How Interior Designers Charge for Their Services

Designers use a variety of fee structures and, as with other professions, base their fees on variables such as geographic location, years of expertise, professional reputation and client demand. Most designers charge using one of the following fee structures or a combination to suit a client's particular needs:

  • Fixed fee (or flat fee) -- The designer identifies a specific sum to cover costs, exclusive of reimbursement for expenses. One total fee applies to the complete scope of services proposed, from conceptual development through layouts, specifications and final installation.
  • Hourly fee -- Compensation is based on actual time that the designer consults on a project or specific service.
  • Percentage of project fee -- Compensation is computed as a percentage markup on the total project cost, including furnishings and services purchased or specified on behalf of a client.
  • Retainer -- The client pays a sum up front to the designer for design services. The retainer is customarily paid upon signing the contractual agreement.
  • Cost plus -- A designer specifies materials, furnishings and services (e.g., carpentry, drapery workrooms, picture framing, etc.) at wholesale and sells to the client at the designer's cost plus a set percentage increase, or at retail rates or slightly less, to cover the designer's fee and services.
  • Per square foot -- The designer charges fees based on the square footage of the project.