How much would you pay a decorator?

Remember this feature from the NY Times? The article is about a newlywed couple in NYC who wanted help decorating their first apartment.

I always love getting some insight into how other decorators work (and how much they charge! $10,000 for this room, in case you're wondering.***And to clarify, the designer volunteered her work for the sake of the article and the press. It's written in the features in the margin that she would have charged $10k for the room.)

Here's the before:

and the after again:

Another angle:

Overall, I like the changes to the space, though my two favorite elements were pieces the couple already owned - the Empire dining chairs and the Hunt Slonem butterfly painting.

I did love the idea of vinyl stripes in the dining nook! Such a clever idea for renters with a no-painting policy.

The decorator spent $100 on the brown vinyl stripes, which were purchased through Walls Need Love. If you're after the same look, you might consider contact paper, or at the very least, shopping around on etsy for the vinyl.

What do you think? Worth $5k+ spent on new furnishings? What about the additional $10k in decorator's fees?

My thoughts on pricing for a decorator (just the fees - not the purchasing budget) have changed a lot over the past few years. I'd love to hear your thoughts - especially you fellow decorators. Is $10k for a NYC living/dining room too much, not enough or just right?


  1. thoughts have changed on decorators charges a lot lately too, when I started I charged a low hourly rate, passed on my trade discount and didn't charge for all the hours I worked as many of my clients would open up our agreement by stating something similar to "I need help and advice but I don't really want to pay much for it..." I also had no real concept of exactly how much work I would end up doing and it resulted in me working 24/7 and making no money, resenting my clients and the work I was doing and generally really not enjoying it. I've since learnt that my skills and contribution are really valuable, my time is important and should be paid for and equally my free time and creating balance in my life so that I could enjoy my work and my clients again was vital. Long comment to say that I believe if people want to use a service such as interior decorators they need to understand that it isn't about moving about furniture and adding a couple of pillows, it's actually much more than that and if people understood the volume of work involved they'd probably be prepared to pay for it.

  2. I do think there is a certain respect for the design if the charge is it is a service by a skilled professional who has spent time at school and a great deal of time after staying current,attending professional seminars etc. after learning the skills. There of course are office overheads and costs as well. Your designer is usually not just someone with a 'flair'.... I have always found the best clients were those that I did not deep discount to....

  3. I think that 10k in designer fees is complete madness for a space so small, with such minor changes. The wall color looks the same, the carpet is the same, the curtains are the same, the major furniture is all the same. I appreciate the difference, but surely changing the placement of the furniture and choosing a few lamps and pillows is not that onerous of a task for someone who does this day-in-day-out.

  4. Why is it that a decorator's fee's are questioned, and a lawyer or doctor's fee is never charged? I think if you want a change, hiring a professional for their expertise is "value" and one should never put a value or price tag on that. My son was in the hospital a few years back and for the mere 10 day stay it was nearly 6 figures? Now how much would I like to pay a decorator that amount, but to have my son well, priceless.

  5. I used to believe that some services were overcharged, but then my mother made a point: if you cant take care of your garden, you hire someone to do it for you and you pay the price they ask, otherwise, do it yourself.
    Of course market research is wise before taking such decisions, for such amounts of money, and eventually leads to more fair fees-for the client AND the professionals.

  6. Wow... $10,000 is waaay too much. And the space didn't even change THAT drastically. Like, they kept the same carpet, floor etc.
    I would never hire a decorator, I want to do it all myself when I get my first house. But that's just me!

  7. As a daughter of a hairstylist and an artist I do believe in paying people for their skills, if it were easy everyone would do it. I personally think 10k was alot for that space but I'm not familiar with New York rates. I disagree that lawyers and doctor's rates aren't questioned they absolutely are but most often people aren't given a choice.
    The change in this room doesn't in my opinion equate to 10k especially when a lot of the shopping(time) was already done, but if the owners are happy then...

  8. I wouldn't pay $10,000 for that, but I would pay $15,000 for what Nate Berkus did for the 300 square foot studio apartment featured in Oprah.

  9. I would love to hire a decorator! $10,000 for this space, and these changes does seem high. However, I live in St. Paul vs New York City, so I'm sure I don't know the market. Beautiful room, and I love your blog!

  10. I have read all these comments; they are all good.
    I have to agree with those commentors with pating for talent.
    Of course getting a quote on your livingroom wall colors is not the same as calling a plummer to fix a burst pipe. There are set occurances that people just know exist and I think the thought of a designer is one of extravagance for some and for others it is needed and accepted as a neccesity.
    As for the NYC apt; it is well put together and was integrated into a good looking space. As for the price tag? I am not sure the going rate, it does seem pricy for what was done, but there may have been numerous design things the article did not touch on.
    Just my 2 cents worth.


  11. Wow, loved reading that article and the comments so is interesting to see how people view our services.

  12. I'm a licensed interior designer with LEED accreditation and I think it's ridiculous! My clients can usually expect to pay about 20-25% of their total budget on services. For instance, a 5k room would usually be about 6-6.5k with my services added.

  13. It seems high to me but if the clients are happy and willing to pay it, fair enough. If the majority of clients feel the price is too high they wouldn't pay it and the designer would have to review their pricing structures

  14. Would have to agree that 10K seems WAY over the top. I would consider a % of the purchaces made, especially if the designer was passing along discounts. I can't imagine what the hourly rate was for a space that size- - how could that POSSIBLY have taken more than 2-3 days to put together? even at three days that is over $400 an hour-- my LAWYER get's that rate!

  15. I think when you hire a decorator, the size of the fee has to do with confidence that the end product will be perfect and the process will be smooth. I would always pay more if I 100% knew those things would happen. Plus, we don't know about the process of getting to that gorgeous room.....did the clients change their minds a million times, was there a trip to the Paris flea market. There are lots of variables to a design charge. I think that if the clients are happy with what they paid and with the end result, they paid a fair price.

  16. What an interesting topic, so much behind the scenes work goes into creating a great space. I think if you want decorating advice but don't want to pay alot you should buy a magazine!!!!

  17. I think professionals deserve to be paid, and people will pay if they can afford the service.

    I am not in a position to pay anywhere near $10,000 and we have a pretty comfortable life. IMO unless the decorator is a friend and giving you a big discount or free advice, most "normal" people can't afford the luxury of a decorator or interior designer. I guess I'm lucky that I have pretty good taste and access to blogs;)


  18. First let me say I like the contact paper idea. I think I read in the comments that why are decorators fees questioned? I personally question everyone fees, and this was without question an over-charge.

  19. I love this topic--great post.

    I personally think this couple might have gotten ripped off, but on the other hand, I think alot of people take advantage of designers. I'm still struggling with what/how to charge, what to include as part of my hourly rate(lots of questions/emails from the clients, etc.) All of these things take time and it's hard to know exactly how to bill. Can't wait to read more of the feedback you get.

  20. It is a constant issue, I like what Pve said. My husband never is questioned for his hourly rate, he works in technology, but enter the creative realm and for some reason the perception on value completely changes. Janell

  21. Great question! I have started doing design work again after being home w/ my 3 girls. I have found it difficult for clients to commit to my services. I have started off helping friends and neighbors, but feel bad charging them! I should'nt at all!! I live in the Midwest and people are afraid when I say I charge hourly. I only charge $30/hour. I give them ideas, buy items if they request it, select fabric and furniture. Some clients then finish the room on their own time. My clients make a good living but would not pay thousands of dollars for design services!

  22. I am not familiar with decorator rates... but 10k seems insane.... if I'm paying that kinda cash... I better have several giant homes for them to decorate....

  23. I think I need to read the article again because I thought it said the designer offered her services for free (probably because the article was being written.) It didn't portray her in a good light either and I don't think that most designers operate that way.

    As for fees, agree with what the first commenter said. I can usually tell in the first phone coversation (after years of learning the hard way) whether the potential client values what I do and therefore is willing to pay my hourly rate during the project.

  24. I am an Interior Designer from Texas and $10,000 seems insane for the amount of work done. I think a high price for this room would only be acceptable if the clients were indecisive, needed a lot of choices and wasted design resources.

  25. I think you must know your market and in addition likely need the portfolio and references to support these rates for a small space.

    That said, I think we must assume in this senario, clients with this sort of disposable income did their homework and felt their CHOSEN designer's fees were well worth the expense of having their design vision enhanced and executed!

    I personally think designers should charge 20-30% of the project total, be confident they are working with clients that are a good fit and projects that match their abilities. If this is being done, then your fees should not be an issue.

  26. What doesn't add up to me is that $5k was spent on new furnishings, yet $10k was spent on decorators fees. It just seems a bit out of proportion. If you're going to spend $15k, wouldn't you rather spend a large portion of that on product and a smaller portion on service. I'm an interior designer and not trying to de-value what us designers do, but I think that maybe the design fees were exorbitantly high. I'm just not seeing $10k results. Yes, it looks nice, but the furniture was rearranged and a few pieces added. I don't see any walls being moved, major floorplan changes, etc. And vinyl decals? For $15k spent overall, I'd be talking to the landlord and figuring out a way to get paint on the walls. Vinyl decals are great for some applications (kids rooms, dorm rooms), but not designs where you spend $15k. Just my thoughts.

  27. The debate that will go on forever... I am not familiar with designer fees in NYC but I do think that as an interior designer, I deserve to be paid my worth. Since it is a career that most people think they can do on their own, it is hard to prove to people your worth. I went to school for 4 years and got my bachelors in design, studied for over a year before taking my NCIDQ exam, became a licensed interior designer, and I take continuing education classes every year to stay in the know about everything from ADA to health, safety, and welfare requirements. I put a lot of effort into my career and people need to realize that when I tell them my hourly fee. I am sure all the other ladies out there can agree!

  28. I am going to agree with most people and say the $10,000 charged for this room is a bit much. I've always assumed that you pay a decorator a certain percentage of your overall budget (20% maybe?), and it's up to the decorator whether he/she wants to take my $5,000 budget job.

    I work in Upstate NY as an educational consultant, have a Master's degree and because I am doing my work to help families, my rates are usually negotiable. At very least my hours are. I think it's completely reasonable for a client of any type to say "Ok, you charge $100/hour. I can only afford 10 hours. Can we do this job in that amount of time?" As a consultant, which is basically what a designer is, I have to be honest with them and myself about the time necessary.

  29. I've worked with interior designers in San Fran, NYC, Charlotte and now in Westchester. Each time the fee structure was different - depending upon the market rate, the designers experience and the agreement we made. In each case, I felt I got a value -added. So, I guess my answer depends. However, I definitely believe I have been better served in each of my homes by working with a professional --- and I've learned a lot along the way.

  30. I have to say that LGN is my absolute favorite design blog and this GV living room featured in the Times a few months ago is one of my favorites! I am obsessed with the Hunt Slonem, myself. However, as someone who lives in Manhattan, I can understand the $10,000 fee. That doesn't mean I think it is acceptable (they live in a very small one bedroom and I would think that is insane for the entire apartment) but this is New York City. And what I remember from the article, this designer/decorator is very high profile which is to say, People Know Her and Her Buisness. Your name and your social network and your clientele base is everything here and yes even if you work in interiors, if you are a dentist, a baker, a dog walker. Also, it takes A LOT of time in NYC to brand yourself, build your clientele list and so on. I bet when she first started out in NYC as a decorator, no matter how many years she was doing this before she moved to the city, she had a major reality check and had to start all over again. Also, they live in one of the most coveted and expensive neighborhoods (not to mention one of the most expensive blocks) in Manhattan. If that apartment was situated in Inwood (northern tip of the Manhattan Island think Bronx but a lot more north) one, I doubt the high profile decorator would go there to service the living room and two it would have not been 10k. That's just how it is here. Sorry for the bluntness, but I like to keep it real. Love the blog!! Hope you show some more projects and rooms soon!

  31. I think $10k is way out of proportion for what was actually done in this room. The majority of pieces were already in place and it seems this was just a floor plan change. I believe this is why more people do not use designers. It is secretive and subjective. You could spend hours working up a plan only for me to hate it. Then what? It is a question that has no answer.

  32. Oh I struggle with this everyday. It's so hard to figure out your pricing.

    I agree with everyone that people tend to get weird with money when it comes to something creative, but we have no problem paying plumbers,electricians, etc to fix things in our house.

    I think that 10k is pretty high for that type of room. But from what I recall in reading the article I think it was done by a pretty well know designer. That being said for a high-profile designer that seems to be a good price.

    I remember reading in Domino magazine when they interviewed a bunch of designers that they mostly charged 30k per room and then a mark up on to the trade products in the 30% range. In that case 10K does seem like a bargain.

    I find myself working an insane amount of hours and always feeling guilty to hand in the invoice. I charge a lower hourly fee than most decorators, but I actually bill the majority of my hours.

    Many decorators that charge $50-$75 an hour quote clients with 10-15 hours to complete a room from start to finish. That is a complete lie. Most of my installs take at least 6 hours! So my hours are always way higher than that.

    I think if you are toying with switching your rates due to the NY client base you need to figure out if you want to stay somewhat budget.

    I know many decorators that charge around $100-$125 an hour and just do the design plan for about 10 hrs and leave the rest up to the client. So if they want the decorators help during the rest of job the decorator just charges a mark-up on products and services that they are there to over see.

  33. If you live in NYC, you are well accustomed to things costing twice as much as a similar service would cost most places in America. (There are other cities where this is also true). Designers, especially self-employed designers, are running a business, and so you must base your fees on what your time is worth to yourself. If prospective clients are unwilling to pay, there is probably someone out there they can hire for less. Personally, I think an hourly rate is the most fair to the client and designer. Perhaps the client needs to state there is only a certain number of hours they can afford. And like lawyers, the designer needs to include hours spent answering emails and phone calls to the client, since those can be time-consuming endeavors. As was mentioned by other commenters, the designer's name and reputation also plays into how much people will be willing to pay for a designer's reputation. In every type of career, there will always be certain people who can command a higher price for services, and there is nothing wrong with that. We live in a world where there are always a thousand choices of products and services to purchase, and we select based on our perceived value/price ratio.

  34. I am so curious on this too! I am just starting my business and know I am worth a lot more than I charge my clients, but am so uncomfortable putting a price on something that I love to do! So far it hasn't been an issue because I mostly have been trying to build my portfolio, but I know I can't run a proper business and continue to ignore my finances! I have tried talking to other decorators to get an idea of their fee structure, but that is understandably kind of uncomfortable for most people... Thanks for starting this discussion!

  35. I dont think the issue is how much work was done for what was charged ... as long as you know what you are paying from the beginning well then you have agreed to it ... if they wanted a cheaper designer I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they would have found one.

  36. Just want to say I love your blog- read it everyday!
    But I'm confused- i just read the article- It does not say that the decorator charged $10,000 in fees- it states she did it for free- and that the total room cost $4,000 (for new furnishings) Just thought I should point this out!

  37. In the interest of full disclosure, I know nothing about designer rates.

    I do agree that a designer should be paid appropriately and fairly for their time, education, and talent. I think people too often expect a "deal" for a service. Photographers, hair-stylists, etc. I think face similar challenges. People expect a favor just because they know you, or know someone how knows you, or....

    I also think there is a big (BIG) difference between someone who went to design school and someone who thinks they have a knack for decorating. Its like the everyone-with-a-DSLR-is-a-photographer phenomenon. Not everyone has any business charging 10k.

    From a consumer perspective, I sort of feel like the designer fees should not exceed the purchasing budget. I think I would feel better about that room if the designer earned 5k, equal to the purchasing budget, rather than 10.

  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

  39. opps, 2 year old deleted my comment :)

    you get what you pay for. the room is styled beautifully. contrary to some of the previous comments, i appreciate that the designer was able to incorporate some of the clients existing furniture, accessories, and materials. Integrating personal items can always be a challenge, but i feel this room was designed gracefully and still displays the clients personality.

  40. I believe a worker is worth their wages - I have to, since my salary is all fundraised! But honestly, I think $10K is a bit high for this space. Sure, there are some thoughtful changes and furniture purchases, but the price seems a bit steep. Maybe not for NYC, but definitely for my humble midwestern roots :-)

  41. I'm also trying to figure out where the $10,000 fee came from. The article said nothing about it.

    That being said, I would say a $10,000 fee might be reasonable if the clients were difficult to work with, changed their minds a lot, etc... We restructure our architectural fees if we realize that a client is changing their minds too often (always an uncomfortable conversation). If you don't you can't make any money. We're currently dealing with a client who agreed to an hourly fee structure, and then balked when we gave him the bill. "You can't possibly have spent this much time on the project, yet." Well, we have. Just because he thinks it's impossible, or that our time is less valuable than his, doesn't make it so, it just means he has no idea how much time and effort Design Professionals put into their work.

  42. Reading the article, it says that she offered her services for free so the $10,000 mark seems a bit shocking!

  43. I can't believe on a design blog of all places people are debated the impact of furniture placement and what adding/editing a few key pieces can make. We all know it isn't simple, especially when you see the before and after photos and what a huge difference can actually be made by making those "simple" changes. If you want to make a big impact without spending a lot of additional money on new pieces, I think you should expect to pay a professional who can pull it off for you with those limitations. I am sure that they could have paid an inferior designer less money and had inferior results. In my opinion they got what they paid for, a big impact with minimal changes.

  44. Wow, $10,000 for this space seems outrageous, especially when it exceeds the money spent on furnishings! I think everyone deserves a beautiful space, and depending on the time spent, the designer's background, etc. each designer should be priced at a rate they are comfortable with. Each market, each client, and each designer is very different.

  45. Im not a decorator but it seems common sense to me....Do not feel guilty as a decorator charging for the complete work/hours you put in to a design. Its like going to a nice restaurant and then not having money to pay for it all or being surprised with the bill even when the prices are on the menu. As long as you the design are up front with how you bill then thats all that matters. The features room displays some expensive items and the owners seem to have expensive taste...did they end up liking the room and care that they paid 10k?

  46. I think the article as posted online is a little confusing--the designer waived her 10k fee and her estimate of what the fee would have been is only explained on the pop-up "What it Cost." That said, it does sound as though she (or her assistants) did a fair amount of work, scouring e-bay and estate sales for budget-friendly pieces; the couple also likely wouldn't have known of or been able to purchase the trade-only Avery Boardman sofa which sounds like a great find for them. I think the designer is likely basing her fee on what she would have charged a normal client based on room size and scope of project; I'm guessing that typically her clients have much larger budgets, so the 10k for her services would be a much smaller percentage of the total.

    Let's face it, at the end of the day, a designer's services are worth whatever people will pay for them. Living in NYC, I know people who hire designers like the one featured in the article. Some people are paying up for a "name," while others are willing to take a chance on a fledgling designer who's trying to build her portfolio and thus expect to pay less.

  47. LOVE the discussion going on here. It's fascinating. Here's my two cents:

    I definitely like the "after", but it strikes me as more about tweaking than a true overhaul. Honestly, I'm not sure where the $10k in fees went (though the ~$5k in new stuff seems about right). It looks like much of this could have been done in an afternoon worth of rearranging and then maybe another day or two's worth of sourcing for a few new items. In Houston at least, that doesn't add up to $10k.

    I'd like to add though that as an attorney I am CONSTANTLY dealing with billing, fees, etc. - especially in this economy. It's not just "creative types" who get their fees questioned/bargained down!

  48. I know nothing about this at all- but someone commented that the designer is a very high profile one. Perhaps the people were willing to pay her twice as much as they did for the furnishings for the ability to name drop their designer. Good for the designer to get to that point where people are willing to use her just to drop her name- and she can charge so much for it. Now...when I have that much disposable income....I don't know if i'd pay any amount to name drop.

  49. I am a professional designer, with a masters in architecture, and have been working for over 6 years. My hourly rate for corporate clients is 105$ per hour. This space looks as if it took over 10 hours to design. ( its certainly not a dramatic overhaul like a kitchen) However, most people who aren't designers for a living do not understand procuring furniture, finishes, hiring trades and managing trades all takes time. Not to mention the time it takes to revise and hold hands with clients. Our profession is dramatically underpaid, this post is great because it shows how much we are undervalued. How much do you pay your dentist per hour ( without insurance ) i can assure you its 4-5X that amount, and the intensity of school is pretty similar.

  50. I know nothing about designer rates. But I would definitely pay a lot of money for a room I was in love with. I think it's worth it if the client's end up loving the room. I think it depends on your income. Based on what my husband and I make now, we couldn't afford the $10,000 price tag. But if we were making $200,000+ then that would be another story.

    PS.-I just wanted to say that I own a dresser identical to the one under the big white circle mirror. It was my first dresser! I'm astonished that I own something so unique that's in a professionally decorated room!

  51. I think it's important we stop describing a designers work as "just moving some furniture around". It's clearly more than that. We can all move our furniture around. Most of our homes look like the before picture. It's the after that is so elusive. So can we agree the after picture's worth is more than just moving stuff around?

  52. Thanks for all the feedback. I think it's interesting to read all of this.

    I thought I would mention that I added a line in the post to clarify one of the points here. The designer, who I think is on the ups and is pretty well known, volunteered her services in exchange for the press written in this article. She says though that she would have charged $10,000 for the room.

    keep on discussing! I'd love to hear more.

  53. I think wether or not fees of any kind when services are rendered are always up for debate. You can always find something more/less expensive for whatever you are pricing out.

    That being said, I am sure for the area that the clients live in the fees aren't out of line. However for most of the rest of the country, they seem very excessive.

    I think the thing that strikes me about this particular article is that it seems perfectly clear that the designer thinks of herself as a "full service" designer and prices her services accordingly. Working with "assistants" will always bump up the price of anything you are doing, as their salaries have to come from somewhere.

    Personally I don't see how the changes made really reflect a $10,000 service fee. Most of what she used is very current and on trend, nothing really out of the box or unusual. Sourcing products from West Elm and IKEA? That isn't difficult to do, although I do appreciate her trying to keep the actual cost of the materials low. However it would have been more work for her to go through Homegoods or an antique mall to find pieces that looking online or in a catalog. Nothing was truly labor intensive or required the hiring of outside services (painting, flooring, electrical).

    It just reinterates that each individual has an individual way of doing things, and as the consumer it's important to "shop" around to find someone that you really feel will work well with you and has an understanding of your resources, wishes, vision and expectations.

  54. Not a decorator, but sure wouldn't pay to a fee that high, for a change so minimal. If there were serious space issues remedied then maybe that accounts for the large fee? Not sure.
    Also, wanted to respond to Anon's comment above:
    "How much do you pay your dentist per hour ( without insurance ) i can assure you its 4-5X that amount, and the intensity of school is pretty similar."

    The intensity of school may be similar, however if my dentist messed up it would cause serious physical pain. If the decorator had messed this room up the ramifications would be what? Vinyl that didn't come off the wall after all? Not sure that comparison works with this room.

  55. I think it 100% depends on the client. I estimate hours needed and negotiate a lump sum fee, and clearly state what will be considered additional services. So, she could have maybe completed the room in 40 say $4,000. But if the client was really needy, or didn't have clue what they could get to $10,000 pretty quickly.

  56. I find it amazing that someone would compare a designer with a doctor. A doctor goes to school for years and years and then does an internship and residency before they are paid huge amounts of money. Do you want anyone performing surgery on your child? I would hope not.

    I'm not saying that a designer doesn't deserve to be paid - they do, but it is madness to compare them to a doctor.

  57. I would pay for it, if I could! The change in space is so much better. You maximize your house & get so much more efficient, liveable space.

    However... I am cheap! So I would probably try to negotiate. haha...

    I'm doing a really pretty giveaway this week. Come enter at

  58. Looking at the article further, I missed the "what it cost" graph where it breaks down the cost of the items purchased.

    It does look like she did purchase several of the items from estate sales, and that can be labor intensive so I'll give her that. But it only looks to me like she purchased items from 10 different sources total. And of those I am sure that several of them were trusted sources that she knew would have what she was looking for, so the running around from place to place for one singular items would have been minimal.

    But $730 for five throw pillows really would have thrown me for a loop. Those things would be sacred in my house if they cost that much money!

  59. At first, I thought the price was way too high. But then I actually read the NY Times article. It states that the designer worked on the apartment (after the initial meeting) for nearly 8 weeks with almost daily emails. If we assume that the designer worked on the design every day for that 8 weeks, it amounts to $179 per day ($10000 over 56 days). That's $22 an hour over an 8 hour day.
    Now, I'm not saying she worked for 8 hours a day for 56 days straight... I just like to break things down to get a better idea of what that $10000 means.
    If the designer were to charge the 20% that some previous commenters mention, she would have only worked on the design for 5 or 6 days. (did I get my math right?)
    So, I guess I would say "to each their own." I am not willing to hire a painter, because I want to do it myself. I would not hire a designer for the same reason. I'm a DIY type of girl.
    But, I would (and have) paid over $200 for a pair of jeans, so... who knows.

  60. Hello ladies!
    People keep saying that the price was too high considering they reused a lot of the previous pieces. I'd like to point out that this was probably done to keep the budget low for the client because they probably requested it. Therefore, the designer gave the client what they needed - a new great look on a budget!
    As far as designer hourly rates go it's worth it in the end...
    I explain to my clients that first off I can save you from purchasing things that are not needed, or are of poor quality, or are the wrong scale for you room or from ordering a custom sofa that turns out to be the wrong shade of green...etc. No sense on wasting money!
    Secondly, I can save clients time, and time is money!
    The third thing I point out is that some designers (myself included) split their designer discount with their clients. So for example if I were to purchase a custom $5,000 sofa for my client and gave them 15% of my discount, they would save $750! That's 6 hours of my labour paid for it's self right there!
    Ta da! :)
    There are a lot of people who do not value us or understand what we do, and that is fine because there are a lot that do! And those are the people who keep us in business, and are usually a joy to work for! So to them, thank you!

  61. I agree with what Anon 11:56 said:

    "However, most people who aren't designers for a living do not understand procuring furniture, finishes, hiring trades and managing trades all takes time. Not to mention the time it takes to revise and hold hands with clients."

    This is SO TRUE. Often times, the clients who are wary of hourly-billing are the ones who change their minds a million times, take forever to approve items, and then flip out when the room isn't finished after your estimated 20 hours. IT DRIVES ME NUTS.

    I've learned the hard way that interior designers quickly become adult-babysitters and therapists. It's amazing how people who can afford a designer's services are most often the clients who don't want to pay for them.

    I am in the process of starting an events and interior styling business and it's been SO HARD to figure out my pricing and packages. I still don't know if I should do flat-rate packages, hourly rates, or a mix. It's also difficult to decide on discounts for friends and friends-of-friends...they all want to "use" me, but it leaves me stuck between not wanting to charge them and needing to make a living...


  62. It's New York. Everything costs double - a cup of coffee, a haircut, etc. So put it in perspective. $5000 somewhere else?

    Look at what Charlotte Moss, Bunny Williams, Miles Redd et all working out of NY charge and this will seem like a bargain.

    I think the difference in the room is night and day. First one I'd walk in and be "meh, but cool Hunt painting." The after I'd love. The most difficult part of decorating is scale. And she nailed. That much drama and functionality in a small space is a designer's touch.

    I work in a different profession, but have designed a little for friends here and there and was STUNNED at how much work went in. Frankly, I don't know how people make a living doing it.

    And designers don't get the respect they deserve.

    But I do wonder if there's an overall budget - materials to fee ration that would make more sense to consumers.

  63. I too think this is a great discussion. I'm just finishing school and starting out. A designer friend of mine said- I would need to figure out my pricing or I would be giving away a lot of time for free! also I don't think you can compare this to a doctor. my husband is one in residency and after years of school and very LONG stressful work hours and learning, there is a reason they get paid that much!
    This doesn't mean a designer isn't worth her time! Of course they are, thats why they studied to do their job, because others clearly need help if they are asking for it!

  64. For the last four years, I charged an hourly fee for my services. It was an absolute HEADACHE...both for me AND for my clients. I've recently started charging a flat fee for my services, and I absolutely LOVE it.

    But $10,000 for a room (services only) would never fly where I live. Of course, I'm comparing a city of 200,000 to New York City. My fees are generally around $2000 per room.

    I've also started passing along all of my trade discounts to my clients. It seems like I would make less money doing business this way, but in fact, I'm making more now that I have in years. People love to know what to expect, and if they have that trust with you, they'll use your services over and over, and be more confident in referring you to friends and family.

  65. That is way way way too much money.

  66. I am still in shock!I will answer when I recover.

  67. I think that price tag is absurd! A)I can't afford $10k to pick someone's brain for a small apartment, and B)I don't think this particular design was worth even close to the that price.

    For a whole house that you need to buy everything new for, and haven't a clue where to start or the time to think about it, then sure - $10k could be worth it. But not that apartment, given how much of the owners stuff seems to have been reused.

    But maybe I'm just cheap and naive?

  68. With all due respect,as a trained interior designer and stylist - That space looks lovely ,but TOTALLY unfinished,I mean whats the deal with the TV area? Is that done? how can one hang expensive pieces of art and place their client's Telly on something covered in cloth? maybe she didn't go the whole way (creatively speaking) because
    they didn't have to pay her......10k.

  69. I think it seems like a ton for that room, but I don't live in NYC so I wouldn't know. I wanted to comment that the market supports the charge. If people weren't willing to pay that they wouldn't hire that decorator and he/she wouldn't be able to charge that. There are obviously people who are willing to pay for a big name to decorate for them.

    As far as questioning charges - I also question every charge. Dr's and lawyers also have their charges questioned. It's not only the design industry that has their clients questioning the charges. Also, dr.'s and lawyers attend much more schooling and pay significantly more for their education. I would pay my lawyer $400/hr. but I would never pay my decorator that. But, I can understand how someone else would. It's all about the perceived value of the service you provide.

  70. $10K translates to 80 hours of work at $125/ hr, which seems a reasonable enough hourly fee to me for a designer. This room, however, doesn't seem like 80 hours of work to me.

  71. The cable design shows have really affected the design profession in a profound way. On the one hand, there is greater exposure to a much wider audience of this thing we call interior design, but for the sake of TV this is done and presented in such a miraculously short amount of time that people believe that we can redesign a room right there on the spot or at least just in a few days! Not possible! It takes so much longer.... many times to the designer's own disbelief. As for this particular project, I would think the designer doesn't usually do smaller budgeted jobs such as this one. Charging $10,000 for design services when only $5,000 is allocated to new furnishings sounds crazy because it is simply not done. People who have budgeted only $5000 in new product would not be hiring a designer like this. Maybe if $50,000 was spent on furnishings we wouldn't bat an eye at the fee even though the time spent would have been somewhat similar....the ironic thing is that it takes even more time to work with such a small budget.

  72. I think this particular is lovely, but it doesn't seem like a 10-15K change to me, especially since I agree that the nicest pieces in the room were already in the room. It seems like this room would have turned out remarkably similar if the designer had given an hour long consult and let the homeowners implement the changes, but that assumes the homeowners willingness to do some of the work themselves. 2K for a well built sofa they'll have for years seems perfectly fair (although this particular sofa just doesn't do it for me at all- but that's just me)but $500 for a framed print and $700 for pillows seems like the designer wasn't listening when the homeowners stated their preference on how much the project should cost! I guess for 10K I would expect more of a dramatic change, not just help rearranging what they already had.

  73. I think a lot of people posting on this are overlooking the fact that the change does not have to "look" like it cost the designer $10K to do. A designer's cost is usually based on a number of factors: initial meeting, sourcing precedent images from magazines, doing a few site visits, research & sourcing, contacting vendors for pricing & specs, preparing the client presentation, presenting to the client, making changes (this happens a lot, real life is not HGTV, no client just agrees to what they are first shown, it is a process), ordering & billing, follow up, supervising the contractor, delivery acceptance & installation, & percentage of the furnishing budget. Even after installation, there's still styling & changes that take place. Again, real life is not HGTV. If you were living in the space, would you just accept whatever a designer threw together in 2 days? Probably not. Is it possible that this could have cost less? Yes, but not by much, I would say that for the scope, it should have been around $7 - $8K. If you consider all the work that goes into a project & all the discussions & changes the designer will do BECAUSE THE CLIENT WANTS IT, then the price is fair.

  74. wow...10,000 dollars is a lot of money! :D

  75. interesting a former mortgage broker/re agent, many people questioned my fees charged and rightfully so. That is why in any industry the consumer has the right to shop around to find the fee/price that fits their budget best.
    for me, 10k is high but if $$ was no object than probably not. the room was really transformed.
    Do you watch Selling New York, it's a new show on HGTV? Well, a decorator on the show charged $300,000 to stage an apartment that was selling in the $25 million range.. I believe it's all relative.

  76. $10,000 is ridiculous for the amount of work done in the room. Yes, the designer seemed to "search" for deals - but didn't seem happy about going out of her comfort zone to look for anything in the couple's price range. $750 for 5 pillows - out of a budget of $5000! 15% of the budget! She also didn't seem to care if they liked an item or not - just that she did. I agree that designers need to push their clients to test their boundaries and liked her advice to live with it for a couple of weeks and see how you felt. However, it seems very unfinished to make your clients keep something they absolutely do not want in the room (the antlers) until you photograph it (at which point the design process is over, I'm assuming) and then have them return it. Now they have to decorate that part of the room - a part they paid you for (well, not in this case, but in real life). And then to hassle them about wanting a painting their friend was giving them. I think if the client wants something incorporated in a room - it is your job to make a design that incorporates it. There is a big difference between a good shopper and a designer.

    The room does show a designer's touch to me - it looks put together. I'm sure the designer does charge that much per room - but probably very rarely works with clients in that price range.

  77. $5K for furnishings maybe, but $10K for somebody's expertise, no. Especially not in a rental unit that isn't my forever house.

    I guess if I was going to hire a designer I would hire a lesser known designer or a design blogger (with an education in design) who practices design options at all price points as opposed to going to someone who is automatically going to charge a high fee and only select Thibaut, Quadrille and Schumacher fabrics, etc.

    I blogged about this article back in January and asked the same question and everyone who responded (all non designers) agreed that they would never pay that much for design services regardless of who the designer was.

  78. i think the room looks great, is styled well and if the client is happy, it's completely up to them what they pay for services. if you are a client and think $10,000 is too high for such services, shop around. i'm sure there are plenty of designers in NYC who will work for less and probably some who will work for a lot more.

  79. Hmm...that is a good question. I think at least on your blog, you're going to get a pretty biased sampling. I would guess most of your readers are either do-it-your-selfers or designers themselves. I could be wrong though. Even though I'm not an interior designer (I'm an artist), I love gathering inspiration for my own home projects here. Hiring someone to do it for me would take out half the fun of a project.
    BUT having said that, I think an interior designer's time should be worth a lot. I'm not sure how the market in NYC compares to other places, so I don't have a fair answer to your question, but I think that's a beautiful room and is worth that amount if the client is willing to pay. I think good interior designers are kind of a luxury, so people who can afford one should pay them what they're worth. The rest of us can dream! :)

  80. it's a great space...but i'm totally shocked that it was $10k for the room and would have been $10k in design fees. who is this designer? i think that is positively INSANE.

  81. I love what was done with this space! It articulates so well the difference between what a designers can do and what us regular home owners/renters cannot do. Nice furniture and accessories are the not the keys to good design. Tying fees to purchases can be risky for the designer and client as it motivates the designer to encourage the client to purchase more goods even though they may not be needed (but still so important for designers to be compensated). More stuff does not always equal good design as this post demonstrates.

    In reading the comments, the business person in me wants to try and help the commenter’s who are really struggling with charging for services. Here’s my feeble attempt 

    #1 you’re worth it. If you don’t think you’re worth it, your clients won’t either. Maybe this will help draw the lines on what clients to turn away. What’s ‘it’? Research your market heavily, that way you know where you stand so you are neither undercharging (there is such a thing) or overcharging…and how you’re charging. Scanning a business book or two for women can also help  I read one before I asked for my last raise and it paid off very well.

    #2 Be strong and know your accomplishments – maybe when you hand in your invoice, include a one or two pager on what you’ve done w/ before and after photos. A recap of sorts that helps tie the dollars to your effort for the client.

    #3. Review how you deliver your design services. What aspects of the project takes a long time for me to do (i.e. maybe you know the piece needed, why not have your client hunt down kelly green armoires)? What aspects really make my clients happy (where’s the bang for buck/time)? Maybe you’ll find areas where you do more work than necessary. Or how you could deliver services more cost effectively – i.e. mood board only for the tight budgets. Ask yourself/business questions and it may stir up ideas of how to tweak your efforts so fewer dollars are left on the table. Additionally, work through a proper business plan. They can be a bit tedious, but it’ll force you to go through the business side and ask these kinds of questions. There are many templates online – some are better than others. Let me know if you need help.

    I hope this helps.

    Thanks LGN!

  82. I've experienced both ends of the pricing spectrum.

    On one hand I have worked for a large international interior design company and my hourly rate was about $125/hour. About $100/hour of this went to overhead costs to maintain the employee benefits and office needs worldwide, and my take-home pay was about $25/hour. The clients we attracted had millions to spend, and even THEN our fees were always in question. For commercial jobs, we provided a lump-sum fee for the entire project (to include a potential 15% profit if the job was managed correctly) with an estimated number of hours for each phase, along with a series of items that would be considered an additional service billed hourly if requested by the client (things like framed finish boards to put on display, additional trips that exceed the qty outlined in the contract, etc). In my experience, this fee structure hardly ever resulted in profit because clients see such a big price tag and expect immediate results, lots of hand-holding, and shortened deadlines.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I have also done some freelance work as an interior designer for small residential clients and my perception is that people would rather pay more for a tangible OBJECT (furnishings, accessories, etc), than for a fee to compensate you for your innate design abilities. For residential work, the first thing I do is define the client budget and scope. Then I request a retainer fee of about 15% - 20% of their total budget to get through the design development/approvals/revisions. After I get client approvals, I begin purchasing. I purchase items at trade discounts (anywhere from 20% - 40% off retail), and then charge my clients an additional 20% mark-up on all purchased items. So each client still gets a "deal" since its usually less than the retail, but they understand that this additional 20% pays for my time coordinating specifications, utilizing my line of credit, establishing the delivery schedule, and installation in various phases. Again, because the end result is an OBJECT, there is hardly any objection to the price. The money made through mark-ups on furnishings usually makes the time spent on residential jobs worthwhile.

    I am open and honest about my fee structure to all my clients and it seems to work for me...

  83. LGN, you certainly posed a good question and you illustrated it very well. $10,000 for moving furniture around a small apartment is indeed too much, even in New York. When designers do structural changes and custom designed furniture and fabric treatments a lot of time and overhead goes into them...not at all the same thing as a ReDesign or Makeover which essentially uses the furniture and accessories the client already has. Shiree'

  84. I guess my biggest question would be "how many hours did this take the designer?" If this project was their primary project and it took a month or more to finish it (meaning, a month working FULL TIME) then I can understand the $10,000. To me it's not a debate about what a doctor vs a decorator charges, it's how much they've WORKED. I have a degree in Social Work, and if I go get my masters, there's a very very good chance I'll STILL be making less than $50,000 after 5-10 years in the field w/an advanced degree. I think anyone who works as a social worker, teacher, nurse, etc., would have a hard time paying $10,000 on a room that doesn't seem like it was drastically changed. They'll feel like $10,000 is super expensive simply because they may make that much money after 3-4 months of full time work. And they're educated as well, and care about their craft!

  85. Hit a real nerve with this one! Certainly, valuable services deserve fair compensation. And, if $10K is what the market will bear for a room like this, hey that's capitalism at work.

    As to the comments that no one questions the fees charged by lawyers, doctors, etc. - as a former lawyer, let me just tell you, that's 100% incorrect. Clients of any professional want to ensure that they're getting value for their money, and it's standard practice to review invoices with a fine-tooth comb. No matter what the industry.

    Here's what really worries me about the pricing question, though. One of the anonymous postings included the following: "most "normal" people can't afford the luxury of a decorator or interior designer". Because "normal" people can't afford a designer, they think they can design themselves - encouraged by countless TV shows, magazines, etc. The interior design profession becomes more and more marginalized. Moreover, it moves design away from being a necessity and places it squarely in the luxury camp. When the economy gets tight, people cut back on luxuries - as we've so plainly seen in recent years.

    The design profession does itself a serious disservice when it limits access to the super rich. Clearly, a number of designers who responded to this posting don't limit their client base in this way, which is encouraging and a move in the right direction.

  86. $10K is a bit ludicrous, regardless of what area of the country you are in. There may be the occasional 'celeb' designer that can charge any rate they wish for a service, but when the average family income is approx. $50K a year, one would need to get their head checked for paying such a ridiculous fee! With that said, I love everything decor/design, but I wouldn't be comparing a decorator's services/fees to a physician's services/fees...two different ball games, my friends! God bless!

  87. I think Zoe B is right on. If the client is happy then there isn't much to say. It's as difficult as putting a price on art. Whoever is buying has to decide what "reasonable" is.

  88. Okay, I just wrote and erased a really long post which helped me to boil down my thoughts.

    1- One responder said something along the lines of that she thoroughly went over with her clients all that her job with them would entail. That sounds really valuable and important to gaining a trusting working relationship for decorator and client.

    2- Something in the tone of the now-flat-fee decorator made that option sound really appealing.

    3- My bottom line: I would pay from $25 to $50/hr or a flat fee of $1000, maybe up to $2000.

    I'm not saying what interior decorating is worth, I just think that $25 to $50/hr is a good, honest rate of pay to do a lot of jobs, and that most of us do not earn that much, and probably earn not that much doing jobs we like less.

    As opposed to health care, legal advice, and making sure our pipes are not backing up poop, interior decorating is a luxury, and so I think not an apt comparison to doctoring, lawyering, and plumbing.

    Based on what I've read here, only the doctors, lawyers, and plumbers can afford to hire interior decorators.

    Sheesh, now I sound like a crank, and you are all going to write mean things to me. Please don't. I WANT to hire a decorator. I'd love to hire any of you, probably. But $100/hr is too much for me. I need to save up for the upholsterer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  89. Interesting discussion! I am a registered Interior Designer and find that people often don't understand what is involved in designing a space. It's not just an "eye for color"'s a learned skill. I won't stand here and say that I am literally saving lives (on par with brain surgery) but, frankly, it took alot of school, internships and licensing to get here. Even if all the designer did was "move furniture" the client didn't think of it or do it themselves. You should be paid for your knowledge...and people charge what the market will bear. I hear the same complaints from friends who are counselors, tradespeople, consultants, architects. Payment for knowledge can be a hard sell. Just my two cents!
    p.s. great your creativity!

  90. (continuation of thought posted above...)
    But (and all you decorators and designers out there will know this), if I had a nickel for all of the people who have asked me to come over to help them pick out drapes...(implication: for free)...I would be a wealthy woman.

  91. I just found your blog and I absolutely adore it! We have the same decor sensibilities and I absolutely love all the photos you post.
    This apartment is fantastic -- love the stripes in the nook... am making a mental note for when I re-decorate :)

  92. Yikes - this is all very interesting but totally in the abstract for me - I'm a public interest lawyer who will probably never be able afford the luxury of hiring a designer - hence, my scouring design blogs for ideas that I can attempt on my own. Not surprisingly, the PVE comment comparing interior design fees to doctor and lawyer fees rubbed me wrong. The reality today for most aspiring doctors and lawyers without a trust fund is beginning their careers with deep six figure student loan debts causing monthly payments that are as much or more than a second mortgage (and this applies to both those earning six figures and those who, even if you doubled their salary, don't hit six figures). I see designer services far more akin to the fine arts which we all know is extremely subjective in terms of value and worth.

  93. I think the design fee was ludicrous!

  94. WOW that's a lot of $$ and seriously does it look much different ?? And a rental to boot....

    I am not a designer, I do my own decorating, find it easy and fun. Books and magazines to get inspiration I feel are all that's needed. I would never hire a decorator I want my space to say "ME", as much as I love Blog/HGTV/decorators they all leave their little marks/signatures in everyone's space.

    And to compare a Doctor to a Decorator YIKES...the only thing in common is the first letter.


  95. Nancy Marie SmithJune 17, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    I'm a licensed architect, and we usually charge a percentage of the construction budget as our fee, and I know that in my firm, the interiors fees are even lower than ours. That being said, just judging from the photos without knowing if anything else was done... these folks got ripped off. The decorator basically rearranged their stuff! Sad. I am not impressed.

  96. That seems pretty high to me, but I am based in the NorthWest, where everything costs less. I have a very low hourly rate currently, but plan to steadily raise it as clientèle builds. I do think that 10K is a realistic price, but not for that apartment. They didn't change much, and there was no real structural changes.

  97. Once, on a whim I called a decorator (I liked her portfolio). Her rates were $100-150 per hour, post initial consultation, materials and work not included. I couldn't afford it on a large scale, and on a smaller and more affordable scale decided it was not worth the money. I read blogs instead.

  98. wow!
    i have SO enjoyed reading all of these comments.
    when i first saw the 10K fee, i have to admit that i was a little shocked, and thought the fee was WAY too high.
    but after reading all the comments, and really reflecting on the time that I PERSONALLY spend to complete a room, my opinion has changed.
    clients generally have no idea how long it takes a designer to pull a room together!
    i too, have struggled knowing what to charge clients. (and i was so relieved to hear that many other decorators and designers feel the same way!) i feel that my bachelors degree in interior design, knowledge, skills and experience are valuable, but i am always willing to work with any budget.
    i have to say however, that as time passes, i feel more and more confident in my abilities, and less likely to negotiate a fee that i know will end up making me feel used and frustrated.

    great post!
    i have loved reading every comment.

  99. A hard crew to ask this question since most that read this blog are either decorators or are non-decorators who like decor. It seems to me that the people that work with decorators are those with the funds and either don't have the interest, the time or are really looking for the aesthetic provided by the decorator they hire.

    I think less expensive decor services via blog posts (free) or online services are fantastic for those decorators trying to establish a name and a brand. But, once said name and brand is established, I'd pull back on the above (hire an intern to blog and hire a junior decorator to handle the online services) and start focusing on high-end decorating services.

    Personally, I'll never be able to justify high-end decorating services. I think it's because I actually like decor and would prefer to do it myself. But I certainly will work with cool blogger/decorators who provide reasonable online decorating services. I think it's an inexpensive way to get some great design/decor advice from folks that I truly think are up and coming in the design field.

    Just my two cents!

  100. I'm not saying that I disagree with the posts about the doctors, dentists and lawyers...but lets be frank, those kinds of professions are often necessary and required for our daily existence. It is unfortunate, but decorators, designers and architects are not necessary for continued existence. Many of these folks are amazing and talented people, but people can survive without them. I say this not to be insulting but to be practical. If the argument is moved from analogizing to these professions, to instead focusing on creative ways to get your services into the mass market, perhaps the whole perception of what is fair to be paid to design folks could change?

  101. This is the reason most people are afraid to hire designers and decorators because frankly @ $10000 that is an extravagance. The general public are intimidated with the thought of using a designer because of the high cost, and consider it a luxury. Many retail establishments offer free services with space planning etc. so people can all give tips, which is another reason why the Pottery Barns and Rest Hardwares offer the one-stop shopping its just easier for most people copy a room based on the sales floor or catalog because frankly they are priced out of using a decorator, and all they really want is to create a great first impression and have comfort.

  102. If I were to spend $15000 to decorate my apartment I'd expect it to break down to $10k on furniture and $5k on design fees. In the last year I've spent just under $5000 on furniture and decor items so I know that amount doesn't go far. I didn't replace any of my large pieces of furniture and while my place looks different (better), it was hardly a complete makeover.
    This post and the comments make me realize I'll never be able to afford to utilize a design service. I thought in the future I might at least be able to look into an e-design, but I see now that any service is probably out of range of what I can afford.

  103. I guess it depends on the decorator, how well the do, and how big the space is. I think that they did an awesome job. I love the furniture and the accessories and especially the vinyl wall. But, it is a small room so I think, in my opinion, that was a little high of a price tag!
    Lila Ferraro
    Queen Bedroom Sets

  104. Decorating is a real skill, but not one I can afford to pay for.

  105. wow loved reading all of the comments. really interesting...

    As some people pointed out, it often takes MORE time to design a room on a super-tight budget than it does on a larger budget. Designers should be compensated for that additional time/ elbow grease/ whatver you call it to make a $5000 room like like a $20,000 room. (Much harder/ more time-consuming than having $20,000 to work with) ...With only $5000 for this particular designer to work with, I'm sure she spent a lot more time on the design/ shopping/ scouring etc...

    And on another note... I couldn't afford to hire myself as a designer. My friends and family do not have designers either... As much as I would love to give my services away to people/ lower my rates, I can't and reserve that only for charity. (free of course, not lower rates! ;) Decorators have a skill that people want. We have created businesses, educated ourselves, made it a way of life to constantly research & learn, have overhead, have established accts and relationships, and so should be paid accordingly. We all have different skill levels & assets and so I think it's important for a decorator's pricing to be such that he/ she has clients willing to pay the fees. (If not, I'd say maybe the fees are too high.) As I gain more experience, my fees increase.

    For those who don't find it's worth what's being asked, then it would make sense that that designer is not for them because they don't value him/ her enough. Neither will be happy.

    rambled- sorry!! great question & comments!!!

  106. taking into consideration what Beth said (the only concrete guidance in the replies I've seen), 20 - 25% sound reasonable. By that standard, the room in question would have cost $50,000 to decorate. As already noted, the paint, rug, sofa's are the same. Different is desk, coffee and side tables. Since there is no before of the other side of the room, I can't guess, but from what I'm seeing, no way $50,000 was spent. Unless it was all put into the artwork.

  107. Interesting question...

    1) $10k is too much money for that room, though it looks great.

    2) I am mistified by posters comparing decorators/designers to doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.. I have a PhD in Computer Science and there is NO WAY I would consider paying a designer more than I make hourly (and I work in a financial services firm). I simply would not do it on principle alone - because I also spent 4 years getting a B.S. degree, plus 2 getting a masters, plus 5+ getting the PhD and then I did a Post Doctorate! Doctors have similar experiences and honestly the only lawyers out there who escape faster from the pile of debt they have after law school are the corporate ones. It boggles my mind that people would compare these fields to interior design.

    3) I totally understand how frustrating it must be for a designer to have his/her fees questioned - but because design is considered a luxury item for most people in this country, they question the price because they reason they don't need the service.

    4) The assumption that other fields don't have their fees questioned is ludicrous. I work for a financial services firm and we have to negotiate fees every time we do client work. Moreover, the FIRM can charge high fees, but it's not like we the individual workers get that much. For example, for my expertise, the firm might charge $500-600 to the client, but I will likely only see about $50-80 of that at a manager level, more at a director level. The firm can charge that much because the client is paying for the overall reputation of the firm as a whole, as well as my expertise.

    Thus, with that in mind, paying a designer at $150-175/hr seems exorbitant to me. I get it that this is like contracting, but even comp sci contractors at my level (Master's or PhD level with lots of experience) don't charge that much. For me, the high fees associated with design and the fact that it is not a necessity puts it into the luxury category - which is WHY I think designers can get away with charging so much in the first place. When people are shopping with their hearts, they tend to pay more. Most companies I know don't get stars in their eyes when shopping for a Computer Architect, etc..

    For my field, I couldn't get away with charging so much because my services would likely be required on an ongoing basis, while a designer would probably only confer with a client once every few years, if that - another reason to consider it a luxury.

    And I did want to add that my field of work (usability and user experience) involves a lot of retreading and going back over old work and even though it is a science, there is also an art to it. I notice a lot of the same issues popping up in design that I have to deal with in usability.

    Though I would not pay a price that steep for design work, I would pay for a consultation (to help me polish my own ideas) or to help me hunt down specific items. For that, I would hope the cost could remain around $2-4k. THAT I would pay for - but not some giant amount that can't be broken down into exactly what I'm getting for my money.

    My firm (the financial services one) has to list out exactly what we are charging for what - why don't designers then? Maybe that would help.

    But designers still have to solve the major question of how to get people to pay for a luxury service. If my work doesn't get done, a company could lose millions of dollars of revenue due to their employees not being able to efficiently use some critical software. If my house doesn't get professionally decorated ... what calamity occurs?

  108. thanks for starting this discussion, jenny! it's been so interesting to read what all of your readers have to say about this clearly controversial topic. it seems to me that it's most fair to charge on an hourly basis — i liked the anonymous comment that equated $10,000 with 80 hours at $125 per hour. i agree that the $10,000 fee need not correspond with a room that looks like it's had $10,000 worth of changes, but i do think it's fair that the designer be honest about the time he or she puts in both designing and interacting with his or her clients. for the fledgling designers among us, it seems they're lowballing the amount of time they spend on their projects to keep costs low for their clients — while perhaps this designer can afford to overestimate the amount of time she worked on this space (the results are lovely, no doubt, but likely not 80 hours' worth) given her expensive location and up-and-coming reputation. thanks again for opening up an interesting dialogue.

  109. How interesting it's been to read these comments. I think the room looks great but like many I no way feel it's enough work to account for the 10k the designer would have charged. I realize there is a lot of disposable income in NYC but I couldn't help feel that the designer was a little full of it as a way to up her cred. Does this firm have a website?
    Too compare design work to medical help seems a little out of touch. There is a world outside of certain wealthy enclaves and life is quite different there.
    Unfortunately, after reading many of the designers comments here it seems as if ID will continue to be a luxury procurement for many.
    I have noticed that ID seems to be something more southern woman do at more varied levels of income.

  110. Love your blog. I definitely agree that designers should be compensated for their time and talents but $10,000 for design fees for this room seems insane. In rereading the article, it does sound like the designer (and her assistants!) spent quite a bit of time on the project, the end result, though quite successful, looks like she just rearranged and added some accessories. It sounds like the project was a bit stressful for both designer and client compounded by the timing of a death and illness in the client's family in the middle of it all. The designer wasn't too interested in accomodating the client's taste with lots of fussing over the antlers, the painting, the vinyl decals, etc.

    I think it can be misleading seeing before and after shots like this. So many magazines, such as the June issue of Better Homes and Gardens, have cover stories like "Amazing $350 Room Makeover" by Grant K. Gibson, which looks like a similar process accomplished fairly quickly with lots of DIY ideas.

    I would love to hire a designer to help me pick out fabrics to reupholster some things but it doesn't sound like it's realistic. I doubt most people can spend $10k on many projects let alone just for the designer's fee!

  111. I am not a designer, but rather spend my off-time drooling over beautiful designs on blogs that I follow. I would love to have the capacity and keen eye for design... and skills to execute it... and it is a true art form. I got my degree in clinical psychology and am balancing being a new mom with finishing my postdoctoral hours so that I can get licensed as a psychologist. What I have learned while trying to build a private practice is that, if you can actually help people do what is otherwise difficult for them to do within their own capacity at that particular time, the price they pay should reflect that it is a valuable service (without putting them through the ringer!) I once heard a sports analyst comment on why professional athletes are paid so much. He explained that Peyton Manning does not earn millions because what he does saves lives or is for the greater good (some may argue with me on this, my husband being one), but because he is essentially irreplaceable. No one else can do what he does. Whether you're a decorator, a psychologist, an a chef, an athlete... whatever... if you are doing something special that no one else can do, you should be compensated accordingly. And, the world deserves to know that you're out there!

  112. oops... I send the last post before i was finished. I meant to add that very few professionals in their particular line of work are truly irreplaceable, which is why most of us are not bringin in the big bucks. The particular renovation that was posted, in my mind, does not seem to be work the 10k that it was valued at and I wonder why it was. But it looks pretty darn good, and if my place could ever look that beautiful without me having to lift a finger, especially with a 17-month old bulldozing through it, I would be in hog heaven. Maybe that alone is worth the big bucks.

  113. How funny is this to me, see, I paid a interior designer to come into our home to help me choose paint colors and well, I later had a different idea and went off in that direction... so goes the creative mind... so goes the pocket book...

  114. While $10,000 is an amount that I could never justify spending on design services, there are designers in NYC who make that much and more. They are also the exceptions rather than the rule. It takes an enormous amount of talent, luck and killer business skills to get to the point where a designer can justify those kinds of fees. Most of the people I know who got design degrees never make a fraction of that kind of money in NYC - the market is just so saturated with talented designers. Anyone who wants design services in NYC can hire a Parson's student whose looking to build a portfolio and they'll get great design for practically nothing. However, there's also an enclave of incredible wealth in NYC and they'll pay big bucks for big-name designers just for the bragging rights. Frankly, if a designer is that good and well-known and there are people who are willing to pay their fees, there's no reason why they shouldn't charge the highest price they can get for their services.

  115. I cannot believe it cost that much... mainly because so much of what was used the couple already owned. They basically just rearranged and added a few things. Maybe it's a huge name designer? What an awesome discussion topic! Kudos!

  116. I'm a firm believer that your trade is your knowledge and what makes you valuable. People come to us for a reason, and while there is definitely a line to draw on asking for too much money (especially in this economy!), don't give away your time. $5k could have easily covered the room, considering it has a new couch, chair, tables, desk, painting, etc... but $10,000 in decorators fees? a bit steep to me...

  117. That's a tough one. On a practical point, I'm not sure what the going rates are there. From a more emotional perspective I suppose it depends whether the people whose house it is love it. If they do then I suppose it's worth it. If they don't, then probably not.

  118. Interesting to read these comments. Certainly they have a good portfolio.

  119. I completely agree with Nicole, the third poster.

    "I think that 10k in designer fees is complete madness for a space so small, with such minor changes. The wall color looks the same, the carpet is the same, the curtains are the same, the major furniture is all the same. I appreciate the difference, but surely changing the placement of the furniture and choosing a few lamps and pillows is not that onerous of a task for someone who does this day-in-day-out."

  120. As someone who lives in new york, and knows a little about the reporting style of the nytimes, perhaps it would be a good idea to keep two things in mind.

    1. designer fees: are based on time and reputation,
    (if you look at some of the previous examples in this series of articles you will see a variety of fee quotes given the time and stature of the design teams involved).

    2. the designer did this for free advertising and ballparked her "regular" fee for the newspaper.


  121. The price tag on this space is not messured by what has been done to it, but who did it! I guess there is a name attached to this job, which comes with a price. If you want to hire a reasonable and fabulous decorator, look around and find a lesser known personality with a portfoloio you find inspiring.
    There are many out there who work for a very reasonable rate. Like me and many others I know as well!
    I work very hard for all my clients, but I also have learned not to sell myself under value.
    I usually offer a flat rate and for longer projects a planned payment. I work out of Westchester area/NY and charge usually not more then $100/hour. Flat rates are even more favourable for the clients. It is not cheap and some consider it a luxury, but I believe the value of a well designed space can add enormous benefits for the owner and safes much in the long run.
    PS: I consider above project extremly high priced for the amount of work/result!
    But this is NEW YORK! There are always people willing to raise the bar...and there are enough people who go for it!


  122. $10k for that transformation, no. I think just by taking a friend who is naturally good at styling out for a meal and back to apartment for free advice...would have been near enough. I actually think it is a ridiculous amount.

  123. Just wanted to add to my other comment because I don't want to disparage the amount of work a designer has to put in, or to imply that anyone could do it. It is just that in this space and with the results they got I don't think it is worth it.

    I do not disagree with a designer charging that much for that project, they can charge what they like and they put in hours. What I don't like is people being prepared to pay it, that is up to them but misguided I think.

    Maybe I am in the wrong mood to answer this because I have just been watching a programme about hostels and slums in South Africa, if you get my meaning...

    But that hasn't made me feel negative toward paying for design, so I think it is this specific fee and this specific project.

  124. Wow, great comments and really interesting insight from alot of different professions. It seems like most agree that paying someone for their expertise is reasonable...and some don't mind paying more than others for it. I don't think anyone here is literally saying that they are doing the same thing as a doctor, for example, but are merely pointing out that there is a skill involved and therefore a designer should be paid for said skill. It is abundantly clear every day that salary is not necessarily related to perceived value of work---we can debate all day long the merits of various careers and people in them. That said, I personally wouldn't pay what these people paid for this room...but then again, I couldn't afford myself at $80/hour (what my arch firm bills for me). But my commercial clients don't blink at the fee. I also won't pay $200 for a haircut or pair of jeans--but have friends who consider that well worth the money!

  125. As someone who has done a bit of decorating work for friends and thinking of branching out, I, too, have struggled with how and what to charge. So glad to know this is normal!

    This may have been addressed in another comment, but I'm curious about why so many designers/decorators ask potential clients to email or call for their rates rather than just posting them on their website.

    To me that reads "expensive," and I wonder if it would be better to just put them out there so there's not as much mystery. I know this is several days after this post, but this has been such a helpful discussion and any feedback on this question would be so great. Thanks.

    And, Jenny, I enjoy your blog and am sorry to hear about your grandmother.

  126. I am loving this discussion! I am a licensed interior designer in Texas and this is a battle that is all too familiar. Our profession is very undervalued thanks to HGTV! When I first started out, I undercharged and ended up resenting my clients for it, eventhough I was the one that was undercharging. I've learned the hard way that if they don't value my time they aren't going to be good clients, it is very black and white. There are so many factors, that most people just don't realize, that go into the design process. So many clients are shopper savvy these days as well, and will find what you have shown them, or something similar, for less money and buy it...therefore we have to compensate for our time! I've enjoyed reading the comments, especially from other designers. Great post!!!

  127. I guess it would depend on the client that you are dealing with; meaning how demanding. I do think that to pay 10k for that particular space is way too much! Personally I would think of all the things I could be doing in other rooms with the 10k!

  128. I did the same exact thing to my dining nook using contact paper - I LOVE the result.


  129. @pve design: not to discount the professional service a designer provides, but it is ridiculous to compare it to the services of a doctor or lawyer. Doctors save lives, or save lots of money in long term medical expenses when they effectively treat conditions. Lawyers can save time (spent in jail, etc) as well as assets. Both are investments. While I appreciate a designers work, I can't fathom comparing it to a doctor or lawyer b/c i would probably want to redo it in 3 years anyways.

  130. I'll preface my comment with.. I am completely incompetent when it comes to design.

    I would have said absolutely not. But, then I started thinking about the real estate agent I once worked for that got 3-5% commission. I would compare those two industries. Sure they don't necessarily have to go to school, but clients rely on their expertise, connections, ability to sell a beautiful life the same way a client expects their designer to do the same thing with a room revamp or whatever. I would guess the number of hours, ridiculous clients, emails, etc.. could be very similar.

    With that being said, I still think it is a lot of money and quite frankly I agree with the commenter that some designers are pricing themselves out of markets. My husband is a physician (and by the way gets paid $96.00 for removing an appendix.. yeah, not kidding) and with our massive student loans, $10K isn't even a remote possibility.

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  132. My thoughts on the design: The spaces seem brighter, more spacious, and much more inviting. I appreciate the fact that a few things were reused. I don't sense much unity between the living and eating areas, but that's based on my taste, not the clients'.

    The price seems high, but being married to a designer and having been a client in renovations, I recognize that price alone means nothing. Designers have overhead and what the designer does depends on "scope of work" and changes requested later.

    My "overhead" can be past and continuing education; rent, utilities, maintenance, office equipment and supplies; samples; time with salesmen or attending trade shows; advertising; support personnel; transportation; professional dues; taxes...
    My "scope of work" can go from an initial meeting to determine the client's needs, a meeting to present design, ordering products, shopping with the client, hiring workmen, overseeing the actual renovation and installation, handholding, making changes, resolving problems...
    Those were just the first things that came to mind.

    Everyone deserves a win/win situation. Choose your designer/accept your clients carefully. Be willing to spend time making a comprehensive contract that spells out the expectations and responsiilities of all envolved and then honor it. Charge for what you do and pay for what you get.

    Freebies for relatives and low fees for friends will most likely be bad experienes for all.

  133. Well, if the new artwork is included in that, I can see how the budget got so inflated...and worth it for a piece of art (or two!) that you love and can't live withou. If the artwork is not part of the budget, the cost is crazyness. CRAZYNESS. I'm all for paying a fair price for someone's time and talent, but this just seems excessive.

  134. As a drapery workroom who works with some awesome designers, they earn every penny they make. It takes as much time (sometimes more) to sell a less expensive piece of furniture than a more expensive one). Sources take time and money to find.

    And as a workroom who is continually attending conferences to perfect my skills and learn new things to help inspire them in their designs, I also earn what I charge.

    One of the items questioned was $750.00 for the pillows. That can quickly add up. Based on what I could see from the picture, there are several fabrics, pillow sizes and details. If you have to order fabrics and trims from different vendors and custom pillow sizes, those things add up quickly. I calculated 5 pillows with fabric @ $50.00 yd, no trims, freight, inserts and labor with no markup yet and it came to $781.00. These things add up quickly. It's not like going to the local retailer and picking up something that been made in China for pennies.

    Also, some have commented that "$25.00/$50.00 hr is all they would pay. That's more than I make." If you are not self-employed, you have to remember we have overhead, pay our own benefits, insurance, taxes and the occasional vacation.

    Ok stepping off my soapbox. Back to the table full of draperies to finish.

  135. Wow. I don't now if it is fair, or not, but I would never spend that much. Then again, my car is the one screeching to a halt on bulk trash day, picking up furniture to play with. I don't think I've spent 10K on my entire house of furniture.

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  137. Well, nowadays it is not just a decorator you would be hiring, why not try an architect? A decorator which analyzes the interiors and exteriors of a home. In that way, you could save a lot.

  138. Ah! That's a very simple, but elegant-looking carpet! I don't mind spending or adding some bucks on decorating services. But if I can actually do it myself, I'd rather pick up my own ideas from stores. And yes, I think I need to stay away from light-colored ones 'coz I'm a bit clumsy and always stains some of the old rugs. We needed to contact the guy from a carpet cleaning in Ottawa for that. But it was worth it, he did a pretty good job.


I so appreciate hearing from you. Nice comments make my day! Thanks for keeping things light here, friends! :)