I get this question a lot. And the short answer is it depends. It depends on the scope of your project, the size of your house, the location, the market, if you want project management included in the designers fee, the contractors needed, etc. all of these factors will affect your designers fee. There’s no set standard fee for a designers services because there is no one project that is identical to another.
That may not be the answer you are looking for, so to be a little more specific, consider that most designers charge anywhere from $75-$1500 an hour. That will depend on your location, the designers experience and the scope of their work. If you are working on a commercial project (restaurant, office, etc), often times designers will charge a flat rate that can vary from $3/sf-$20/sf.
A healthy budget for product is usually around 10% of the cost of your home. For instance if you bought a $100,000 home, you should expect to pay $10,000 in home goods. So if your designer is budgeting for right around 10% of the market value of your home, they are probably right on target. This 10% budget is a good example for any middle class family who is looking for quality pieces mixed with affordable pieces. I would suggest not going any lower than this, or you will be replacing your furniture far too often since cheap furniture will break down at much faster rate than any quality piece. You could also increase this budget signifanctlly if you are looking to purchase only heirloom quality furniture and accessories. But 10% should give you a good starting point for product price ranges.
Not to mention a designer also has to consider their profit margins. In order for a designer to stay in business, they must have a profit margin. Asking someone to adjust their profit margins for you and your project simply because you believe they should make less on your project than they would be is not only rude but could be considered insulting. Would you ask your doctor to lower their profit margins on the prescription drug they are going to give you simply because you have already paid a fee to see them? Most of us don’t even think twice about this, so why would a designer be willing to negotiate with you on this?
So so if you are concerned that your designee is charging you too much, take a look at;
1. The designer. How many years experience do they have? What qualifications do they have? Do they have any designations (ASID, CID, etc)? How many clients have they had? Are the fees they are charging reflective of this information?
2. Your budget. How much are you willing to spend? I’ve given you an outline of what to expect on furnishings and the hourly rate you can expect from a designer listed above, so what are you ready to spend your budget on?
Other options you have:
I’ve had clients who are willing to pay for my services by the hour, but want to purchase the furniture at a later date due to budget constraints. Some designers can be flexible like this and work with your budget over a period of time.
Another option is to ask your designer to only shop retail locations and you can purchase their furniture on your own. Keep in mind, with retail stores, their furnishings are fashionable, and can often be discontinued, so don’t wait too long to get that perfect sofa or table lamp, because it could be gone next week.
I now only offer clients retail shopping lists through my online design service package, this way my clients can purchase at their leisure, whenever the budget allows. I feel that this takes a lot of the pressure off of the client-designer relationship and puts the client in charge of their finances, which most clients seem to enjoy.
Every designer has their own way of running their business, and unless you ask for a breakdown of services versus product, you may think their overall fee is very high, but in actuality, when you break everything down, their services and product fees are probably pretty accurate- that is if you have a good designer who understands what they are doing.
Even if I am not the designer for you, I want you to be armed with all the knowledge I can share with you, so you can make the best decision for you and your home.