Earlier this month, I posted a quick guide to the questions you should ask when hiring your interior designer. Since then, I’ve received a lot of great feedback and even more questions about the process. One query in particular springs up more than others: are interior design costs really worth it?

My answer to that is a resounding “yes!” And I say this not only as a designer, but as someone who has renovated a couple of my own homes. For most of us, we approach a redesign for a few key reasons:

  • Improved flow (e.g., an open-concept first floor)
  • Upgraded function (e.g., a finished basement for the kids)
  • Better aesthetics (e.g., installing custom woodwork or mosaic tile)
  • Authenticity (e.g., a home customized to your personality and comfort)

An interior designer will help you achieve all of these, while at the same time helping you increase the resale value of your home. A true win/win if those are your goals. Below, I’ll go into detail on the reasons why interior design is worth the investment, its costs, and the benefits of working with a designer. Plus, I’ll give some online options perfect for smaller projects. 

Letecia Haywood, Laura Umansky, and Melissa Grove from Laura U

What is the Cost of Hiring an Interior Designer?

When you decide to hire an interior designer, it’s important to first understand how they charge for their services. There are four common types of interior design cost structures designers use.

  • Cost Plus– Designers use this structure when they’re purchasing products for their clients. The client’s bill includes the items purchased plus the designer’s service fee. For the sake of easy numbers, let’s say the cost of a chair is $1,000 and the designer’s markup is 50%. The total cost to the client would then be $1,500. This is also called markup pricing.
  • Fixed Rate – This single amount charged to the client covers the amount of design time utilized during the project. This pricing typically does not include furnishings or architectural work. Let’s say you are looking for some help selecting a color palette for your home. If your designer charges a fixed rate of $500 for this service, that is the amount you will pay.
  • Hourly Rate – Most firms will charge an hourly rate for the time designers spend working on the project. This includes inspiration meetings, time spent sourcing or shopping for furniture, and on-site visits. Let’s say your designer charges $150 per hour and you have a design meeting last 2 hours. You can expect to pay $300 total.
  • By the Square Foot – This cost structure charges clients a flat rate based on the size of the property, and is common in new construction projects. Let’s say your build team charges $100 per square foot. For a 2,000 sq. ft. home, that comes to $200,000.

From there, costs are dependent on your type of project. A color consultation will be most likely an hourly rate, while a full-scale renovation will take into account the hourly rate of the design work, plus the square footage costs for build out and the cost plus fees for any furnishings and finishes selected by your design team. This is why costs vary so widely.

Considering furnishings, timing is a key factor. That dining table may be $3,500 today, but next year (when different taxes and tariffs come into effect), that same table may be $4,000. In the same vein, the types of furnishings you select, whether you’re going to a retail store, working with a trade-only vendor, or seeking antiques will have a huge impact on your final costs.

Also, your home’s location plays a big role too. For example, the average costs (these are hourly costs, not including furnishings or finishes) of an interior designer in Los Angeles is about $130 per hour. While the average cost of an interior designer in Austin, TX is about $89.

North Boulevard Before and After

Considering the Benefits of Interior Design 

We encourage you to think about the project as a whole. How much time will you devote to managing the project? How much effort will be needed on your part to communicate between builders, architects, and movers? And the biggest, question of all, how much will you need to invest? Taking it from that holistic standpoint, you may find that outsourcing these tasks to a professional is well worth it. A professional interior designer takes the guesswork out of the perfect design by handling all aspects of the project from start to finish. Not only that, an interior designer will save you time, money, and energy in the long run. And that’s at any budget.

1 – Budget Savings

With our experience in project management and knowledge of product costs, interior designers help you create the right budget from the very beginning. Setting clear expectations is the starting point to design success. You may find out that you were budgeting far too much or alternatively, far too little. That initial consultation may save you from heading toward a project you aren’t ready to approach. On the other hand, an interior designer will keep your actual costs from spiraling out of control. Being certain from the start is crucial.

If you are moving forward with a design, working with an interior designer can actually save you money. As our client, you will receive insider access to the interior design world. We have trade discounts, partners in moving and shipping, and the inside scoop on material costs that we share with you. With exclusive access to certain vendors, an interior designer will give you reduced pricing on items you won’t find in a retail environment. In the luxury space, where we practice, we help our clients know when to splurge on that exceptional piece for the room. We bring these pieces to you and make recommendations. If we’re out of budget, we know who to recommend you to that is IN your budget. This saves you money and ensures you’re working with the interior designer best suited to bring your interior design dreams to life.

An open living and kitchen in a condo in Houston, with a jewel-toned color palette.

2 – Optimizing Your Time

Time is a big factor in any interior design project. Depending on the size and scope, it can take anywhere from a few months to years to complete. Our projects can take 6 months (furnishings only) or they can take 2 years (new construction). It’s a big time investment! And our clients are busy. They own businesses, love to travel, have families, and frequently entertain. (Just like I do!) We handle the entire process for them, so they can focus on the other things happening in their lives. Having a professional manage your interior design project saves you time because you’re not working on it.

3 – The Benefit of a Liaison

One of the biggest challenges of a new construction or renovation project is communication. If we’re working on a new construction or renovation, we liaise with the build team and architect for you. You don’t have to worry about things falling through the cracks or wonder if information is being communicated to the right people. Having your interior designer be in control and be the “go-to” person allows problems to be caught before they turn into costly mistakes. We work to address any issues quickly and efficiently which helps to keep the project on track. Being able to cut down on labor costs and prevent mistakes saves money and ensures you don’t go over budget.

Reba residence before and after

4 – Improved Home Value

The #1 outcome of a design project is the happiness you will feel in your beautiful new home. You can’t really put a price on the enjoyment of a refreshed space that perfectly reflects who you are and supports your lifestyle. Secondarily, you will experience an uptick in your home’s value…as long as you’re making smart updates. Home additions generally project the biggest return on investment, as well as bathroom and kitchen remodels. According to HGTV, these are the top home projects in terms of resale value:

Average ROI of a minor kitchen remodel in the US: around 90%

Average ROI of a bath remodel in the US: 100%+

Average ROI of a new roof in the US: 80%

And if you’re looking for a quick way to recoup nearly all of your investment, consider updating your garage door. On average, a homeowner can expect a 97% return on this upgrade.

An interior designer will guide you in making the right upgrades if ROI is your main goal. Knowing the market is essential here. When your home is up for resale, it’s important that the updates you’ve made fit into the comparable upgrades of the neighborhood.

Interior Design Costs at Laura U

We specialize in full-service, full-home interior design for new construction and large-scale renovation projects. The process starts with a discovery session to uncover and summarize your design needs. We’ll talk about all the details like:

  • The size of your home
  • The type of project
  • Where the project is located
  • Your preferred design style
  • Project timing

Next, we offer up a budget. Overall, our projects are typically $100,000 per 1,000 square feet of space. If we’re only assisting with the furnishings, we recommend a minimum furnishings budget of $200,000. At any given time, we could have a client with a $200,000 budget and one with a budget of $1million+. It really depends on the size of the home and the project scope. Based on the budget we develop, we’ll share past projects that are similar in size to give you an idea of what to expect at that price point. If need be, we can also do a site walk-through. This is one of the best parts of my job. I’m able to assess the current structure of the home, inside and out. I’ll point out to you all the potential of your new home!

Working with an Online Interior Design Service

Online design services are great options for smaller projects and quick design help. As a turnkey service, Laura U does not offer broad consultations, but there are great services that do! And they are affordable. Here’s what you need to know about the most popular online design services:

Decorist

Decorist is wonderful because this platform allows you to work with a high-profile designer on a smaller budget! You choose what space you want designed, provide the necessary details, and submit inspirational photos. Then you’re matched with a designer who provides you with two design concepts. Once you’ve submitted your feedback, they’ll send you the final design and a list of everything you need to bring your design to life. With this design service, you can have your new design in as little as two weeks. You’ll be given a shopping list and can order your furnishings from multiple retailers in one shopping cart. Talk about convenient!

Havenly

If you want a quick consultation or to design a room from scratch, Havenly can help. They offer three different services to give you the design assistance you need. You start the process by uploading photos of your room and completing a survey about your personal style. Then a designer will schedule a meeting to talk more about your style and what you’re looking for. Five business days later, you’ll be sent two design concepts. After revisions, the designer will send you the final design and you can start shopping! All the items in the design are put into your shopping cart and then you decide which ones you want to buy. Once you make your decision, their team places the order and sets up the delivery. Having someone help coordinate the installation logistics is super helpful! I recommend this service for many of our potential clients with smaller projects.

Homepolish

Choosing to use an online design service doesn’t mean you can’t be hands-on during the process. Homepolish connects you with designers who provide custom design proposals. Once you’ve submitted your project details, you’ll chat with a designer who will give you ideas on the best design for your space. When you have a final design, their team will place your order. Plus, they can recommend any necessary contractors you might need. They also offer additional services for clients doing full construction projects.

Modsy

Envisioning what furnishings will look like in your home can be a challenge. With Modsy, you get two design plans of your actual room in 3D. All you have to do is upload images of the room, provide the measurements, and take a style quiz. Then viola, your design is complete! I love that you get an unlimited number of design revisions. And you can purchase exactly what you need in one place.

Interior Designers Are Worth The Investment

Yes, there are interior design costs, but there is also great value in working with a designer. Our insight into the construction process will help keep your project on time and on track. We refine your vision, source all the furnishings and accessories, and manage all the details. Their knowledge about where to source the perfect furnishings for your home saves you time and money. They streamline the process and allow you to make the most of your budget. Interior design, as we practice it at Laura U, is a true luxury. We custom design furnishings, assist with construction drawings, and handle the entire process from start to finish. The human hand is present throughout the process, creating a unique interior that reflects who you are and how you live. While we work in the luxury residential space at Laura U, there are designers at EVERY budget. Whether you use an online design service or work one-on-one with a designer, the cost of hiring an interior designer is worth it.

Interior Design Costs and Return On Investment