Hi Everyone! Thanks for checking in with me again. In my last blog post (If I Had a Million Dollars), I talked about how hiring Designers is not a service solely for the wealthy. Your home is your biggest investment with big potential for profit and a direct reflection of who you are. Designers offer valuable services for that investment both in function and aesthetics. So this time I’d like to walk you through the basics of the Design Process if you decide to hire a Designer to work on a project with you. I admit, Designers and what they do seem to be shrouded in mystery. True fact: when I began my three years at Design School, I thought my job would be shopping and looking at paint chips. I thought Designers were these magical beings who turned a shanty town into a palace with a can of paint and a nicely chopped throw pillow just like on HGTV. I had no idea what the job would really entail. Why should I expect you to know either? So let’s demystify the service of Design.
Let’s say you’ve decided to hire a Designer. What happens now? You’ll likely begin with contacting a Designer you’ve heard about or whose style you like from their media pages and set up a two hour Consultation. Before the date you should save images of what you’d like your project to look like from magazines, Pinterest, Houzz, etc. and know how much money is in your budget. This will give your Designer an idea of what you want and if it’s doable with your budget. The Designer will charge a fee for this due at that time. If everything seems doable and you want to go forward, you will move into the first of two Design Phases. The first phase is the Creative Phase and also establishes how you will conduct the business of this project. You will have a Letter of Agreement and be required to put down a deposit to retain the Designer’s professional services that eventually gets applied to your final bill. The Designer will begin your project taking measurements, drafting plans, elevations and concept renderings, sourcing all items, working with your budget and Contractor/Trades. When completed, this is all presented to you for approval. Anything you don’t like is tweaked or replaced until you’re happy with the plan. Once achieved, Phase One comes to an end and you will be billed for that time whether the Designer is working with a Flat Fee or an Hourly Rate. I personally work at an Hourly Rate - it’s the most fair to both of us. I track time spent on your project and keep detailed notes which are presented in your bills. You will be expected to pay this bill before we can move into Phase Two: The Implementation Phase.
The Implementation Phase is the crazy part where all items are ordered and purchased/ripping out and rebuilding begin. It’s important you are super comfortable with your Designer and Trades. They’re going to be around. A lot. You will give your Designer a cheque to pay for these things. They’re buying furniture, fixtures, fittings, etc and getting custom cabinets or wall units built. Deposits are required for this and that money comes from you. The Designer will likely send you an email stating in detail what they’re buying on your behalf and will require confirmation beforehand. You may feel during this phase that you’re writing a lot of cheques but your Designer is on top of your budget and they really can’t spend any of your money without your OK. If you’re renovating, this is the phase you should expect something to go wrong. There can be things lurking in your home (structural damage, mold, pests, electrical, a family of raccoons) that couldn’t have been foreseen until things got opened up and need dealing with. DON’T WORRY. Your Designer was expecting this and it’ll be fixed. Yes, you might have to come up with more money or you might have to lose some things on your wish list or there might be money set aside as a contingency to cover it but that’s all that can be done and it’s no one’s fault. I personally find this process requires a “roll with the punches” fluidity from everyone. If your project is large, Phase Two could last months or even a year or so. In this case, your Designer is likely billing you every 30 days until final installation. If it’s a quicker Decorating project you’ll likely just get one final bill after installation is complete (minus the Retainer you paid upfront at the beginning). Either way, your project comes to an end and you’ll probably be both relieved and ecstatic by the results. Every Designer’s goal is that you’ll be beyond delighted with your result and the envy of all your friends (who we hope will also call us).
In closing, I know you’re wondering how much it would cost to hire a Designer. I can’t really answer that. Most work at an hourly rate but rates vary from person to person. As a ballpark, I usually tell Clients it takes me about 30 hours per room to complete a room and Kitchens and Bathrooms take about 40 as they’re fussier. However, it could be more or less depending on how the project goes. Multiply that by my rate and you’ll have an idea of my cost. I can tell you I have yet to have a Client hire me for any service -from just a Consultation to finished project- feel they didn’t get full value for their money. Your home is your best investment and a well decorated one will sell faster for more. Kitchens and Bathrooms sell houses and professionally designed ones can be bragged about by your Realtor and get you more money. You can even include your high end window coverings in your price. All of this actually gets you back money you invested in the services of a Designer. And, as I’ve said, everyone deserves to live in a beautiful home. So do you.
I hope this sheds some light on the mystery of the Designer and the value of the services they provide. Starting with my next post, I’ll begin talking about Design and Decorating techniques (I know it’s what you’ve been waiting for). Until next post, thanks for reading and striving to live the Well Designed Life!
One of the things I hear over and over from people upon hearing I’m a Designer is “Oh! I’d LOVE to hire a Designer — if I had a million dollars”. My reaction to this is always an odd mix of being thrilled you fully understand I charge fees for my services, expect to be paid on time and do not work for free commingled with a heavy dose of “how do you know? You never asked what those fees are”. Well, Gentle Reader, while you are 100% correct that Designers cost money, you might be surprised to learn that, while you DO need to have SOME money, you needn’t be a millionaire and you really do get what you pay for.
If you’re looking to renovate your kitchen or bathroom, are moving in together and marrying your individual styles, are buying your first place, etcetera, you can always hire a Designer for a two hour Consultation. In an urban area, this will set you back a few hundred dollars and payment will be due at the time of your appointment but you will get a wealth of ideas, learn rules of best practice for kitchens/bathrooms, and get the inside scoop on the BEST SUPPLIERS open to the public who can help you with your project once you’re on your own. Your end result will be far better than you imagined and you’ll likely have saved by not making costly mistakes. That money saved will easily cover the cost of the Consultation so it’s totally worth it. I personally have had Clients bring me in for just a Consultation, be delighted with their results, and end up hiring me for an additional project when they saw the value of my Design Services. Furthermore, Designers understand lighting, colour, layering, space planning and other Design Fundamentals (some of which I’ll write about in future posts) that make a space not only look beautiful but can affect your emotional response, feel and even the ease with which you move about in your space. Designers also think of things people often don’t when making purchases such as DOORS, HALLWAYS and ELEVATORS. I helped a good friend when she bought her first condo. She wanted a sectional and we found a gorgeous one in a sumptuous velvet that came in two pieces. Before she put her money down, I measured her doors, halls, elevators and compared them with the specifications of the piece to make sure it would fit in. This is super important because if it doesn’t, vendors often have policies in place - usually that you’re stuck with it as it was your error and now your problem or they’ll take it back and sell it as a floor model refunding your money but charging a ‘restocking fee’ averaging about $250. Some might take it back to resell but charge you the full amount regardless (it’s usually in the fine print so ask before you buy). In this case, I knew the two pieces would fit in but it’d be a snug go. It was tilted up through the door, slid down the entry hall, tipped down and lifted over the kitchen island into place (as I predicted). She was thrilled with the piece but if it had been an inch bigger she’d have been SOL. Another thing Designers have access to are TRADE ONLY manufacturers. These vendors can make custom upholstered (ie sofas) and case goods (ie tables) designed by your Designer specifically for you using fabrics that aren’t available to the public. You will get items that are perfectly suited to your needs and taste and won’t be like anything your friends have. You might be surprised to learn these items often cost the same or not significantly more than stock items you could buy at a mid-range furniture store. Another bonus of consulting a Designer is if you want to do a project but you simply don’t realize the actual cost. You might want to redo your kitchen and have $10,000 saved and think $10,000 is plenty to remodel your kitchen because that’s a lot of money to you (spoiler alert: nooooope) but a Designer can give you the harsh truth about what that’ll really get you. On the upside, they can advise you how best to save up for that dream kitchen, where your dollars should best be spent or there may be facelift type refreshes you can do that would give you a new looking kitchen - but not a complete renovation- that $10,000 would cover.
I hope this gives you some insight into the Design World and shows you the value that comes from hiring a Designer. You really don’t have to win the lottery and you really can get help on your space regardless of what you can afford. Everyone deserves to live in a beautiful space. Including you.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back regularly for new posts.