How Interior Designers Charge for Their Services

As a seasoned interior designer, I am often asked about my pricing structure. After discussing the topic with other industry professionals, I’ve learned that this is a popular question among my peers as well. With that said, I think it would be beneficial to delve deeper into the topic and share valuable behind-the-scenes insights.

There are generally two types of design fee structures that interior designers utilize: an hourly rate and a flat fee. Each option comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and ultimately, it’s up to the designer to determine which to use with their clients. So which is better? Which do we use? And how does our choice benefit you?

Let’s dive right in.

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Design Fee Structure: Flat Fee

Many designers opt for a flat fee pricing structure. In general, this approach tends to work best for larger, more involved projects. I’ve also noticed that newer designers will start with an hourly model and then switch to a flat fee model once they’re more experienced. In other cases, designers may use a flat fee for only a specific portion of the overall project. (More on this to come.)

The Benefits

A Defined Investment: As a client, the benefit of being charged on a flat fee model is that you will know precisely how much the design phase will cost and can plan ahead. (Assuming, of course, that you stay within the scope of the project.) This can be especially reassuring given the unexpected and often unpleasant issues that naturally arise when renovating or building. 

No Monthly Invoices: That’s right, there is no need to worry about varying totals of monthly invoices. With a flat fee structure, you know the total investment upfront, allowing you to allocate funds and plan wisely. This means your monthly finances won’t be disrupted by unexpected charges or fluctuations in billing.

The Designer is Involved: With this fee structure, your designer is likely to be involved in all meetings where important decisions are made. By contrast, you may think twice about inviting your designer to a meeting when you know that they’re “on the clock”. However, including your designer in these conversations is valuable as we are able to provide input and insights that help allocate your total project investment wisely.

Drawbacks

Your Investment May Change: While a flat fee structure provides a clear and defined total for your design phase, it’s important to note that any adjustments to the scope of your project may incur additional charges. Fortunately, clarity can help. Your designer should clearly define what is within scope (before your project begins) and notify you when you may be making a decision that falls outside of it. 

One Sizeable Payment: There’s no denying that embarking on a major home renovation or a new home build is a significant investment. When your designer charges a flat fee for their services, you should expect and be prepared to receive one substantial invoice. Depending on your expectations, this may actually feel more significant than smaller monthly invoices would.

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Design Fee Structure: Hourly

From a designer’s standpoint, charging hourly for services can be simpler than using a flat fee structure. They get paid appropriately for all time spent on the project. As I mentioned before, this is why many new designers opt for an hourly fee structure… but this isn’t always the case. For smaller projects, charging hourly may also be the most straightforward and suitable option for both the client and the designer. Here’s why…

Benefits

The Hourly Rate is Known: In Canada, designers charge between $150-$600 per hour, depending on their experience. When you hire a designer who uses an hourly fee structure, they will share their rate with you, so you know what to expect in terms of the time and cost involved in your project. This can be particularly useful if you have a smaller project, as hourly rates allow you to pay for services on an as-needed basis.

Time is Used More Efficiently: Let’s be honest, when you know that you’ll receive an invoice accounting for every minute you spend with your designer, you’re less likely to waste time with indecision and repeated questions. Instead, you’ll likely have those thoughtful conversations with family members before meeting with your designer, and go into your meetings fully prepared with decisions already made. 

Smaller Monthly Payments: While the exact totals may vary from invoice to invoice, spreading out your overall investment into smaller monthly payments often feels more manageable. 

Drawbacks

Efficiency Among Designers Varies: As a creative and individual process, it’s impossible to pinpoint an exact number of hours a given task should take. While an experienced designer (with a higher rate) may complete a task in a few hours, a less experienced designer (with a lower rate) may require more time. 

Designers Do More Than You Think: Most people don’t realize the amount of tasks designers actually take on behind the scenes. You can expect your invoice to reflect your designer’s time spent on a wide variety of tasks, including communication with you, site visits, material selection, ordering, creating presentations, and much more. 

Hourly Tracking Can Create Tension: If your designer charges by the hour, you may start to feel like every minute of every meeting, phone call, and site visit is being tracked. This can make it difficult to enjoy the design process, which could potentially lead to unnecessary stress and tension.

Estimates are Not Set in Stone: Your designer will likely give you estimates for how much time a project will take, but keep in mind that there can always be unexpected variables that impact the actual design time. It’s wise not to rely too heavily on initial estimates and to be prepared for adjustments.

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What Fee Structure Do We Use? It Depends

As you can see, each fee structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, which is why we don’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach to every project. Each project is unique in size and scope, which, in my experience, requires a flexible fee structure. Here’s how we charge for our design services:

For Small Projects: We use an hourly fee structure. When a project is small enough that we can accurately predict how much time each component of our design phase will take, we feel confident giving you a precise estimated range. Then, you can confidently plan your investment accordingly. We ensure transparency throughout the design phase, keeping you informed of the time invested and how it was spent.

For Larger Projects: We use a hybrid fee structure that combines a flat fee for the design phase and hourly charges for project management and implementation. We understand the importance of careful planning and thoughtful design in large-scale renovations or new builds, and we don’t want to rush this critical phase. 

With large projects, the flat fee structure ensures that the design phase receives the time it deserves to create the elevated home you’ve envisioned. Then, when your project transitions from the creative process to management and implementation, the hourly fee structure is a better fit for the tasks at hand, accounting for exactly what you need, no more, no less.

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Fee Structures Revealed

And there you have it — a detailed look into the different ways designers charge for their services. It’s always wise to consider all the benefits and drawbacks of the fee structure that your potential designer uses and weigh them with your project’s specific scope and unique needs.

If you’re considering a home project, whether it’s large or small, our fee structures are thoughtfully designed to give you the best possible outcome for your overall investment. Reach out to us here, and let’s discuss your goals.

Cheers,

Maria

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