How much does an Interior Designer cost?

How much does an interior designer cost in Portland, Oregon you might ask? How do they charge and what can you expect from the relationship?

Initial Consultation: Your initial consultation with an interior designer is a method for both of you to determine if the interior designer is the right fit for your project. Some designers charge for initial consultations, some do not. In that appointment your interior designer will discuss with you your preferences, the scope of your project, and what you want to achieve. Some clients aren’t sure how to articulate their taste or preferences. Your designer can help you by asking questions, taking cues from pieces you enjoy in your home, and also by sharing photos and getting your input. A successful interior designer is a good listener, and can learn a lot by these three methods. During this initial consultation, the interior designer will likely ask about the amount you would like to invest in the room. You might have a very specific number or not know. Some clients find this question daunting and don’t know how much things cost – for example in a home remodeling project. Your designer can help you with investment ranges to give you an idea of costs. In a build, remodeling or decorating project, good design can be achieved at many budget levels, so your interior designer may ask you questions about where you typically shop and what surfaces and style appeal to you to get an idea of the quality of pieces that are important to you.

Initial Consultations: What to expect from Angela Todd Designs

We do charge for initial consultations and I have found our clients don’t mind. We have found that doing so allow us to relax in the first appointment, roll our sleeves up right away and discuss detailed ways to address what our clients want to achieve. We have also found our full schedule does not allow us to buzz around Portland, Oregon offering complimentary interior design consultations, while our existing clients aren’t getting serviced to the extent they deserve.

Some residential and commercial interior designers ask clients to place a retainer upon signing an agreement for design services. The deposit/retainer is generally an up-front fee intended to cover costs during the planning stage of the project. When the job is completed, the retainer fees are sometimes absorbed by the design firm and deposits are deducted from fees incurred during the project.

Deposits/Retainers: What to expect from Angela Todd Designs
Deposits are part of our design agreement with our clients. We have designed our agreement so that the retainer covers the last few invoices, or part of the purchases to be made by the client.

How interior designers charge for services and products?

Interior designers charge in a variety of ways, and some design firms may use several of these methods depending on the project.

Fee Based (Set Price)
After evaluating all aspects of the interior design project at the initial consultation including expected hours of work, square footage, materials needed, and your desires – the interior designer determines a lump sum for the design portion of the project. If your accept the agreement, the amount is paid in increments as phases or benchmarks are completed, items are received and delivered, and/or services are rendered.

Square Foot Based (Set Price)
This method is most often used for larger build or commercial projects. It can be a bit tricky for the novice interior designer, because interiors with the same square footage may have completely different time needs. For example, while one homeowner or business owner may want a minimalist look, another homeowner or business owner of the same size could be going for a complex mix of styles that require custom finishes, cabinetry and tile work. In those cases the interior designer places a higher square footage cost on projects that require more creativity, sourcing, and planning.

By the Hour
In this model, the designer assists the client in exchange for their hourly rate. From my experience, interior designers in Portland, Oregon range from $75 to $175 an hour. This range generally depends on the interior design professional’s level of expertise and their demand for service. I find that when selecting an interior design professional evaluating solely on their hourly rate can be short sided. What if a less expensive hourly rate interior designer lacks the ability to translate your essence into visual form, takes several revisions to get your style down, lacks resources, and/or takes more time researching options? Interior designers abilities are not all created equally. Designers at the top end of the range or the bottom of the range likely have reasons for charging that way. Designers under the rate range mentioned above might not have the experience or vendor connections you need for your project, and designers higher than the hourly mentioned might come at a premium due to their experience or popularity. When selecting your designer, think about other criteria as well. Do you have open dialogue? Does he or she “get” you and your lifestyle. Does he or she listen well? Do they have experience in both large and small projects, large and small budget investments, and does their portfolio show variety?

Cost versus Retail AND Cost Plus
If you haven’t worked with an interior designer before you may not know that interior designers do have trade accounts with some of their vendors, essentially offering them a price below retail pricing. Some interior designers pass this on to their clients with a fee upfront to partake in the savings. I know several interior designers in Portland that offer their cost savings to clients, plus a specified percentage on the discount. (20% – 30% is a common average I see here locally in the Portland area for designers that charge in this way. Keep in mind in this scenario the interior designer will also charge this percentage on items they purchase through retail pricing.) The third way interior designers may charge in this scenario is “you pay retail, and sometimes less depending on the trade discount and volume.”

This is common in retail showrooms that hire interior designers and decorators – or with interior design business owners that own a retail store that sells furnishings and accessories. Here in Portland, Oregon you can find these interior designers at furniture showrooms like Parker Furniture, Ethan Allen and Paul Schatz Furniture. The interior design fee is essentially paid by the retail showroom that employs the interior designer. The interior designer’s commission is paid by what they sell to clients. Working with a designer in this category can work well, particularly if you work with a furniture showroom with a good variety of manufactures and styles. The drawback can be that it is very unlikely an employed designers will recommend outside of what their showroom sells – but again if you select a showroom with a large amount of manufacturers it can be a good experience. These designers sometimes lack resources in construction, window treatments, artwork and custom pieces made by local artisans. Keep in mind also that any independent interior designer can work with you at these showrooms. Each of the stores mentioned above have outside interior designer programs and they welcome independent designers in the area to use their showrooms with their clients.

How interior designers charge for services and products: What to expect from Angela Todd Designs

Our Hourly Pricing

Our interior design firm works by the hour. As the principal interior designer, my rate is $165 an hour, and our associate designers are $125 an hour. We charge less hourly for renderings, and some project management and scheduling are not billable to our clients through the administrative side of our design firm. We know our clients like to have an idea of the design investment in their projects, so based on our experience with similar projects and clientele we provide an range of estimated hours the project will entail. In our firm each member of our team has a daily time log where they record their time by client, task, and a description of the work performed. All of these billing and non-billing activities are recorded and given to our clients with their invoicing every two weeks.

Our Pricing Philosophy

What about our thoughts regarding cost versus retail pricing you might ask? Here I am writing this blog thinking, are my interior design peers going to kill me for posting such an honest blog about cost versus retail? Let me be perfectly honest. I don’t agree with offering to the trade pricing and wholesale pricing to my clients. In some cases doing so would violate the terms of my manufacturer accounts. Manufacturers have their dealers and designers agree to these terms because sharing such information could potentially hurt other retailers. Angela Todd Designs charges a fair price, sometimes at retail, sometimes similar to a store sale price. If wanting to find a designer that passes on trade pricing means you opt to select another design professional to help with your project other than our firm, that is okay too.

We are in business to create stunning interiors for our clients and to exceed their expectations of value and service. Our pricing is not inexpensive, nor is it extremely high in price. We know you don’t have to employ a designer to remodel, build, or decorate your home. We know we are not for everyone and that is okay. We make a living at understanding our clients and presenting their vision in physical form. Our finished spaces are anything but average. We provide an exceptional value.

We offer ideas for materials and pieces that aren’t readily known or available in the marketplace. A tremendous amount of time and resources are spent keeping our design library and minds abreast of the best options for our clients. We travel each year to market and builder shows to stay abreast of the latest and greatest for all kinds of client projects. We invest in opening accounts, samples, and staying educated. When a client wants a look that is outside of their budget, we know alternatives with the same characteristics at a fraction of the cost. From our vast commitment to our craft, we know what questions to ask our clients to help them pick the best pieces (for them) in quality, durability, comfort and personal preferences. We know where to find just about anything, and if we don’t know, we know people who do.

Most of all we are artists. We know how to mix the right elements to create your vision. We may pair less expensive items with moderate pieces, and we know when one exceptional piece will create an impactful, amazing design in your home. You probably have some pieces from family or your travels that you want to highlight in your space. We know how to bring these pieces to life with a story.

Our Service

We take responsibility for our clients purchases through service based design. My goal is to have a keener eye than my clients when it comes to overall design, craftsmanship, errors and defects. I am a stickler for details and so are all members of my team. Each item selected for your home is weighed with the overall picture of your finished space. We pay attention to the millwork, the finishes, the textures, and the emphasis. After installation, or sometimes when we receive your item at our receiver, we may find a colored string in the band of your lamp shade and it will be replaced, a scratch on the leg of your new furniture piece and it will be repaired, or tile setting that isn’t straight and a blemish on your smooth walls that will be corrected. Our contractors and general contractors have the same philosophy, but that is another blog altogether.

In addition, we have a lot of behind the scene time investment that you will probably never know about. We absorb problems so you can have a worry free, fun experience. When a fabric is discontinued that you have approved, furniture isn’t manufactured properly, the wrong carpet was shipped at the order desk, a cabinet door has a defect, handmade tiles are installed with color way differences that are unacceptable, or a handmade area rug is damaged in shipment – we take care of the issue for you. I have won clients over by finding goods that were “discontinued” somewhere else in the marketplace, or found someone to make said product. We may have several visits and phone calls with a manufacturer, and we may visit your home with a tradesperson to make sure your expectations are met. It wouldn’t be ethical in my opinion to bill a client for this time because the hiccups (which inevitably happen at least once on a project) aren’t the client’s responsibility. Each of these examples above came from clients that rave about us, have sent referrals, and hired us for additional home and business projects. What my father tells me appears to be true, “When you do business with someone, you get to know their quality and ethics most by how they handle your problem.” Our client relationships are paramount to us. You can count on us to take care of issues for you sometimes even before you know about the issue at hand.

I know there may be a number of people reading this blog post who want an online deal or want to negotiate better pricing for hourly design rates or goods. That is okay, we understand we are not for everyone. Clients that value us want quality, an excellent knowledge base, great service, and a fond memorable experience. I hope the following reads like I mean it. We are not inexpensive, but we are worth it.

It warms my heart when I have clients tell me how much they love their spaces and that our interior design services were a great value to their project. To be honest, I am just softy when it comes to making people happy. Creating exceptional spaces for a diverse group of clients that reflect their personal, unique style is simply why I wouldn’t want to do anything else for a living.

Angela Todd is the principal designer for Angela Todd Designs, an interior design house based in Portland, Oregon. Learn more Angela here.

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Angela Todd

Owner & Principal Designer

Angela is the principal designer at her boutique interior design firm in Portland, Oregon. She is known for creating memorable backdrops that tell the story of fascinating and intricate lives.

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