Thursday

What is a designer worth?


I've seen photos of this NYC apartment transformation many times lately on different blogs I frequent, but leave it to one of my favorites, Little Green Notebook, to tell the full story and encourage me to check out the details for myself. It's a lovely transformation and some of the ideas are worth considering, but the real story here is the designer's fees.  You can find the full article here at: NY Times but the most interesting part of it to me is what the designer would have charged (she volunteered her services for the article and I'm sure marketing purposes). Before I disclose the fee, check out the before pic:


And the afters:

OK. So ya ready? $10,000 in design services...not furniture and accessories, those we're $5,000...the $10,000 was strictly design services.
Shocked? For those of you that have worked with me I bet you feel like you got a bargain now, huh?! There were comments galore on the Little Green Notebook blog, but these I thought were particularly interesting:

*B said
Hm, my 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."
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Anonymous said...


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.

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Kai said...


$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.


So, how do you feel? I know it's an unheard of fee in the QC, but I will tell you that the comments made are dilemmas we as designers struggle with. So, let me know what you think. Click on the black footer below and then on comments and let me hear you!

1 comment:

Jen of All Trades said...

Ooooh...as a side note, those chocolate brown stripes are actually vinyl and cost only $100 to do. This was done in lieu of wallpaper because they are leasing the apartment. I have a good source for this kind of thing if you're interested.

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