How Much Does an Interior Designer Cost?

It can be tough to estimate an interior designer cost for your next project. There is a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation of costs on the internet. It is not uncommon for clients to see budgets from home renovation TV shows and expect to be able to find those kinds of deals for their project.

Unfortunately, sometimes there is sticker shock when you go for an actual quote for your project. These TV shows tend to not include charges like labour, services, and deals they have with sponsor stores. And even with what they do show, the numbers are often skewed to show an more appealing price (or are shown with tax, or in U.S. dollars).

A typical full home interior design contract can be anywhere from $20,000 – $40,000 or even more by the time the CAD drawings, budgeting, shopping trips, meetings, renderings, and concept development are finished. This doesn’t include monthly co-ordination during construction that some clients request.

$20-40 thousand! Just for the interior design cost? Consider what comes with interior design:

  1. An interior designer completely flushes out a design that you preview before the project begins.  Consider your cost of construction.  An interior designer is like an insurance policy.  By planning out everything, and making all decisions ahead of time, they can actually reduce the cost of the construction by eliminating any guessing from the contractor and allowing you to fix all costs for the work as well as allowing construction to proceed quicker than if the contractor had to wait for you to make decisions as the project proceeds.  This allows you to reduce the time out of your home (fewer months to be renting temporary accommodation) as well as many other cost saving possibilities.
  2. Better control of the budget.  With a complete set of drawings and all costing done before you even start, you don’t have to worry about running out of money half way through the project or having to settle for less than you had dreamed about
  3. Time to explore options.  We all regret those ‘what if’ moments…..’What if we had thought about adding a wine cellar before we ordered the kitchen cabinets’?  Making changes half way through construction can be very expensive
  4. Better use of the space.  A professional interior designer has skills that come from years of training and work experience.  As we see more and more clients try to make their current homes grow, and fit their needs rather than buying a new place, we know how to make a space function better.
  5. Experience counts for a lot.  Hiring an interior designer with many years’ experience means you get the benefit of their knowledge from having worked on previous projects.  A young inexperienced designer may cost less, however you will not have the advantage of the knowledge base that comes from years in the industry and could end up being the guinea pig.  Since most of our clients will only go through a major renovation once, or twice in their life, why do you want to risk leaving such important decisions to someone who may be working on their first project?
  6. You get access to insider rates on materials and trades.  This can add up quickly when it comes to purchasing furniture or lighting or anything else required for your home.
  7. Supervision of the entire project is available. This ensures it is built to the intended specifications and stays on budget.
  8. A full home build will likely be the most expensive decision you ever make. It’s worth it to ensure you have an expert on your side.

How do interior designers normally charge?

Every client, every project, and every design firm is a little different. So it stands to reason that the way interior designers charge is not held to one method. Each firm tends to use the method or methods that best fit the projects and clients they most often work with.

That being said, there are three ways that interior designers will calculate their fees:

  • Flat Fee
  • Hourly
  • Percentage of construction costs


Flat fee interior design costs

When the scope of the project, work involved, and the needs of the client are able to be written out clearly, a flat fee is a good payment structure. It provides both the client and interior design firm with clear expectations for fees. However, the more variables involved the less accurate and less practical a flat fee becomes. A flat fee method is most commonly used with extensive renovations or full home builds.

Hourly interior design costs

Hourly billing is a good solution for small projects or projects where the scope of work is harder to define. It can also be an option with new clients. The amount of time required can depend heavily on the client’s needs. So when working on a project that is either smaller or less clear as to what is required it can be harder to estimate the time required. For example, a kitchen design can take 60-100 hours of work, which can include 5-10+ meetings with clients. That leaves some big differences in time commitments, depending on the client.  A fixed fee will allow for more time than what might potentially be required, so if time requirements are unsure, or you don’t want to make a full commitment to an interior designer, considering hiring them on an hourly basis.

Percentage of construction costs

Some design firms will charge as a percentage of the construction value.  This is a common method of estimating fees for architects as well. As the name suggests, the client is charged a fixed percentage of the overall construction value. This seems like a straightforward structure, however it has drawbacks.  This method does not apply well to smaller projects.  It can also mislead what happens when changes occur during construction and many clients are left wondering if construction costs are allowed to increase because it also increases fees.   It is our least preferred method of billing as it does not always reflect the work required by the design firm.  We have seen very expensive projects which require less design work, and small inexpensive construction projects which are design intensive.


Hybrid interior design payment structures

Interior design firms are not limited to one specific fee structure. Hybrid payment structures allow for using the most appropriate methods for each project or part of the project. This benefits both the designer and the client, ensuring fair and accurate pricing.  At the end of the day, the interior designer wants to know that their time is paid and that they can earn a living.  Our clients prefer to know what the fees are before they commit to a project, so ensuring there are candid conversations ahead of time allows the designer and client to understand what is being included in the fees.

What method does Crayon Design use?

Crayon uses a hybrid of hourly and flat fee rates. It is dependent on project size, complexity and the client’s requirements. For example, small projects tend to be billed hourly. Additional services like project oversight generally have a monthly fee, if the supervision will be for a period longer than 2 months.

The scope of work for medium to large projects is easier to establish. This allows for a combination of fee methods. Fixed fees will be set for work, and hourly fees for meetings and site visits.

Large projects, like full home renovations may also have a fixed rate, along with a standard monthly fee. Construction time will be the big variable in cost here. If it goes fast, you will pay for fewer months of supervision. If construction takes longer, it may cost a bit more, however we always include options to allow for changes.

When Crayon Design takes on a project we are always looking at the long game. That can even include recommending cost or project reductions when we don’t think something makes sense. We offer candid, honest advice with your best interests first.

We do more than some other designers. Crayon understands the construction process and likes to see the project through to the end. We are more technically proficient with building and craftsmanship trades than other designers due, in part, to our belief that a truly creative designer needs to know how things are built.

By staying involved with the project throughout the construction we can ensure that you get the design that is right for you. You are able to be as hands on or hands off as you want.  It also allows us to problem solve if things go awry.  We all don’t like surprises, however sometimes they happen and having a designer that can work with the construction trades to come up with good solutions ensures the outcome matches the original vision.

Interior design costs on a budget

A design can be as expensive or affordable/flexible as you make it. Some clients will just sit down with a designer for a 1-2 hour meeting. They may just need a push in the right direction, with suggestions or picking from a list of finishes they have already selected.

Hiring an interior designer on a tight budget requires good control on the time requirements. This can mean making design decisions in one or two meetings over a couple weeks, rather than three or four meetings over four months.  Ask what work you can take on in order to reduce the time requirements of the designer.  Do you need to see ALL available choices for counter tops or are you happy to have the designer preselect and bring you their top 3 choices.  Can you get measurements for the house?  Is there other work that you would be willing to take on, rather than having the design firm do it?  Writing out a budget?  Interviewing contractors?

Additionally, providing a lot of inspirational images to the design firm can reduce time. It reduces the back and forth time required to narrow down the overall feel for the project and allows the design firm to get right to the job of creating something for you.  We use the inspirational images (or look books) to create two or three concepts which we will present to you. You can choose between the various directions before we start generating the working drawings.

In the long run, getting good design up front will save you money. A designer’s fees can range from 5% to 20% of a budget, but their value exceeds that. A good design helps avoid unwanted extras and complications that can slow down the project. As well, a designer provides access to trade pricing on a lot of finish materials. So the money spent, can turn out to be money saved.

Contractors require a plan before they can build anything. Using a designer to get this plan helps you know what you will be getting for your money. You get to see what the final project will look like before you get started.