Interior designers do much more than pick complementary paint colors and choose matching furniture — although those tasks are important parts of the job. Unlike decorators, interior designers usually have an associate of science degree or certificate of achievement in interior design from an accredited program. They’re trained in drafting, lighting and computer aided design (CAD), and are experts in room-specific design and residential space planning. Interior designers use these skills to plan and design safe, highly functional and beautiful interior spaces, from kitchens and bathrooms to family rooms and bedrooms. They determine space requirements, work within building codes and inspection regulations, and meet accessibility standards. An interior designer’s day-to-day job includes creative and technical tasks, both of which often require great communication skills:
- Creating model rooms and visuals using design software.
- Researching different textiles, materials, finishes, lighting and furniture.
- Hiring suppliers, vendors, and contractors.
- Estimating costs and making bids on potential jobs.
Home staging is the real estate strategy of decorating your home to be as marketable as possible to your target demographic. Home staging is done by interior decorators and other design pros hired by the homeowner or realtor, prior to putting a house on the market. Think of it as setting the stage for potential buyers to fall more easily in love with their future homes — and to spend top dollar to get them. It’s likely to be worth the investment: The Real Estate Staging Association reports that staged homes spend 90 percent less time on the market than those that are not staged. Home stagers can also be hired even if you’re not going anywhere. Stagers can consult on new layouts for your current home, much like an interior decorator.
Home staging can take place while you still occupy the house you plan to sell, or when the home is vacant. For an occupied home, the home stager will clear out clutter, rearrange furniture, and bring in decor and furniture as needed to create the perfect environment. Usually an occupied home has far too much of the current owner’s personality stamped on it, which makes it hard for prospective buyers to envision themselves living there. A home stager should neutralize and beautify the space. In vacant homes, a home stager will bring in furniture and decor so that potential buyers don’t walk into an empty house, which can be equally hard to imagine living in as a cluttered, occupied home.
You can hire an interior design for a job as basic as a one-room consultation or as complex as supervising the design of an entire new home, helping with space planning, choosing color palettes, and shopping for furniture, flooring and artwork. The size and scope of the job will determine how much an interior designer charges; the average national cost for an interior designer ranges from $75 to $100 or more per hour. Other cost factors include the person’s reputation — interior designers to the stars are usually more expensive — and region. Most interior designers charge an average of $100-$225 for an initial consultation, but some will charge an hourly rate, usually starting at an average of $50, for larger projects that require extensive consultations. Hourly rates may be available for smaller projects, such as redecorating a living room or staging a home for sale; for instance, shopping and consulting can cost an average of $75 to $100 per hour, while staging costs and average $95 per hour. For many homeowners, a percentage of an interior designer’s cost is recouped through the professional discounts they receive from their vendors.
Choosing an interior designer is all about finding one whose signature style fits well with your tastes and who can work within your budget. To choose the right professional for your interior design project, ask yourself these five questions:
- What is your signature style? Good interior designers can both describe their personal aesthetic and demonstrate their signature style through their portfolios. Make sure it appeals to you.
- How will you make sure the design fits my lifestyle? Good designers understand that the interior design must improve a homeowner’s experience in their home and fit into their lifestyle; for example, a white suede sofa is a poor choice for a family with large dogs and small children.
- How much do you charge? Depending on the project, an interior designer may charge an hourly rate, a flat fee or a percentage of the project’s total cost.
- How will you stick to my budget? An interior designer should have a plan for staying within your budget, which includes full transparency of costs and flexibility when choosing materials and furnishings.
Because an interior design project is highly collaborative and based on hard-to-define personal preferences, it’s most important to choose a designer who communicates clearly and listens closely to you.
Nationally, the price for home staging ranges between $750 and $1,500. The price varies based on how many rooms in the house need staging, whether furniture and decor are needed or the stager can work with the client’s belongings, whether the home is occupied or vacant, and the sale price of the home. Occupied homes typically cost less to stage as they are already furnished, and can require less time and resources than staging an empty house. The main tasks when staging an occupied home are rearranging and decluttering. Staging an empty house can be more expensive as furniture and decor need to be trucked in, requiring transportation, physical labor and potential rental fees. Here are some examples of average home staging costs:
- 2-hour consultation: $200, includes DIY tips and guidance.
- 1- to 2-hour consultation and design session: $250, including written report.
- Additional design consulting: $65 per hour.
- 8 hours of staging an occupied home: $800.
- Hands-on staging involving moving furniture, hanging and moving art, and decluttering.
- Starting price for staging a vacant home could be $2,200.
- A home stager may charge 1 percent of the home’s selling price.
For many homeowners, the difference between a good interior designer and a bad one is simply a matter of taste — but all good designers have similar skill sets. Interior designers usually have a degree or certificate in interior design, with training in design principles and lighting, drafting, and computer aided design (CAD) software. Good interior designers have strong color balancing skills and understand how different colors influence spatial perception and moods. They know the building and electrical codes in the areas where they practice, and they make sure that any contractors they hire also work to those codes. They are knowledgeable about different upholstery fabrics and draperies, stay ahead of residential design trends, and maintain their own individual creativity. Also, good interior designers have excellent space designing skills, so they can arrange a space efficiently and with ideal traffic flow. Ultimately, hiring a good interior designer means pinpointing one whose signature style is complementary to your personal style — so checking out many designers’ portfolios is a must — and whose communication methods match yours.