Hiring an Interior Designer for Less—Tips to Make Working With a Designer More Affordable

March 2016 View more

NMAG0316_Finance_iStock_000057409514_Full_800pxThere’s something about being stuck indoors during the winter months that inspires people to make changes around their home. Perhaps you’ve been looking through Pinterest or binge watching HGTV wishing you could tap into an interior designer’s knowledge. You may be surprised to learn there are affordable ways to hire a designer.

Find the Right Designer

All designers charge differently: some charge by the hour (at rates ranging from $50 to $500); some require a retainer; while others charge a percentage of the project cost. Some local furniture and retail stores offer free in-home design services and pay their designers a commission. “Rates are subjective and vary greatly across the board. There is no real industry standard. Plus, a designer’s rate doesn’t necessarily reflect their value,” says Dina Kosiba of DMK DesignHouse. “There’s no shortcut to finding the right person. If someone shows up at your door they are going to charge you, so it’s important to figure out who you want to work with before setting up an appointment.”

Ask friends and neighbors if they have worked with a designer. Referrals are a great way to learn how a particular designer works and what you can expect. Interview a few designers over the phone to get a feel for their personalities and philosophies. Ask up front what they charge and what is included in that rate. Let the designer know what your budget is. Ask to see photos of their completed projects and check references.

Do legwork prior to First meeting

Once you’ve chosen a designer, look online or in magazines to determine what your style is before you meet with a designer. “The more time you put in, the more you can save on consulting costs,” says Angela Graefenhain of Graefenhain Designs. “A lot of people know what style they like, they just have a hard time making a decision,” says Graefenhain. “Designers stay up-to-date on trends and know what’s coming down the pike. We can help take the fear out of making decisions.”

Repurpose Items

Rae Mattson and Dana Zitzka of Dane Rae are proponents of shopping a client’s house to repurpose items and make better use of space. “So many people can use what they already have,” says Mattson. “People have a lot of great things. They don’t necessarily need to go out and spend more money.” Zitzka agrees, “Sometimes you just need a fresh set of eyes to help you think outside of the box.”

Breaking up a design plan into phases enables you to tackle projects as your budget allows. “Having a professional plan makes sure everything flows once it’s completed,” Kosiba says. “It’s money well spent,” said Greifenheim. “There’s nothing worse than spending a lot money and not liking the final product or having it look outdated within a few years.”

If you are just beginning to think about redesigning your home, a designer can help you narrow down choices as well as suggest websites and stores you can visit. You can save money by visiting stores on your own and then meeting to make final decisions. Designers can also connect you with product and service providers who offer special discounts to their clients.

Do it yourself

Taking on some projects yourself can help further reduce costs. “DIY projects of today are not the DIY projects of yesterday,” explains Tammy Lefkowitz of Before and After. “A lot of projects are easy to find and are relatively simple.” Lefkowitz is also an advocate of design hacks and finding expensive looking products at affordable prices. “People are surprised how they can get a high-end design look for less by just knowing where to shop.”