and the designer. If it is a ballpark figure to give you an idea of the cost that’s fine, but a fixed fee would have to be quoted extremely high to cover what COULD potentially happen– and that is not really fair to the client. On the other hand; if the fee is too low the designer ends up working for nothing– and that isn’t right either. There are just too many variables to lock into a fixed rate. If I put together a design and you love it at first sight, it will take far fewer hours than if we have multiple iterations. Most projects turn out to be larger than predicted and the scope of work almost always expands.
The second method is an hourly fee for design time. Designer’s hourly fees have a broad range. In the Colorado Springs area I know of designers who charge anywhere from $50.00 an hour to $130.00, however these prices are much lower than in a larger city such as Denver. Some of the qualities to look for in these prices are the designer’s experience, whether they are an ASID accredited professional, and their rapport with you.
Another way of billing is straight retail. There will be no design fee but you will buy all goods from the designer for full retail cost. I heard the story of clients who bought a sofa they liked and the designer made them take it back and buy one through her! It was in the contract, if she would have been paid for her services it would not have been an issue.
The last is some combination of an hourly fee and a discount on purchases; this is probably the most common today. I favor this because the client can choose to buy through the designer or anywhere else they’d like. The designer is being paid for their expertise and everyone is happy.
There is a perception that designers will rip you off. Not true. I know many designers and 95% of them are doing their best to provide you with the great service and the best finished product possible. They work many hours more than they charge on your project and they care that you are happy at the end of the job. Designers don’t get the same discounts as big box stores do and may not be able to offer you as low a price but they will stand behind products they sell and be there to take care of problems. Designers also have access to products not otherwise available to you, if you are looking for something unique they can find it for you.
If you make the decision to do your project on your own and make one mistake; such as buying the wrong size piece of furniture, in all probability you could have saved money by hiring the designer in the first place. Designers provide you with experience, resources and subcontractors you can count on to do good work; they can change your home from good to great.