Interior Decorators - How Much?

I recently got chatting to another Mum in the school grounds.  When I told her what I did for a living (something us Mums are really bad at, always putting child chat first) she replied "Oh that's brilliant. We had an interior decorator last year to help us with our renovation.." So we got caught up in a conversation about her experience.  She proclaimed "What I never really understood before was, how much money you save!" Although she'd paid her interior decorator an hourly fee to provide advice and source items, the cost of doing so was out weighed by the saving of acquiring items at a reduced cost. She insisted she'd do it again in an instant. So I gave her my card. But she gave me so much more.

What she had made me realise was, that people generally get very, very nervous about recruiting professionals to give them advice. Especially when that advice is subjective based, like design. She highlighted, how potential clients worry about how much it's going to cost them to employ a professional, automatically concluding its going to be really really expensive and something they can't afford. They also worry whether they will end up with anything tangible. So don't take it any further.

So right here in this blog I want to shatter your illusion that recruiting an interior decorator is something that the rich and famous do, and why you should do it.  Why should you employ an interior decorator?

Objective.....A good interior decorator will ask you all manor of questions to understand who you are and what you want to achieve. They do this to find parameters and avenues, all of which go into creating a design brief.  The result is a very impartial objective approach to finding the right materials, pieces or fittings that will work in your space and that you will like (ideally love). Being objective with a clear set of parameters, really speeds up the selection process and helps you consolidate your ideas at the same time.

When faced with many options, its great to know which door to open. Image Source -

When faced with many options, its great to know which door to open. Image Source -

Cohesive.....In addition to this, Interior decorators understand the design styles, theory and principles. With this knowledge and experience comes an ability to pull your space together with whats already there (if anything), against what you want to achieve and what's needed to fill the gaps. So an impartial, objective and cohesive approach.  

Stress.... I have seen it more times than I would have liked.  Individuals getting themselves into a complete tizz about what goes with what and where.  The pressure to make the right decision is real for some. And of great magnitude.  I find it quite upsetting to see and blame the interior design sector with it's multitude of magazines, TV shows, blogs and other social media platforms for creating this. But that's a whole other blog (see 'Agonising Decisions Be Gone'. Oct 16) . What  I do, like many other interior decorators, is take the technical difficulty out of making a decision and create a cohesive set of options for your space. You then have a few foolproof options to choose from. The designer can always get the technical side correct, but they can't always get what you like right all the time.  By providing options, you get to choose what you like with out the stress and drama of pulling it together.

Stress & confusion can make the most simplest of decisions difficult. Image Source -

Stress & confusion can make the most simplest of decisions difficult. Image Source -

Time.... Interior Decorators will have great industry and product knowledge, meaning they will know where to go to find the materials, pieces or tradesmen needed to fulfil that design brief almost instantly. What could take you three days web surfing and agonising over, could take an interior decorator an hour. Clearly by recruiting an interior decorator to do the task for you, you are going to save yourself time, but its also going to speed up the design process. What could take you weeks to pull together, they can do in a few days, speeding up your project timeline.  Time means money, which brings me onto.......

Money .... This is what I feel potential clients forget when trying to ascertain how much an interior decorator will cost and whether they can afford it. This is one of those rare occasions you should not compare apples with apples. As before, what could take you three days web surfing the internet could, as mentioned above, take an interior decorator an hour. What this means is that you save three days of your time with out having to pay someone three days fees to do it. You pay for an hour.  Even at the most costly of interior decorating hourly rates (upto $120 / hour) that can be very appealing. 

Fees & Costs. Generally a prickly point, but shouldn't be. Image source:

Fees & Costs. Generally a prickly point, but shouldn't be. Image source:

More money.... Interior Decorators get trade discount and wholesale pricing on pretty much 99% of the products you see in magazines, websites and shops. This discount can be anything from 10% to 50% and many pass some of this saving on. Myself included. Let me elaborate. I was recently paid $840 to design a bathroom from scratch. It was an empty shell.  I provided to scale drawings as well as a schedule detailing all of the fixtures, fittings and finishes. This schedule included Supplier information, product information, images, dimensions, installation requirements, delivery considerations & lead times, RRP and trade cost.   Further to this they received two basic 3D perspective drawings of what the space would look like. The client loved it and went ahead with the design. During the purchase of the items the client saved around $1800 through reduced pricing. They saved $700 on the bath alone. Essentially recouping the initial design and advice service provided.

Our Own Enemy  In all fairness, we are our own worst enemy. We're not exactly forthcoming with pricing information or take time to explain how we work. We share hourly rates, but clients don't know how long tasks take. The other issue is that there is essentially two elements to the design process and most Interior Decorators forget the second one.  The first element is the ability to do the job in question,  the second is being clear on what the client is going to physically receive in their hands (or attached to emails) in terms of documentation, drawings and sketches. Clearly both of these need to be explained before anyone is going to see that paying $X is a good investment.

So how do we overcome that. With transparency. I can't talk about how other interior decorators operate, but I don't imagine I am alone in the way that I operate and manage my business. 

A really good decorator will .... provide you with confidence that they can do the job.  It's a two way process. They should be asking you a lot of questions so that they understand 110% what is needed. They should also provide you with some examples and information that make you confident that they are capable of finding the answers. They should also ascertain what you need to see to be able to make confident decisions. Some clients are happy with a schedule with images, others need to see detailed sketches and 3D perspectives.  Clearly, this dramatically effects the cost of the professional service provided.  Without this discussion, you could end up with either an unrealistic quote or unrealistic expectations. Neither of which are good.

In effort to create this transparency, Loop Interiors website details broad costings based on projects undertaken. So get on over there and have a look. See! Not as costly as you think.