Velinda here, with part II of our “Inside The Design Process” post. And apparently I’m supposed to tell you how you can get away with paying your designer less…
Turns out, there’s no way of paying a designer less! The End.
Fiiiiineee. I get it, truly. I’ve never been able to afford a designer either, WHICH is sorta why I became one by default. As we discussed in the last post, full service interior design can be an unaffordable service for many and it is truly a luxury commodity. On the other hand, if you’re diving into a major makeover there are a few good reasons ($$$) why your budget could actually benefit from hiring a designer. But we’ll get to those in a little bit…
Throwing back to Part I of this post, you’re easily looking at $4 – 6K for a single room makeover if you’re working with a designer. And that likely doesn’t cover any major renovations or the actual purchase of pieces. It can quickly add up to be what the pros call “a wad of cash,” but many designers are actually willing to find ways of working with you, if you seem like a lovely client. So let’s talk about what you can do to work with a pro while getting away with paying less (guys, are we sure this post is necessary? FINE).
Six Ways To Save Money When Working With A Designer
First, six money saving tips. Contracts with some designers may limit these options, but knowing they exist can help open a conversation!
1. Make Your Own Purchases
Once the sourcing is done the time it takes to purchase all those items can add up quickly. If your designer can stop at sourcing (including determining sizing for something like a rug) and then hand the list off to you for purchasing you could save hundreds. If you want custom or to-the-trade, you may need your designer to handle the purchasing. But, unless a contract with your designer states that you must allow them to handle all of the purchasing, there’s nothing stopping you from doing the big box store ordering on your own time. There are a few limitations to this strategy, one of them being that you might loose out on any potential to-the-trade-only discounts your designer may be able to get you, even if they are charging a commission on purchasing.
2. Cut Down On The Custom Pieces
Besides being potentially expensive to build, anything custom takes time to design. Sometimes, a lot of time. If dollars are tight, ask your designer to work with already-fabricated pieces or big-box store items only. If there’s anyway to squeeze it though, let your designer get original somewhere. You’ve got a designer on hand, so why settle for builder-grade only?
3. Handle Your Own Install
Yes, ideally your designer is on sight making sure the spacing and heights of each piece is perfect and final styling touches are on point. But if you can’t afford that service, do your best on your own and call your designer if you get stuck. Sara’s been handling most of the install at her house on her own, sending me pictures along the way. Since we’re photographing the space for the blog I’ll plan on being there one day before the shoot for a final install where we’ll decide where art gets hung, make sure the rugs are in the right place, and finalize accessories. But to save money on my time (aka my hourly rate), Sara’s been handling the accepting of deliveries, unpacking, and install of the pieces on her own.
4. Serve As Your Own Project Manager
This really applies to bigger projects and renovations, but it’s not for the faint of heart. And you’d better be organized or it could be costly. You can take over more than purchasing and installing, if you’ve got the guts and the designer is willing to hand over the reigns. Serving as your own project manager goes beyond clicking “complete purchase” and unpacking a cabinet when it arrives. Keeping track of budgets and coordinating with vendors (like electricians or carpenters) can be time-guzzling. And if you’re paying for that time, costly. But before you pin on your “manager” name tag keep in mind that fumbles in project management can cause delay and frustration for all involved. Which is why paying someone experienced to handle it can be well worth the cost.
Imagine your bathroom tiles are delayed due to being backordered. That means the tile installer you booked can’t install them anymore, and they don’t have another opening in their schedule until the following month. Which also means that when the bathroom vanity that you already ordered arrives you have no where to store it while you wait on the tile install. Or maybe your sconces arrive in the wrong finish. Now the vendor needs to be notified, the sconces need to be sent back and reordered, and the electrician has to be rescheduled. It’s a small inconvenience on it’s own, but these little things add up. Not to mention managing all of these things while also working/parenting. So be real with yourself when considering whether or not you should take this on. It’s risky… enough so that some designers won’t be open to handing over the responsibility. But people do it all the time (I did it for my own house), and if you’re up for it and funds are tight then it’s worth asking about.
5. Come In With Clarity & A Strong Inspiration
Use Pinterest to show your designer where you hope to go and what you love. Coming in with your own ideas and expressing the things you know you want will skim hours of guess-work off the process. Clear direction can cut down on a lot of back-and-forth time (which is all billable). Often clients come to designers because they don’t have this clarity and need help finding out what their style looks like, but if you have even a rough design direction it’ll save a penny.
6. Pick & Choose What Projects You Bring A Designer On For
You might not need a designer for every step of the process. Maybe you feel confident when it comes to furniture shopping, but just want someone with a professional eye to help you choose paint colors for the house so it all feels cohesive. Or maybe you have ideas for your living room – lists of products you think would work, concepts for a floor plan layout, and a feeling that you’re this close to being able to pull it off by yourself – but you want someone to validate your ideas, help you choose the right rug size in the pattern you like, and help you decide which of the three coffee tables you’ve pinned would work best with your existing couch. Not all designers will take on these types of small projects, as they might not have the bandwidth when also working on larger, higher paying projects. But there are definitely designers out there willing to offer one-time consults, tackle smaller space projects like laundry rooms, or help come up with plans for trouble areas of a larger room (like a media center).
Five Reasons You Should Hire A Designer
And now, five financial favors your designer can do for you, and why it’s worth hiring a designer if it’s within your budget. Trust me – a designer 🙂
1. Save You From Making Expensive Mistakes
From impulse purchases to renovations that might decrease a home’s value, the list of mistakes a designer can help you avoid are endless. Here are a few: Picking textiles that quickly show wear, painting a color that doesn’t work in southern facing room, choosing surface materials that aren’t right for the space (marble is beautiful, but it stains FAST), purchasing an expensive sofa that isn’t the right scale for the room, installing junction boxes for lighting at the wrong height…. You get it.
2. Save You Money On Purchases
Designers often receive a trade discount for custom, vintage, and wholesale pieces. Retail typically marks these items up significantly when selling to you. We’re talking 150% plus. Not all firms have the same access to discounts, and not every model includes sharing in the savings. But it’s common for designers that do to only mark product up by a small percentage. Meaning you can end up paying significantly less than you would in-store. These savings can really help offset your designer’s fee.
3. Experience Only Time & Practice Can Bring
Sourcing carpenters, electricians, and other vendors takes time. Tradesmen have a tendency to be hard to pin down due to high demand. And finding someone who gets back to you quickly, can stay on budget and on time, AND does good work can make you want to pull your hair out. Designers often have trusted crew referrals, connections, and relationships that can eliminate this entire process while guaranteeing efficiency and quality. They’re also there to help make sure everything is on site in time to avoid delays or problem solve when something goes wrong. Plus, they can hold your hand when your contractor needs to know RIGHT NOW what color vent covers you want installed (and the thought of vent covers hadn’t even crossed your renovation addled brain). A designer will help you plow through to a vision that’s executable, with the wisened know-how that only experience can bring.
4. Keep You On Track & Save You Time
If you’ve got years to slowly pull together a space truly your own, while also maintaining a work, social, and personal life, then a solo project is for you! But if you’re on any sort of timeline (say a new family addition or trying to have the house construction free by the holidays), a designer will help keep you on track. Are you ready to take on the full-time job of successfully creating a cohesive, functional and visually exciting space (not to mention managing all the orders, install, and vendors that come with a big design project)? Well, someone’s gotta.
5. Save Your Sanity
I’m currently working with a client who picked the brick for her porch on her own. After installation she called me saying, “that’s it – they just finished installing it and I already hate it. I’m not making a single choice without you ever again. I either pay you now, or pay my therapist later.” Or paying to have it replaced down the line… And even though Sara’s house is almost totally pulled together she still routinely texts me design questions at 9pm – like if she should buy a brass or wood floating shelf for under the TV, or if I think the lamp she bought for the bar cart is too short. Design paralysis is real. Surely it’s in the DSM by now? And sometimes you just need a professional to stop you from hitting “complete purchase” on a rug that’s not actually “you” or to validate your paint choice so you can move forward with confidence.
The right designer is 100% on your side. Not only as a collaborator, but as someone rooting to keep your project on time (saving you money), on budget (saving you money) and on vision (saving you money). Who needs to go out when you love being HOME? Plus, a happy customer is a future referral, and a referral is work down the line that lets us designers keep doing what we love. If all you can afford is a few consultations or a basic design concept, consider the “splurge.” The service just might pay for itself (in happiness).
Speaking of seeking a design concept, we’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has experience with E-Design services (perhaps another way to save). Leave your wisdom in the comments! And if you didn’t read yesterday’s post yet, then head over to read all about how much it really costs to work with a designer.
Finally, catch up on all the design work I’ve been doing over at Sara’s house: Sara Buys A House Part I: Six Tips For First Time Home Buyers | Sara Buys A House Part II: The Renovation | The Designing Begins: A Floorplan Design Agony | The Designing Continues: Time To Pick Furniture | The Final Design Plan | A Fireplace Design Agony | Sara’s Moody TV Room Plan