Room Makeover: How to Budget for an Interior Decorator

Who said that only celebrities can hire an interior decorator? A room makeover is something anyone can benefit from.
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Who said that only celebrities can hire an interior decorator? A room makeover is something anyone can benefit from. If you've ever considered hiring an interior decorator, you're probably wondering whether it can fit within your budget. Maybe you're skeptical about working with a designer, because you've watched Million Dollar Decorator one too many times. But it doesn't have to be high drama, high cost and trade only furnishings. For many decorators, shopping from catalogs and home retail stores is not considered an impossible design challenge, but rather a normal occurrence. Working with a decorator is a great way to get a finished look to your home, once and for all. You can opt for a decorator to do it all, or have your designer work help you in smaller ways. I've detailed out the different ways you can work with a designer no matter what your budget.

So how does pricing work? An interior decorator will either charge a flat fee or an hourly rate for your project. On average a decorator will charge about $100-$200 per hour, with higher end decorators charging $200-$300 per hour. Luxe decorators can charge upwards $500 per hour. Negotiate those details upfront before you make a hiring decision, and ask for an estimate of the number of hours your project will take. Make sure to ask your decorator if they will charge a commission on items you purchase through them.

What does a decorator charge you for anyways and how do those hours add up? Well it depends on how much help you'd like. If you're planning a complete room makeover, or want to start a design from scratch--as in you need a color palette, a floor plan, furniture, accessories and a total install--you should expect your project to take about 35-50 hours. If you'd like to move walls or make any structural changes then you'll likely be looking at more time. But you don't always need to have your decorator do your shopping and ordering for you. If you're willing to put in a bit of your own time and do the purchasing and install for your space, you can cut your design fee down significantly. I've outlined how these hours can be broken down to help you understand where the time goes, and what you can trim if you're working on a budget.

Let's consider a simple but complete room makeover. Where does the time go?

Site Measure
1 to 2 hours

Before the decorator can get started with floor plans and drafting, a site measure is in order. A decorator or an assistant will visit your home and measure your space, noting the placement and size of windows, doors and molding within a room. If you're working remotely with your decorator, this is a step you can do yourself.

Space Planning
2 to 3 hours

Your interior decorator will create a digital version of your site measure and use that to craft your potential floor plans. She'll refer to this when sourcing products and use it as a guide to ensure the functionality, layout and proportions of your space.

Conceptual Design
8 to 10 hours

This is the time the decorator spends making your vision a reality. After your initial design session and sharing images and ideas in person, over the phone or using Pinterest or Houzz, your decorator will work to create a design concept. Depending on how much input you'd like to have, this can be an engaging process where you give feedback and really work together with your decorator.

7 to 10 hours

Sourcing basically means compiling a shopping list for your space. Your decorator will work within the budget you set to pick out furniture and accessories that will fit your space, work well together and bring your design ideas to life. On top of color and style decorators consider measurements and proportion when selecting pieces. They have a great knowledge of the market and can help you selected the best quality for your budget.

Purchasing and Installation
15-25 hours

Many decorators will provide you with a shopping list and floor plan so you can do your own purchasing and installation. If you're tight on time, you can have your decorator manage the purchasing and installation for you. Some decorators will charge a commission on anything you buy through them. Make sure to ask upfront about commission on purchasing and consider that when estimating your design fee.

So if you're looking for the full monty, you should expect to pay $3000 - $ 6000 in design fees. If that doesn't fit your budget, don't get discouraged, you can still work with a decorator.

Just Design

One of the quickest ways to trim down your design fee is to do your own purchasing and installation. Have your decorator give you a shopping list and a floor plan. Looking for trade pieces? Your decorator will need to order those for you. But you can purchase items from retail stores like Pottery Barn, West Elm, Restoration Hardware or any of your favorite stores. When everything arrives, follow your decorator's plans to put it all in place. This can trim your design time significantly. For 20 to 25 hours, you'll have a complete design for your room. If you work this way, you likely get your decorator to give you a flat fee price for the space.

Why should you hire a decorator? Redecorating an entire room is a big investment. A sofa alone averages $2000. Hiring a decorator can save you time, keep you from going over your budget and leave you with quality pieces that match your style and fit your home's proportions.

Have any questions about budget, let me know!

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