Is it Worth it to Hire an Interior Designer?

Designers can help in a number of ways. Are you at a loss on where to start? Looking for a little help to pull a space together? Or are you renovating to add function and value to your home

There’s a misconception that interior designers are only for the rich and famous. But, in all likelihood, there’s a designer out there who can help you within your budget. Whether you’re doing a small facelift or massive overhaul, let’s discuss how an interior designer could save you time and money. We'll also give you some alternatives to hiring a designer.

What value does an interior designer provide?

Expertise

Design professionals understand scale, proportion, harmony, and more. They can bring style and cohesion to your home. And investing in a designer upfront can help you avoid costly mistakes, like choosing clashing or disproportionate pieces, picking the wrong paint color, or hiring an unreliable contractor. A designer with experience will guide you through the process, help you avoid pitfalls, make decisions easier, and even limit the decisions you have to make—if you prefer it that way. 

Access

Professional designers have access to materials and products that the general public doesn’t. They have a pulse on where to find certain styles and one of a kind items, and they have time to research products, brands, and prices. This access can save you time and money as well as bring a unique look to your home.

Connections

An experienced interior designer will know which local companies and contractors are reliable and affordable. A designer who can help you coordinate remodeling work will eliminate the research, calls, and wrangling that comes with finding the expertise to tackle your construction product.

What should I look for in a designer?

Interior designer or decorator

Many wonder what the difference is between an interior designer and an interior decorator. The short answer is that an interior designer has formal training in the science of art and design, while an interior decorator may have some training but no formal degree. Interior designers often work with architects and contractors during renovations and structural planning as well as design aesthetics, while decorators typically focus on the latter.

We’d argue that while these distinctions can be helpful, it’s best to research the skills and style of the professional. Some designers really do stand out, but in other cases, self-taught decorators can do just as much.

Budget sense

Some designers charge by the hour and others a flat fee based on the size of the project. Pricing can vary widely, but you can expect to spend around $100 an hour. Be upfront about your budget and communicate your expectations. Look for a designer who’s comfortable with the amount of money you'd like to spend and clear about how and what they can deliver within your budget.

Style

Make sure the designer’s style meshes with the look and feel you’re going for. Check out their website, review their portfolio, and ask them questions about how they can achieve the style that speaks to you. Many designers can achieve any number of aesthetics, but they often have a signature look. It’s important to work with someone whose first priority is pinpointing your wants and needs rather than pushing their style on you.

Referrals

Ask for referrals from friends and family. You can also check with the designer for references. The best referrals come from people who have worked with the designer. They’ll have perspective on the designer’s communication, follow-through, respect for your opinions, quality of work, and so on.

Alternatives to hiring a designer

If you're tackling a smaller design project or you’re trying to save every last penny, here are some alternatives to hiring a designer.

Design interns

Seek out contacts from a nearby design school. Interior design students may be willing to work for free or at reduced rates. They’re typically eager to get hands-on opportunities as well as build their portfolio and referral list.

Retail stores

If you have a favorite store or a specific furniture piece in mind, explore if the store has experts on staff who offer design services. Many stores provide complementary services, particularly if you make a purchase.

Online design services

New online design packages are popping up every day. Some offer free consults, others create design proposals, floor plans, shopping lists, and instructions for setting everything up. If you've never worked with a designer, this is a relatively easy place to start. Check out these online comparisons.  

Get direction 

Your situation may not call for several hours of a designer's time. Consider doing a paint consult to establish a color scheme. Or focus on an area of your house (or yard) and ask for ideas. From there, you'll have a punch list to work from and you can prioritize on your own time and within your budget.