How to Find an Interior Designer Within Your Budget

Home Ownership Costs, Mortgages
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Cheerful architect working in office. Sitting and looking samlpes and color swatch.

An interior designer can bring out the best in your home — and help you avoid costly remodeling mistakes. If you have a dream project, there’s probably a design professional who can turn it into reality.

According to HomeAdvisor.com, most homeowners spend between about $1,800 and $8,500 to hire an interior designer or decorator, though some homeowners spend far less. This amount includes consultations and material purchases.

Whatever your budget for enhancing your home, use these tips to find a good designer.

Size up your project

Do you need help styling one or two rooms? Or are you planning a major home improvement project that’ll affect wiring, plumbing and room layout? To find the right professional, you’ll need to know the scope of the job.

Interior designers are specially trained for larger jobs. They’ve generally taken college courses in architecture and project management, and often have credentials from organizations such as the American Society of Interior Designers, says Anne Reagan, editor-in-chief of Porch.com, a site that matches homeowners with contractors.

These professionals can help homeowners pick colors, fabric and furniture options, but they can also oversee a large renovation.

“Interior designers are good at coordinating parts and knowing the next steps to get things done. They can act as project managers who keep control of the timeline, subcontractors and budget,” Reagan says.

A home decorator might be a better fit for a smaller project. Decorators usually aren’t required to have formal training or licensing, and they often charge less than interior designers.

“Decorators can generally help with simpler jobs, such as changing your home’s color scheme or selecting a few furnishings to enhance a few rooms,” Reagan says.

>> MORE: Find the best loan to finance your home improvement project

Gather design ideas

Your designer will want to know your vision for your home. You can help by showing examples of finished projects you like or samples of fabrics you’d like to see in your home. An interior designer can quickly develop a sense of your style by looking at a few of your favorite pieces.

Ask for referrals and check references

Get the names of qualified local designers and decorators from family, friends and even local real estate agents. You can also search ASID’s online membership directory and Porch.com’s referral pages.

When you have a few names in hand, it’s time to do some research. An experienced professional will probably have an online portfolio and be able to provide references. Take some time to review portfolios and contact past clients.

Make sure your potential interior designer has all the necessary licenses. You can find local requirements through your secretary of state branch office or the ASID state regulations page.

Communicate your budget

Regardless of the size of your project, you’ll want your interior designer to know your home remodel budget — and stay within it. Let your designer know upfront how much you plan to spend.

This is also a good time to discuss how the designer expects to be paid. Some will charge an hourly fee, usually around $50 to $200 per hour. These fees may cover consulting services, as well as time spent buying materials for your home. Other designers may mark up the prices of any purchases they make on your behalf to cover the cost of their time.

One option isn’t necessarily better than the other, according to Reagan. “You’ll want to choose a payment arrangement that’s comfortable for your situation,” she says.

You should also ask how often you’ll be billed. Some interior designers send a bill once a month; others charge as they reach different project milestones.

Some designers don’t charge for their services, but only work as representatives of specific furniture manufacturers. They may have good ideas for your home, but hiring one will limit your decorating options.

» MORE: Need an interior designer? Find the best interior designers with Thumbtack

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @margarette.


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