For many PrecisionCraft clients, little is more exciting than planning the interiors of their finished home. Will the interiors be as authentically rustic as the handcrafted log home being built on their land? Or perhaps the clients are building a Mountain Modern™ residence, and looking to accentuate its bold, clean lines with similarly inclined furnishings and bright modern art. Regardless of architectural style, liveable square footage, or a preference for a wine cellar over that of a bar, it is likely that you engage the services of an interiors professional for your log, timber, or hybrid home. Consequently, this article shares important aspects related to interior design cost structures and how these structures affect your budget for interior design.
What to Consider in Advance
Before contacting an interior designer, Architectural Digest recommends creating an all-encompassing wish list. Then, they suggest that you establish a fixed budget, one with which you are perfectly comfortable. (Note: While you may not know how much each wish list item costs, you likely know how much you are comfortable investing in this aspect of your project.) Finally, A|D advocates adding a “cushion” to your set budget, and informing your professional designer in advance, of this number.
It is commonplace to additionally separate your fixed budget by needs vs. wants. Needs include what each room requires in order to properly function, such as lighting, whereas wants extend to what makes your interior spaces “feel” finished, such as objets d’art and wall treatments. This distinction may prove necessary should you deplete your budget as well as its cushion.
How Do Interior Designers Determine Their Fees?
Interior designers generally apply one of three fee structures.
Interior designers generally apply one of three fee structures. These fee structures include: flat rate (or fixed), hourly rate, and square foot/square meter. Another not uncommon fee model is that of percentage-based, (also known as cost plus), which is traditional and quite popular within the luxury home interiors world. In addition to one of these fee structures, there may also be charges such as retainers (usually a percentage of the project’s total cost) and consultation fees (a flat fee for the designer to visit your property or meet with your architect).
It is important to know that these fees structures vary significantly. For example, 15-20 percent of your construction costs is not atypical on the West Coast of the United States, (plus expenses), in addition to basic design fees, which have wide minimums ranging from $15,000 to $250,000. [i] Contrast this with the East Coast of America, where cost structures often begin with retainers, typically in the 25-30 percent range. This too, is in addition to the initial design fee and retail commissions, both of which run at higher percentages in most of the Northeast than in the southern coastal states.
Examples of Interior Design Fees in Detail
With everything you have just read at the forefront of your mind, how do you actually budget for an interior design professional, the purchases, and other associated costs? Let us review three common cost structures using real numbers from the M-T-N Design exclusive architectural concept, the Coeur d’Alene Lodge.
Interior Design Fees by the Square Foot/Meter – Great Room Example
According to Designers Today, interior design fees using square footage cost modeling range from $10-$17 USD per square foot. This means your interior designer would charge you approximately $8,160 for the 480 square feet of the Coeur d’Alene Lodge great room. [ii]
Next, add a percentage of all the furnishings purchased by your interior design professional. This percentage, as previously mentioned, varies, but 30-percent is typical. Assume your interior designer purchased window treatments, rugs, furnishings and lighting for a total of just over $60,000 USD. Commission adds $18,000 to your cost.
TOTAL GREAT ROOM ONLY INTERIOR DESIGN COST = $86,160 USD
Interior Design Fees by a Percent of Total Project Cost – Complete Home Example
Interior design fees using a percent of total project cost typically range from 30-45 percent and include furnishings, fixtures, finishes, installation, contractors and more. This means, if your version of the Coeur d’Alene Lodge is estimated to finish at $2.9MM, you may expect to see a fee of between $880k-1.3MM USD, again, including everything for the entire residence.
TOTAL COMPLETE RESIDENCE INTERIOR DESIGN COST = $880,000-1,320,131 USD
Interior Design Fees by the Hour – Kitchen Example
As with any professional service, hourly fees vary based on country, city, level of experience, and more. Beginning designers range from $75-125 per hour USD while an experienced interior designer may be upwards of $450. Hourly cost models can be challenging for both you and your interior designer. This is because determining in advance how long certain portions of your project– or the entire project– may take, is difficult; surprises are all too common using hourly fee structures. [iii] As an example of hourly design cost modeling, kitchens consume an average of 25-30 hours from start to finish. [iv]
Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury. – Coco Chanel
Therefore, the Coeur d’Alene Lodge kitchen interior design including complete delivery is estimated at 30 hours. Using a mid-range fee of $300 per hour, the interior design fee for the kitchen equals $9,000 USD. Next, add the ordering, or production of, your kitchen appliances, window treatments, deep basin sinks, lighting, and that special stoneware pizza oven you always wanted. The result is a mid-to-lower-end estimate of $76,730, not including any plumbing, electrical, or gas. [v]
TOTAL KITCHEN ONLY INTERIOR DESIGN COST = $85,730 USD
Estimating Interior Design Budgets for Luxury Homes
Home Advisor writes that homeowners employing interior designer services usually spend between $1,894 and $11,903 for materials and labor combined. Of course, PrecisionCraft homeowners are not the average homeowner. For this reason, including information from former Roche Bobois luxury designer Leslie Carothers, may prove beneficial to your budgeting research. Guest writing for the Hadley Court website [vi], Leslie shares that, excluding the actual interior design professional’s work and consultation, you may expect the following:
$150 per square foot for new furniture (it can be much more if antiques are involved)
$125 per square foot for flooring and lighting
$75 per square foot for decorative paint finishes
$150 per square foot for custom cabinetry and built ins
$75 per square foot for decorative accessories and art (it can be much more if fine art is being purchased for investment)
New kitchens: $100,000-250,000 complete with appliances
Luxury master baths: $90,000–250,000 complete with fixtures
A Final Thought
Even the most ardently involved PrecisionCraft homeowners tend to engage the professional services of an interior designer. If you will be doing so, please remember, only you know the perfect balance of simplicity and elegance for your home. What matters most is that you live comfortably within its beauty. As so perfectly expressed by designer Coco Chanel, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”
[i] Architectural Digest, January 1, 2008; How Much Does an Interior Designer Cost? https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/tell-all-fee-article-012008
[ii] Some interior designers are unwilling to apply this costing model to small spaces. This is because the amount of creativity required remains the same, or increases, but the fee remains small.
[iii] Mitigate this by requesting an estimate of hours per room or for the project as a whole. Then request the interior designer not exceed these estimates without your express (and written) consent.
[iv] Rajesh Chhoda in fcilondon, November 15, 2016; How Long Does The Interior Design Process Take. Established in 1985, Fci is one of the largest designer furniture and lifestyle houses in the United Kingdom
[v] Calculated via Home Stratosphere’s kitchen cost calculator found here.
[vi] Founded by native Texan, Leslie Hendrix Wood, Hadley Court adheres to Leslie’s belief that life should be “A celebration of fine living.”