I am constantly asked by friends, family and relatively new acquaintances what my services cost. I always return with, “Well, what does a car cost?” Cars come in all shapes, sizes and price points. So does interior design. A color consult will cost less than a kitchen design. Each client has a need and an expectation, and it’s my job to give them the best value for their dollar.
There are two aspects to the cost of interior design: time and product. Let’s start with the cost of the designer; this will vary with education, expertise and demand. A seasoned designer will charge more per hour because they are good at what they do, and they can usually pull together a project more efficiently than a new designer. The designer must be looked upon as a value to the project. Just think, the client probably would never have thought to put together the color/decor combinations that the designer does. Her eye, vision, talent and, most of all, experience all come at a price.
Now, with that price needs to come a layer of trust. I always tell my clients, “The quicker you trust me, the more money you save!” There are clients you present to who tell you to “go for it”; and then there are clients who need to see every possibility before they finalize the choice. When I first meet a client, I do not know what category they fall into, so it is difficult for me to tell someone how much time I am going to spend on their project. That is why I always ask my client what their budget is before we get started. This way I can estimate how much time we CAN spend and still get a room together that the client will enjoy.
With that budget comes the discussion of the Design Triangle. This is a great visual tool that has helped me show clients how to think of interior design. There are three factors when approaching a project: cost, quality and quantity. Pick two, and the third will follow.
- If the client has $20,000 and wants high quality for a living room, then that will limit the quantity of items you can buy for that client (because the budget will limit you).
- But if you have a large need for items and high-quality design, then the budget will need to be higher.
- If the client has $20,000 limit and you need a lot of items to complete several rooms, then you will probably have to pick a lesser-quality product to fulfill that need.
I recently met with a client who wanted only high-end cabinetry in her kitchen but had a $40,000 budget. She looked to me to come up with a miracle, but the choice lay only in her hands. I showed her the Triangle diagram and explained that she could up her budget and get exactly what she wanted (the super high-end cabinetry and larger kitchen), or go with a lesser quality cabinet and the larger kitchen, or if she wanted the highest quality then she had to radically minimize the scope of her project. In the end, the budget could not move and the cabinets had to be high quality, so she chose to keep the size of her kitchen small.
Interior design can come at all different price points, and it is up to the consumer to decide if that price point works for them. As with most things, the cheapest isn’t always a value, and the most expensive isn’t always the best. One of the most valuable services you can provide your client is to help them understand the choices they have and how those choices will impact the final result.