One of the most common questions I, as a decorating enthusiast, am asked by friends in nesting mode is “Where can I find an affordable _________ for my home?” It’s fairly easy to answer: flea markets, vintage shops, and a few of my go-to budget-friendly retailers. The second-most common question—“What’s the cost of an interior designer?”—always throws me for a loop.
If you hire an interior designer, you can set your budget for furniture and décor at basically any number you’re comfortable with…but the bill for your design services can easily and quickly rack up, and it can vary greatly.
All designers work differently. Some charge an hourly rate (anywhere from $100 to $500 per hour is common), a flat fee (several thousand dollars to as high as five figures), or a percentage of the project costs. The common thread? Those fees are above and beyond the cost of the products you purchase.
The industry is changing, however, thanks to a select few online platforms that are making interior design more affordable and transparent—and still profitable for designers. Knowing the real costs of an interior designer upfront used to be a farfetched dream, but now it’s a reality, courtesy of Decorist, Laurel & Wolf, Homepolish, and Havenly. Read on to hear about these game-changing startups.
I recently visited online interior design platform Decorist’s Seattle Showhouse and was blown away by the stunning rooms its team designed 100% virtually. The service offers a tier of three flat-fee online interior design packages: Classic ($199 per room), Elite ($499 per room), and Celebrity ($799 per room), each of which includes two initial concept boards with revisions, a final room design, a custom floor plan, setup instructions, a personalized shopping list, direct communication with your designer, and a complimentary décor purchasing service. You can choose your designer or be matched.
All of Decorist’s designers are thoroughly vetted. Classic designers are generally greener talents, Elite designers have five or more years of experience, and Celebrity designers have attained a bit of notoriety (e.g., they've been published and have established design firms of their own). Aesthetically, Decorist has really earned our stamp of approval and stands apart with rooms that are tasteful and inspiring, no matter what tier they’re in. It’s no surprise that some of our favorite designers—like Brian Paquette, Celerie Kemble, and Will Wick—have joined its ranks.
Homepolish doesn’t offer a flat fee like some of its competitors, but it does offer attainable hourly rates with vetted designers from top design schools and firms, and you can work with your designer in person (it offers in-home consultations in 15 cities) or by video nationally.
You can choose a single-day session, which is $349 for a total of three hours and great for small projects like picking out paint colors or arranging gallery walls. Or, you can select a design package, which is $130 per hour for a minimum of 10 hours. This is great for full room and home makeovers. Stylistically, Homepolish’s rooms are on point, and we’ve seen a lot of stunning spaces with its name on them.
Lauren & Wolf
Online interior design platform Laurel & Wolf has a structure similar to Decorist, with tiered flat fees and no hidden or hourly charges. Rates are $299 per room for the classic tier, $499 per room for the premium tier, and $499 to $899 for business or commercial spaces, or you can request a custom quote based on your project’s scope and needs.
Laurel & Wolf wants to offer something for everyone, so as a brand, it hasn’t honed in on a distinct interior design aesthetic or voice. Instead, whether you’re into French country, modern eclectic, or kitschy Nashville superstar, it probably has a designer who will understand your look. The service has also integrated a number of tools into its platform that makes it easy for you and your designer to communicate and share feedback and ideas.
Havenly, another flat-fee service, is the most affordable of the bunch, but its designers seem to be a bit greener. The platform offers two tiers: a $79-per-room package (which includes custom concept boards, product suggestions, and a purchasing service) and a $199-per-room package, which additionally includes a final room layout and furniture placement suggestions. There are no in-home consultations and installations, and all work is done online.
Next up: How to decorate a like Wes Anderson.
This post was originally published in 2016 and has since been updated.