Putting a room (or an entire house) together takes energy and talent. After all, there are many decisions to be made about color, finishes, size, scale, focal points, room layout, and more. Not everyone is made to make such decisions. Honestly, it can be overwhelming.
Luckily, interior designers are trained to transform spaces—and thereby take the guesswork out of home design. Colleen Primm of Colleen Primm Design, a Cleveland-based company, explains, “Interior designers can create the feel in a space that the client is looking for but don’t know how to create themselves.”
Let’s look at what interior designers do, what they cost, and how they can work with you.
What is an interior designer?
An interior designer is a professional trained in creating a harmonious, functional space within a building. Interior designers often specialize in a specific area, such as B. residential (houses), commercial (shops) or hospitality (hotels). In the residential sector, some specialize even further, in kitchens/bathrooms or (more popular as the population ages) conversions for the elderly.
The typical process begins with a meeting. Most designers present their portfolios so you can see photos of previous projects. The portfolio should give you a good idea of their style and attention to detail. If you like what you see, you can proceed to discuss your goals, budget, and needs.
After viewing your home or the site where your new home will be, the designer can use your preferences to sketch out what the final product might look like. Or they create panels (literally physical or 3D computer renderings) with many of the key elements of the room or rooms, like colors and themes; material and fabric samples; Lighting; floor, ceiling and wall coverings; and fixtures. They will usually propose a budget and contract detailing their services.
Once you have approved the design of the room, the interior designer will source the items needed for the room such as furniture and accessories. In some cases, an interior designer may go shopping with you to help you select items and/or act as a project manager overseeing the work of contractors.
education and training
Interior designers are required to earn at least an associate’s degree from an accredited school, but many earn a bachelor’s degree (BFA or BS) in interior design or even architecture. Some of the required courses may include drafting, lighting design, architecture, environmental science, professional practice, and computer drawing. Some of the more respected institutions, like the New York School of Interior Design, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the Rhode Island School of Design, specialize but also offer liberal arts education.
As the Bureau of Labor Statistics states, interior designers must be able to draw, read, and edit plans. They must also be familiar with national and local building codes, inspection regulations, and accessibility standards.
Because they deal with construction, electrical work, and plumbing, interior designers must be state sanctioned, and each state has its own licensing or certification requirements. Most states that require credentials require designers to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam.
In addition to the NCIDQ certification, reputable interior designers often have other credentials. Look for these initials by their names:
- American Lighting Specialist (ALA)
- Council for the Accreditation of Interior Design (CIDA)
- Continuing Education Council for Interior Design (IDCEC)
How do interior designers calculate?
Interior designers typically charge for their services in one of three ways:
- Hourly or monthly. Prices usually range from $50 to $200 per hour but can go as high as $500.
- Project flat rate, depending on the room or the scope of the order. Typical range: $200 to $2,000, although it could go as high as $12,000.
- A percentage based on the total cost of construction, items purchased, and services, ranging anywhere from 10% to 40%.
What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior designer?
There is obviously some overlap between the two professions. Interior designers provide decorating services, and many interior designers confusingly refer to themselves as designers.
The main difference: An interior designer usually has a higher education than a decorator. Decorating is just one aspect of a design project – interior designers are capable of furnishing a space, but also (at least in theory) designing and creating its internal structure and structure. In contrast, a decorator is not certified to design a space. They deal with setup, but not fundamental changes. They could suggest structural changes, but are not qualified to carry them out.
For example, a decorator could help you remodel your bathroom – swap out fixtures, redo walls or floors, add new accessories. A designer would be in demand if you want to dramatically enlarge the bathroom, add a separate shower, or change the placement of the bath, toilet, or sink.
If you just need a little help choosing a few accents or pieces of furniture, or developing a color theme, an interior designer can help. But if the project is larger and involves a major renovation (or new construction), space planning, and coordination with an architect and contractor, a certified interior designer is the best option.
Cooperation with an interior designer
When choosing an interior designer, ask for recommendations from previous clients. Check out the designer’s education and certifications, as well as images of spaces and projects they’ve completed in the past.
Interior designer Courtney Wollersheim of Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin-based firm FLOOR360 recommends, “Find out how the designers charge—is it a monthly fee or an hourly rate? Also, ask if they charge for the products or materials purchased for your project. If you are on a budget, the designer may offer a flat rate package that suits your needs.”
Wollersheim adds: “Ask for a detailed description of their services.” And put everything in writing to avoid misunderstandings.
Communication is key when working with an interior designer, especially when it comes to planning the project. Choose a designer who listens to your preferences and understands what you are looking for. Remember that at the end of the day you have to live with the end product. If you’re uncomfortable voicing your opinions or being pushed into a design that doesn’t fit your budget or style, you’re probably better off with another designer.
When do you need an interior designer?
If you need help putting a room together, coordinating different spaces, or choosing the right finishes for your home, an interior designer is ideal. If you’re working with an awkward space and are struggling to envision the best layout or flow of your home, an interior designer may have new room planning ideas that work. They can also help you avoid the costly mistake of making the wrong choice when it comes to flooring, paint or furniture.
“Interior designers are hired to spend a client’s money wisely by telling them where to spend their money and where to save,” notes Primm. Additionally, they understand design styles well enough to ensure your space will stand the test of time.
Working with an interior designer comes with a cost, but it can be rewarding. The designer is there to guide you in the decisions needed to create the most functional and aesthetically pleasing space or home possible. But always remember: It is your dream. You just make it come true.