How much does an interior designer cost?
There is no black and white answer to this question, as the cost is dependent on what you need a designer to do for you, along with a few other factors.
In this post, I’ll aim to give you some guidance around what an interior designer might cost, and a rough guide to interior design fees at Vellum Interiors. This is based on our location (Sydney, Australia — like anything, prices out of big cities are generally lower), previous projects, skills, experience and the services we provide. Keep in mind that there are interior design studios in Sydney — and all over — that cater to all different needs and budgets.
At Vellum Interiors, we also have different levels of service to cater for different budgets. This post refers to Full Service Interior Design — our signature service, which is what similar design firms to ours offers.
Our other, lower-priced services include:
- In-home One-Off Design Consultation – $900
- Virtual 60-min Design Direction Session – $330
- Virtual Full Room Makeover – $2,500 per room
There are more expensive and less expensive design studios in Australia than us. My advice when choosing an interior designer to work with is to consider cost, the level of service you need, style and whether you get along. For more on choosing an interior designer, check out this post.
What affects the cost of an interior design project?
The four main things to consider when you’re beginning to think about your design project are:
1.Scope — The work involved.
What do you want to achieve with your interiors? Which areas do you want to change? What’s on your wish list of updates to be made?
2. Style — The overall look and feel you hope to achieve.
Do you have a certain aesthetic you’re trying to create? What colours do you like / not like? Have you pulled out some images from a magazine or created a Pinterest board? How do you want each space to feel?
3. Timeline — The deadline we’re working towards.
Do you have a pressing deadline like a baby due, or a big party you’re planning? Are you on a more flexible timeline? One thing to consider here is that good design takes time (and can be an incredibly fun and rewarding process, too).
Especially if this is your ‘forever home’ or holiday home, I don’t recommend rushing to the finish line without very good reason. Another tip here is that if you want something finished before Christmas, begin planning in the first quarter of the year so that you don’t get caught up in the mad rush of extended lead times for furniture and trades that happens from about August onwards.
4. Budget — What you’re comfortable spending.
What are you comfortable investing into your home? Does this amount include architect and/or designer fees? You may also have no idea what it will cost to get your wish list done — read on to figure that out!
The cost of a project is then generally split into:
- Architect, Designer and Landscape Design Fees
- Construction works
- Furniture and soft furnishings
What do Design Fees cover?
So, what is a Design Fee, and what does it include? When we work on a full-service interior design project at Vellum Interiors, our fee covers our expertise, access to industry resources, experience and skills in design. A full-service project is very much a “done for you” service, so the fee covers the value and expertise we bring to a project, from when we first get involved, to the very end when everything is in place, ready for you to move right in.
Our design fees are split into two phases — Design and Execute.
The Design Phase includes the bulk of the big design thinking, detailing, co-ordinating and costing out of your project. This is charged at a fixed cost, determined by your scope and requirements. It includes things like —
- Overall look and feel/concept development
- Spatial planning
- Producing floor plans, elevations and a 3D model
- Briefing our trusted team of trades, and ongoing liaising with them to ensure their quotes match our design
- Designing custom elements, for example, joinery and wall panelling
- Lighting, furniture, finishes and materials sourcing and selection
- Liaising with suppliers to gather quotes, lead times and product information
- Producing the presentation, final design drawings, estimates, trade quotes and timelines
- Meeting with you to present the final design package for approval
Following approval of the designs, we then move into the Execute Phase. Design fees are charged slightly differently here, as an ongoing rate.
In The Execute Phase, our design fees cover:
- Briefing all trades with detailed drawings
- Procurement of all finishes, materials, fittings, furniture and soft furnishings
- Liaising with all trades and suppliers on the design, timeline and budget
- Regular site visits to oversee any build works
- Co-ordinating the delivery of all items
- A ‘final reveal’ at the very end when all the furniture is in place
- Managing any defects or damage
- Providing you with a binder folder with all the relevant care, warranty and maintenance info for each product specified
DIFFERENT PRICING MODELS: There is no fixed pricing model in the interior design industry. The three main ways studios work out their fees are:
- Hourly — the price is based on how many hours work the scope will take. This is charged to the client as billable hours, sometimes every month or in blocks of hours.
- Fixed Fee — a set price, based on the scope of work.
- Percentage — the price is based on a percentage of the overall construction and / or furniture costs. Usually this price is set up-front, based on the client’s budget, but may change as the price of the renovation goes up or down.
What do Design Fees cost?
As I’ve mentioned, each project is costed out based on your individual needs and wants for your home. We have put together the below as a rough guide as to what you might expect to pay when engaging our services, for the Design Fee (i.e. this doesn’t include the Execute Phase).
NOTE: According to the Design Institute of Australia, the average cost of interior design fees (Australia-wide, so may be more in big cities) is approximately 10-15% of the overall build budget for a renovation job, and higher if the project is under $500,000. The cost may also increase if you’ve got an architect as well as an interior designer on board, which many projects require.
So, if your renovation is going to cost $300,000, the design costs may be approx. $30,000-45,000. If you’re looking to engage a designer to select furniture as well, there would be a separate fee for the decoration work.
Keep in mind, that hiring a designer to select furniture may in fact save you money (or at least recoup a lot of the design fee) if the design studio shares some of the trade discount they receive on some items.
A general guide to interior design fees at Vellum Interiors is below —
INTERIOR DECORATION PROJECTS
The scope for an interior decoration project includes furnishings only, with no structural changes. For example, furniture and soft furnishings for a bedroom or dining room.
INTERIOR DESIGN & DECORATION PROJECTS
The scope for a project which includes both interior design and decoration includes structural design work, such as a bedroom with custom joinery, kitchens, bathrooms, moving walls etc. as well as furniture and soft furnishings.
Vellum Interiors’ projects typically include some sort of structural work.
What does it cost to furnish a room?
The cost to furnish a room depends on the level of ‘spec’ (specification) you’d like, and the size of the rooms. For example, if all the items were purchased from IKEA, then you could easily furnish a room for just a few thousand dollars. If you’re sourcing pieces from somewhere like Space, then it’s a different story.
At Vellum Interiors, we have found that giving our clients a guide of $50,000 + per room is accurate for our projects. This would include furniture, as well as soft furnishings like window treatments and rugs. Art and accessories is generally on top of that, given that artwork in particular varies greatly in price. We work with you to determine your budget and preferences for artwork as well.
Keep in mind that this is a very general guide — a guest bedroom with just a few items costs much less to furnish than a large living room.
TIP: To help you determine what furnishing a room might cost, create a list of all the items you’ll need (look at rooms in magazines or Pinterest to help you write the list), then go online to a few different retailers to figure out what each item will cost you.
What does it cost to renovate?
Again, this depends on many things — the level of finishes and material you’d like to have, which room you’re renovating and which builder you choose to use. In our experience, an average bathroom in Sydney is $50,000 + and a kitchen is $80,000+ depending on the size of the room. Asking a reputable builder to give you a general estimate before you begin work is a good way to get a rough guide.
Other questions you may have about interior design costs —
Q. I’ve received proposals from a few different designers, and the costs vary greatly. Why is this?
Just as when you receive a few different builders’ quotes that vary, it pays to read the fine print to see what each proposal actually includes (and more importantly — what they might exclude).
To make matters even more confusing, each interior design firm tends to offer slightly different services, hence why the fees might vary. For example, some studios will simply offer a set of plans and finishes and fittings selections, then hand over the project to you to procure all the items, find a builder and manage the on-site works. These design firms generally charge less than a full-service interior design studio (like Vellum Interiors), because the level of service is different.
My advice would be to ask each designer to walk you through their process in detail, and to clarify what elements you would need to manage yourself (if any). This should give you clarity on why the costs are varied, and will help you make a decision on what level of service you need.
Q. I have my heart set on using an interior designer for my project, but I don’t think I can afford it. Are there any other cheaper options?
Absolutely. There are so many options available these days to cater for all different budgets. My advice would be to find a designer who you resonate with, and contact them to find out all the ways to work with them. They may have a more flexible or less expensive option than full-service.
We have a number of different levels of service available at Vellum Interiors to cater for different budgets, locations and service requirements. See our services here.
Q. I’ve seen lots of furniture stores offering free design services. What’s the difference between what they provide, and what an interior designer provides?
It’s true — there are lots of furniture stores that provide a ‘free’ styling service to help you select pieces. The key difference here is that they are generally sales people, commissioned to sell the store’s products. There’s nothing wrong with this if you are after some quick advice and really like the look of a certain store.
What an interior designer provides is a much more personalised, comprehensive service, that takes your whole lifestyle and home into account. The result will generally be much longer lasting, and will include unique pieces (for example vintage items or custom-designs), and items that aren’t available for the public to purchase.
It just comes down to your taste, your budget and what level of service you’d be happy with.
Has this given you a little more clarity as to how much an interior designer costs? I’m passionate about educating homeowners about how this industry works, so if you have any other questions, I’d love you to get in touch.