Hiring a Decorator/Designer – Pros and Cons

Have you just moved into a new place? Moving to a new home is stressful and it can take a long time to get your house or apartment just the way you want it. If you want to speed up the process and you don’t have time to do it yourself a decorator or designer can do the heavy lifting for you.

There are decorators or designers that fit almost every budget. With the growth in online shopping lots of designers have come up with “e-design” services. These are at the low end of the cost scale and can make it possible for everyone to work with a decorator.

If you have a larger budget, these same designers also offer full service designs. This really means that you don’t have to lift a finger, but the price is significantly higher.

If the idea of hiring a decorator or designer is something you are considering, see what types of services they provide and how to best use them based on your budget.

What a Designer/Decorator can Do for You

A designer can help you get a clear vision of how to achieve the look you want. Designers can cut down the amount of time you have to spend browsing for furniture, drapes, hardware, fixtures, rugs and more.

They will ask a lot of questions about how you use the space and what your style is. Once they can narrow down the look you want to achieve, they can help you find the right pieces. They know exactly where to shop because they spend lots of time looking for other clients. They can really help you turn your dream into a reality.

Designers have also seen a lot furniture in person that you can only see online. They also have the ability to judge size and scale because that’s what they do day in and day out. It can be hard to tell how big a couch you see online is going to look in your home.

Designers can also look at your home with fresh eyes. They will have ideas that you may not have thought about because they see lots of homes.

They can save you time by finding the items for you. A designer can even fully execute the design if you have the budget. This means they can receive all of your furnishings and check them for damages, they can install your draperies, install your artwork and deliver your room(s). If money is no object, they can deliver a fully designed room.

How Long Does It Take a designer to complete a project

If you are working on a one room design, it can take a designer a few weeks to pull together your design plan and then another six to twelve weeks for furniture, art, rugs, etc to be delivered (and longer if you are getting custom pieces).

If you use an e-designer many of them will deliver a design plan, complete with a list of things to buy to implement the plan, in just a few days. The process of ordering and installing the items in your plan is up to you, so that can happen as quickly as you want.

This does not hold for a kitchen or bathroom design. These can take longer because they normally involve a more specialized design that includes plumbing.

How Much Does It Cost to Work with a Decorator

This is a big question. The answer is that it depends. There are designers who charge as little as $400 per room and the sky is the limit on the upper end. Most designers charge by the hour. You can find designers in your area on Houzz.com or just by entering your city and “interior design” into google.

There are two different types of decorators or design projects. There are full service designers and e-designers. Full service design work is normally charged by the hour and the price depends on your area. Most designers charge more than $100 per hour.

In the e-design world there are two big players, Modsy and Havenly. With these types of services you pay by the room. You send them measurements and photos and they send you back a floor plan complete with a list of all the items you would need to buy to achieve the look. In some cases you can request changes, but that depends on the package you buy.

I tried out Modsy just to see what it was like. The entry level package is $69 which can’t be beat. Here’s an example of my Modsy design experience (I did out of curiosity). Each dot is an item to buy with a link.

Modsy design example

There are also lots of individual designers that are starting to offer this same type of e-design experience. If you want someone who’s style you like they might be willing to do an e-design.

For example, Sara Lynn Brennan offers a DIY design package for $1500. Design firms tend to charge more because than a Modsy/Havenly because they offer full service design services. At the other end of the spectrum, Affordable Interior Designs, will do a virtual design for $399. This is normally the fee for one room.

How to Make the most of your time with a designer

Since time is money when working with a decorator, it’s a good idea to come prepared. What does preparing entail? It’s a good idea to make a Pinterest board with styles that you like. If you don’t like Pinterest, use pages from magazines. If they are doing more than one room, try to pin the same types of room you are working on to a Pinterest board. You don’t have to design it for them, but it really helps them to see your likes and dislikes.

It’s also a good idea to let a designer know what colors you like. It’s good to be as specific as possible. For example, you might think that telling your designer you like blue is enough direction. However, there are so many shades of blue, it can really steer the process in the right direction if you say that you like denim blue or navy blue.

Try to think of adjectives that describe the feeling you want your home to have. Do you want it to feel comfortable or chic? Are you looking for sophisticated or rustic? These types of descriptive words can also help them with your design plan.

Also be sure to take photos of pieces that you don’t want to part with and share these so they can make your furniture part of their design. For example, I have a cabinet in my living room that I wouldn’t want to part with. The more information you can give a designer, the better they will be able to deliver something that you like.

What does a designer deliver

If you are going to hire a designer, you might be wondering exactly what you are going to get. Most designers will tell you, but you need to ask exactly what their fee includes. Most e-designs will include a floor plan, a mood board and a shopping list. There might be a 3D rendering of the space, but this is with more costly packages.

If you are getting a full service design package it will also come with in person measuring, receiving of the shopping list (for some designers) and installation.

Pros of Hiring a Decorator

The biggest advantage of working with a designer is that it can save you time. If you want to get your home looking better quickly, a decorator can really help you pull together a design plan complete with what pieces you should buy.

The other advantage is that if you feel uncomfortable with your own sense of style, a designer can really help you figure out what you like. That’s their job. I’ve heard decorators say that they can save their clients money, and maybe this is the case because they know the furniture market.

Cons of Hiring a Decorator

The downside of working with a designer is that it’s expensive. Most of what you pay for is advice and guidance. They can buy furniture for you, but some designers mark it up. If decorating is something you enjoy doing, this may not be the best option for you.


Are you considering hiring a designer? If so, start with just one room so you can get your feet wet and see if you like the process or if you prefer the slower art of decorating your own space.

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