$2k for an interior designer for the building process

wishiwasinozAugust 30, 2012

This is our first build & our builder gave us the quote of $2k for approx. 20 hours of an interior designer's time for the build process. She will be able to help us with decisions like flooring, paint colors, roof color, window color, door selection, paver color, garage door style, (not things like furniture selection, draperies, etc.). Her expertise is in the building process & not regular interior design.

I know this is not an outrageous price for a designer, but I am feeling like we mostly have a grasp on these things. Our budget is in the $900 - 1 mil range, but I am frugal & also have a pretty good idea for the design process & to me $2k is $2k. I don't want to agree to that willy-nilly (or hilly or billy, per autocorrect!).

I feel like most of these decisions have been made, per my Pinterest boards. I go over these boards on a daily basis & have them whittled down to the precise things we want for the home. We are going for a very timeless, classic look. I have been reading interior design magazines for several years now & stalking Pinterest, THS, & Houzz. All the friends & family who have seen the Pinterest boards think we are off to a great start.

Should I just tell him if I want to utilize her, I would prefer an hourly basis & not the $2k flat fee?

Thanks for your input!


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LOL! I somehow first misread your sign-on name as standing for "wishy-washy #2" and started to respond that if you and "wishy-washy #1" (whom I assume is your spouse) have such a hard time making up your minds, then having an interior designer on board might be darned helpful! Then I realized that that was a Z on the end, not a 2, and saw that your screen name is actually Wish-I-was-in-OZ. LOL!

If an interior designer isn't going to be around to help you with draperies and furniture that will go with their paint and flooring suggestions so that you end up with a unified look, then I'd be willing lay down money that they're going to steer you toward beige paint colors and equally "neutral" flooring and fixtures. I'm not knocking neutrals if that is what you like. It is just that blander one keeps the paint, flooring, and fixtures, the easier it is to find furniture, draperies, and accessories that will go with it.

Your builder's interior designer certainly doesn't want clients complaining later that she steered them toward a deep plum shade of paint for their masterbedroom and now they're having to repaint because they can't find a bedspread anywhere that looks right with it! Or that she recommended dramatically figured tigerwood flooring and now that their furniture is in, they just don't like how "busy" the floor is. She doesn't have to worry about getting these kinds of complaints if she consistently recommends variations of beige for paint colors and maple or red oak flooring with a medium stain.

It sounds to me like you already have a strong sense of what you do and don't like and since the interior designer is highly likely to be steering you toward "neutrals" rather than toward the particulars that will help you reach YOUR vision, I rather doubt she would be of that much help. I say, keep that $2000 in your pocket.

At the very least, before you sign on to hire her, ask to see at least half-a-dozen homes that she has worked on...just to see if she EVER branches away from middle-of-the-road neutrals.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 7:36PM
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I think the first thing I would do is ask for a free consultation with the designer to see if you like her work. Ask her to bring references, pictures and anything else you need to decide if she is the person for you. Even if you don't want a designers help it's not a bad idea to see if she's a good fit just in case.

Also, even though you have done your research and know what you want a true designer (I think licensing varies by state) can get you access to items you might not be able to get on your own. She may also be able to get you a discount. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have another, objective, pair of eyes helping you.

I know things vary by region: where I live those building $1 houses usually have designers as that is high for here & would build a large custom home with amazing view and features (capital area of NH). Where a bunch of my family live in northern NJ $1M gets you a nice colonial on a decent lot with nice finishes. Not that even the most modest home builder shouldn't be able to use a designer if that's what they want but it often is portrayed as a luxury expense.

That's my way of saying----go for it! It really is a small part of your budget (

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 7:49PM
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Gah!! Meant to say "could be worth much more"

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 7:52PM
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I'm with Bevangel. Plus, like you I know what I want so these carefully researched decisions on asthetics are the only FUN part of this process. Good Luck and good for you for still being thrifty on unecessary expenses.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 7:53PM
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And I just realized, even though I read the original post 2X, I totally mid-understood the question. It seems back-to-school week has done me in! Apologies and now I'm going to bed!

Oh, I say skip their designer :)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:01PM
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It's always been relatively easy for me to make design choices as long as not offending the next owner was the primary goal.

But one time, sick of neutral and seeking to satisfy our own tastes, I hired a designer who specialized in choosing paint colours @ $200 per hour. Money well spent! And great to luxuriate in for the following six years. Not so good for resale.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:09PM
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Well, our custom builder had a similar set up (except I had 25 hours) and like you...I had boards and notebooks and a very firm grasp of what I wanted. The good thing about this designer was that she was able to clearly see my vision from the beginning, and didn't try to steer me from it. In fact, she had some wonderful ideas that I hadn't thought of that we incorporated into the design. And she was amazingly helpful when I was several thousand over on my tile allowance and needed to figure out to cut it without sacrificing the look. She was invaluable with figuring out where to hang light fixtures, how to mix finishes, etc...all in all, she was definitely worth her fee. It was comforting to have her, I had never custom built a house and there are sooooo many decisions!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:40PM
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Thanks for the feedback. Most of the house will be fairly neutral, anyway. The color will come in from accessories. I already have a fantastic designer to help me with the interior stuff (more furnishings, etc. & she is affordable). I think 20 hours with her will give me a lot more bang for the buck than 20 hours with the other gal. She also can help with paint colors, too.

LOL, I am Wish I was in Oz (as in Australia, my home away from home!). :-)

My brain is fried, too. With back to school, meeting with the architect to go over the first set of plans for us, & 2 separate PTA meetings that ran over 2 hours each, I am spent. I meet with the landscape designer tomorrow. I hope I can put 3 words together to form sentences.

We are building in the newest, most exciting neighborhood in the city we are in. The ONLY reason I agreed to it with DH is because I don't think we will be here long-term & given what has happened to other similar trendy hoods around here, we will likely get more than our money back. DH works for a company where we get a lot of things for a little over cost. Hopefully we'll get this home built for $900k with my frugality & it will appraise for $1.1 - $1.2 mil. We'll get to live in it for 5-7 years, make a buck, & build again in a new city (or maybe country if I get my wish) if we still have our sanity!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:40PM
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Oh, Nini, I LOVE your home!!! Poop, what should I do?!? :-/

Okay, I think I will plan for us to meet with her so she can show us her portfolio & we can get to know each other. The builder totally raves about her (she is not his employee, BTW). He said she is amazing with the build process. Although the fiscal side of me is saying no, something inside me is saying maybe. To screw up $900k would be one, big fat disaster.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:45PM
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I think the builder doesn't want to deal with those decisions and why he recommends that his clients use the designer. I recently did an addition and I paid a designer to help. My builder had another client at the same time who wasn't using anybody and it drove my/our builder crazy. She would call all the time and say she couldn't make up her mind, wasn't sure this went with that, etc. It took his time away from the "building" part of the projects.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Would the designer be able to help with your kitchen design? That is one area I felt an experienced designer would be really worth it.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 10:59AM
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2k is peanuts in the big picture of building a million dollar home ...if she is good and saves you a bunch of headaches and mistakes.

It's a no-brainier. Ask Threeapples.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 11:01AM
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You could technically say I had 2 designers for my house. The first was more of what I call an interior designer - meaning she helped me literally design the kitchen, anything with cabinetry in the house, and all built ins. She also provided detailed drawings for the builder so there were no issues w/ the exact details of the built-ins, dimensions, etc.

The second person I had was more of what I think of as an interior decorator...she has helped me select literally everything from flooring to cabinet knobs to paint colors to lighting/plumbing. She also did all exterior selections as well like your builder is recommending (roof, stone, siding, garage doors, etc).

Both were invaluable in the process and really, the 3 of us worked together on everything. But, fortunately we all had the same style and taste in mind for every spot in the house.

I am completely incompetent when it comes to interior design/decorating...I just brought tons of pics to the table and said "make my house look like this"...and they did. So, I think it depends, too on how good you are at doing this type of thing. I think some people just have a knack for it, and others (like myself) don't.

But, in terms of cost, you're at $100 per hour. We are in the same price range for build and I paid about half that hourly rate. We are in northern virginia, which isn't cheap either. Here's a link to some pics of my house...

Here is a link that might be useful: pics - almost finished

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 2:11PM
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I think the builder doesn't want to deal with those decisions and why he recommends that his clients use the designer.


Plus, all decisions should be written down, documented and samples, stock numbers etc. be attached to the orders.

I'm envious of your construction vs. land cost ratio. Looking at a similar cost build here, the land component is $1.5 million++

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 3:31PM
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I have a separate KD working on the kitchen & master bath. I guess I am putting a lot more value into her services & never once questioned spending $ for her talent.

I do agree that it is not the builder's responsibility to help us make decisions on floor selections, door selection, etc., as he is not trained in that area. That would be like asking my FIL for his opinion on these things. Also, I don't want to tie his time up with small, random ?s.

DH & I decided we will meet with her & figure out how many hours we truly need. I also do have an awesome landscape person & she has an eye for all the exterior stuff. She can help with with all the outside colors, lighting, etc.

So many decisions & so little time...

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 4:13PM
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Well we're at a similar price point. We didn't use a designer and for the most part everything turned out okay. But it was much harder than I thought it was going to be. And we ended up repainting our family room and dining room which cost us $750.

I would meet with her and if it seems like she understands your vision and is on board then. would use her.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 5:23PM
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We're at a similar price point (ours appraised at 1.2) and we didn't use a designer. Well, technically we had a designer come in and give us paint color suggestions but we hated all of them and regretted the experience of bringing her in. If you are confident in what you want, there's absolutely no reason you need a professional. I am very glad we didn't use a designer for anything, every detail of our house we can say that we picked together and we had a good time doing it.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 6:25PM
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