How to Tell if Your Decorator is Overcharging You

Dear Laurel,

I think maybe you’ve written about something like this before on your blog, but

it is possible that my decorator is overcharging me. Yes, ripping me off!

Here’s what’s going on.

I found her on houzz, and she seemed professional and sincere. I liked her design style, and her references love her. (Don’t they always?)


Okay, in her contract, it states that I am going to be charged, in most cases, a price that is 20% below retail. 


She said that her discounts vary widely, but 95% of the time, my price is 20% below retail. However, occasionally, there is no discount given to her.

In those cases, she will charge me the same as she is paying.

Aside from that, there is a design fee of $125/hour.

I thought it sounded reasonable. And, since I’m a quick decision-maker, it shouldn’t be too many hours of her time. Right? I know I need the help of a professional decorator, but still, I was worried about a decorator overcharging me. I’ve heard so many stories of greedy decorators scamming their clients.


So, yesterday, I received a chandelier for the dining room.


The piece was bloody expensive. I was told to unpack the box to check for any damage, and I found her original invoice sitting right on top.

My designer paid $1,800.00 for the chandelier. My price? $3,600!

As the invoice states, $1,800.00 is the designer’s net price; the retail must be $3,600.00. Therefore, my price should’ve been $2,880.00, not $3,600.00.  By the way, I told a friend, and she looked up the chandelier online. She found it at Wayfair for $4,049.99. Wow! Some discount. She knocked off a whopping $45o.00 bucks over Wayfair’s undoubtedly inflated price.

But, she pocketed $2,250.00!

I also paid a whopping $600 for shipping and handling. I’m sure she padded that too.


When I asked her about it, she kindly asked me to email her a copy of the invoice.

So, I did that. No word. But later, she emailed me that she was quite taken aback that I was insinuating that she’s been dishonest. She explained that the retail price IS $4,500.00 and my discount of $900.00 as per our agreement.


She went on to say that she’s feeling very uncomfortable about our working relationship.


In addition, I’ve been getting monthly bills for the last 3 months, which total nearly $10,000! And this is for only three rooms, plus a few odds and ends! I have seen her 6 times, and even with travel, this is at most 20 hours of her time. There have been several emails and a few phone calls. Surely, she’s not charging for all of the emails!


Did she spend another 60 hours?


I am wracking my brain trying to figure out how she has spent that much time. She went on one shopping trip and did the two-floor plans with two revisions.


I’m almost afraid to ask, but can you tell me how she can get away with this obvious overbilling?

My worst fears have transpired; my decorator is overcharging me. No, wait, she’s bloody ripping me off.

Shuda Nownbetter




Dear Shuda,

Okay, I haven’t seen your letter of agreement between yourself and the designer.

What you want to know is if your decorator is overcharging you.

Shuda, with what you’ve told me, it’s possible that your decorator is overcharging you. However, it’s more likely that she is not.

Billing, unfortunately, is not even close to being standardized. But, here’s a big part of the problem.


It begins with the definition of the word, “RETAIL.”


I see from your note that you’re assuming the retail price is double the price of wholesale. But, there’s also the “designer’s net price,” and the “wholesale” price might or might not be on a different tier.

In any case, there is something called a MAP or IMAP. That stands for Internet Minimum Advertised Price. Typically, that number is not double, but at least 2.25 times the wholesale price. It is typically 2.5 times or even 3 times, or higher!

“Retail” is a nebulous term that’s virtually meaningless. She can say that “retail” is a markup of ten times the wholesale price. Or, she could mark it up one dollar. The reality is retail is any number that is greater than the wholesale price.


Retail is the price that consumers pay.


But, here’s the slippery slope. The pricing fee for interior designers and decorators is anything but standardized. It truly is wildly all over the lot.

The amount your designer pays could be anything from full retail, although that’s rare these days, to the rock bottom wholesale price.

How does a decorator without a storefront get the full discount awarded to brick-and-mortar stores?

Sometimes, the vendor can’t be bothered to categorize and charge everyone in the trade the same price.

But, more commonly, there is a minimum opening order. This, too, can vary wildly, from $1,000.00 – $25,000.00 or more. Sometimes, it’s a number of pieces regardless of the price.

Some vendors have it as a one-time thing. Once you’ve met the minimum, you have the wholesale account for the rest of your career. However, most vendors expect their resellers to maintain a minimum order yearly to maintain their wholesale status.




Over to you, Jim…
Conjoined me - two heads are better
Sources tell us that Laurel Bern, the wacky design blogger with two heads, has decided on a general contractor for her condo renovation. He’s a delightful Irish craftsman straight off the boat. (his words) In addition, we have just been informed that Laurel’s application has been accepted, and she will be moving for 5-6 months to a 262-square-foot closet apartment in the Beacon Hill section of Boston.

We understand the renovation is set to begin in June, as previously planned.

Stay tuned to this station; we will update you with the latest as soon as it happens. We now return to the boring blog post, which is already in progress.


To further complicate matters, some vendors have a tiered method of billing designers.


Now, based on your price and Wayfair’s price, it sounds like she deemed retail to be a multiplier of 2.5 times the wholesale price.

You might not like me saying this, Shuda, but I don’t believe she is overcharging you.  So, if she feels uncomfortable, I can’t say I blame her.


As for her hourly billing, please understand her time is like an iceberg.


For every hour you’re figuring she’s spending, I would double that number at a minimum.  She has expenses to run her business, no matter the size. So, no, not all of the $2,250.00 goes into her pocket. She’ll be lucky if a third of that goes into her pocket by the time she’s covered her overhead and paid taxes.



The vignette is from a room I did 12 years ago.

Shuda, I can’t fault you for fearing getting ripped off. There is a perception that designers are out to get you. My experience has been that my designer friends are very hard-working professionals who are not making a killing but are making a living.

However, many people still don’t see it as a viable profession. It definitely is, and yet, interior designers, particularly women, seem not to be taken seriously.


Unfortunately, Shuda, this common sentiment still prevails in this business.


After the extravagant 80s, when it came to light, there were some unscrupulous decorators. And, then, especially after the Enron debacle, the expectation is that decorators must be open and TRANSPARENT (gawd, I hate that word!) about how much we are paying for furnishings and then CHARGING our clients.


transparent woman-flickr:curiousexpeditions

There ya go – transparent; happy now?


Fine. I get it, to some extent, because there is still a mystique in how things are priced, and it’s all very expensive. And then, we might see the same thing elsewhere for less and feel taken advantage of. However, that is the point. Our clients CAN see the retail prices of almost anything we are selling!

And do you go into your local supermarket and demand they tell you how much they’re paying for everything you’re putting in your cart?


Grady Sofa Serena & Lily

Serena & Lily

What about when you go shopping in your favorite store? Do you go up to the manager and demand he tells you how much he spent on what he is selling?

Of course, no one wants to get ripped off, yet we commonly pay outrageous markups on many things we don’t even think much about.


Did you know?


  • Bottled Water is filtered municipal tap water in a plastic bottle = 3,000% markup.
  • Coffee = 1,200% markup
  • Popcorn in a movie theater= has a 500% markup. Soda? Let’s not go there.


I could go on and on… makeup, clothing, anything in an airport, over-the-counter drugs…

Oh, and funeral directors. I mean, it’s a yucky business, but someone’s gotta do it. How gratifying to offer support to a grieving family and then sell them a $325.00 casket wholesale for $1,295.00 – RETAIL. That’s a 300% markup!


Dying is definitely going to cost you.


Well, not you, but someone. Fortunately, it’s just a one-time expenditure.


Oh, one more point about the possibility that your decorator is overcharging you. While many vendors or manufacturers don’t sell directly to interior designers without a storefront, many happily sell to interior designers and decorators.


And, not only that, but it is quite possible for designers to get a far better discount by going direct. When I say better, I mean a more attractive discount than going through a third party, such as a retail or online store.

This is why I created Laurel’s Rolodex, now in its ninth edition.

laurels-rolodex-final-book-cover-master 9th edition 22-23

By the way, some 180 V/Ms in Laurel’s Rolodex sell directly to interior designers. Or, at least, the trade can buy directly at a far greater discount than they could through a store or design center.
Over the years, I’ve loosened my stance on this topic. I used to think it was double-dipping to charge a markup on tangible goods and an hourly fee.  It’s not. Your decorator isn’t overcharging you because her expenses are immense, even if she’s a solopreneur.


Plus, her responsibility is to take care of anything that goes wrong.


And, sometimes, the party at fault will not accept that responsibility. Of course, I made plenty of mistakes I had to pay for. But, at least half of the mistakes I had to pay for were not my mess-ups.

I am fairly certain if you were doing this on your own, you’d almost definitely be making far worse mistakes and incurring all of the stress that your designer is absorbing– and a HUGE expense!


Good for dark rustic home Serena & Lily Eastgate Sofa

Serena & Lily

If she’s doing a great job for you, and staying within your budget, then aside from some ambiguous language in her contract, she’s probably saved you money in the long run. If you see the error in your thinking and still wish to work with her, I’d apologize and explain you were under some misconceptions.


Research the items you are buying.


You need to know approximately how much the item you are buying is selling for elsewhere. And I mean in department stores and reputable online dealers.

However, there’s a line here because if there’s one thing we designers hate, and that is to be “shopped.” So, take a look here and there to ensure, but please don’t nickel and dime her. Most of us have years of experience and save you time, money, and stress from making many expensive mistakes.



Serena & Lily

As for the shipping charge, a big chandelier has to come on a truck. But, it doesn’t come to you directly from the manufacturer. No. It has to get picked up by a huge sixteen-wheeler and taken to a receiver. From there, a smaller truck does the local delivery. The shipping could take two or three weeks, depending on your location.


One other thing to keep in mind. Designers charge for their services in numerous ways.


  • Some only charge an hourly fee.

The problem with this method is that not all working hours are billable. You can’t bill a client for a problem with your shipping company or when a piece of furniture comes in damaged.

  • Some designers charge a flat fee.

I’m not fond of this method because a designer doesn’t know how much time this client will require. What if she has the designer coming over 12 times just to pick out fabric for throw pillows?

A combination method is probably the best approach.

While I was researching this post, I found a post that is excellent on this topic from interior designer Holly Dennis. She said:

“How much do I “markup” merchandise? Well, it depends. I rarely sell at retail or MSRP. If you are a difficult client, I sell at retail. It’s called a PITA fee. Just kidding (or am I?). The only time I sell at retail is when the supplier simply doesn’t offer enough discount to cover my overhead expenses.”

Please read the rest of her wonderful post here.


Don't get taken! Written by a 30 year interior design veteran who tells you what to look for so you don't get ripped off. (most decorators are honest, however) decorator is overcharging


I hope y’all enjoyed this post about the possibility that a decorator is overcharging.


It is uncommon, particularly today, when clients can easily find the prices of almost everything.



Re: the breaking news: Yes, things have happened very fast since last Wednesday. I got a quote from the contractor I enjoyed meeting two weeks ago. His references think he walks on water, and he was cracking me up while he was here. All good stuff.

Oh my! In fact, it was one of you, SM, who referred this contractor to me. SM is a frequent and darling contributor in the comments, who doesn’t live in Boston full-time, but when she’s here is li-ter-al-ly around the corner from me.

So, on Friday, I thought I better get cracking on finding a place to live for six months. Short-term rentals are very rare. Or, they’re available and very expensive. Furnished apartments are also rare.

I think I spent all of 15 minutes looking, and I found “the closet” and immediately contacted the listing agent.




PS: You might also enjoy the following posts if you’ve missed them:


Should a designer fire her interior design client?

The Interior decorator from hell

OMG! My interior designer just fired me. What did I do wrong?


PPS: There are also some fantastic HOT SALES this weekend and a new Mother’s Day widget for those who need ideas for Mother’s Day Gifts. MD is May 14th this year.
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35 Responses

  1. Pricing is so challenging. Twenty five years ago I billed by the hour, but gave away tons of my time because, as a newbie, I was nervous to hand over a big bill.

    Then, for years, I charged a flat fee per project, but sometimes I worked for peanuts! I stopped after one client asked me to custom design every single element in an oversized living room. I’m convinced I made ten cents an hour on that one! Hah!

    Cut to today, I’m offering a one-room tailored idea package, which is affordable and allows me to do the fun part, which is give advice. I collect information on their tastes, dreams, and frustrations, then show them how to get the look they’re craving for. I don’t deliver just one vision, I give them plenty of options to make it their own. The client gets a jolt of confidence, and a great deal. And they save money doing their own footwork.

    I’m also available on a per hour basis to give them additional help if they want it, which many take advantage of. I am no longer a full service design studio, meaning I don’t manage projects anymore, but I continue to help people along their own journey, so it’s a win-win. It’s cheaper for them and more fun for me!

    I haven’t tripped over any pitfalls yet, lol. I’m hoping it’s ultimately the right formula for my own pocketbook and for the benefit of people wanting to hire a designer without the seemingly high designer price tag.

    Wish me luck that I’ve found just the right combo to make everyone, including myself, happy.

  2. Hi Laurel,

    Love your blog. One of these days I WILL buy guides. I did once order a pagoda pendant light from BD using your link.

    I can understand Shuda’s frustration. We had a house (still own it) in a nice to nicer neighborhood. We got a new house in the nicest neighborhood. I did not realize it but there’s an instant price hike for all things (especially contractors) the moment you get gate on the driveway and back up to the 1st hole. Had to replace a waterheater at both houses last summer. $3k difference in bids. It’s less than 3 miles between homes. I do not know if a reputable designer would do the same thing but a contactor friend admitted that trades people inflate bids based on the address. I’ve always believed in paying people liveable, market rates. It’s just enough to make you feel a little used.

  3. Another take on this- And agree on defining terms- I have 9 people in my firm and retail shop and defining ALL terms is essential not only for client – but for good communication with the team and such. Retail is a word we never say- because it is so nebulous- we use MSRP to designate the vendor published pricing- and shop price for what we sell in store. When a designer I coach says retail (amongst other words such as package/ discount/packet etc) I nip it immediately. Retail pricing even if is related to what a shop sells an item for is not going to be the same across all shops!

    We mark DOWN not UP but absolutely make a profit and that is why I have a successful 23 year firm with 9 employees! Not once has a client been alarmed because we manage their expectations and we make it a win win.

    But make no mistake a professional design firm needs to be profitable and no one is getting filthy rich and driving Lamborghini’s know!

    I will say am appalled reading comments as these people make us all look bad. I want everyone to know not all designers are flakes and a good designer can save you money, bring you a creative vision that will blow your socks off and help manage the execution of a project saving your sanity too.

    What some of you describe seem to be “trunk slammers” who work from their trunk and don’t give two shittakes about discovering their clients wants and needs.

    Lastly to me if a designer cannot price the delivery of the creative vision ( not project management) in a flat fee so you know what that vision costs- then you are not dealing with a professional who knows what they are doing and has the ability to determine the proper scope of work and the resources needed. Sometimes hourly is best but rarely.


  4. I hired an interior designer when I was contemplating renovating the condo I had just moved to. I had already collected a number of images that I kept on my Pinterest board. Also, over many years, almost as a hobby, I had looked at many interior designers’ works. I always paid close attention to the spreads that are featured in nearly every fashion magazine, plus kept an eye on the occasional Architectural Design issue. This meant I already knew some of the types of design aesthetics as well as types of furniture. I had definite ideas of what I liked, what I didn’t like, and why. I had a vision but didn’t know how to start.

    Once I found I had the funds and the opportunity to realize the home of my dreams, I researched interior designers near me. Based on their websites, I found none that I really liked. (A website not only shows you a designer’s portfolio, but the design of their website also reveals a lot about the designer — not unlike the first impression when meeting a person.) Finally I found someone who listed fees by the number of rooms. I think she was just starting her business because her prices seemed low, and she didn’t have much of a portfolio. I decided to hire her, thinking that at the least I wouldn’t be out a lot of money. I also only had her do my main living area, thinking I could either expand from that, or reject it altogether. Based on your blog post, she definitely under charged me, but four years later, she is still in business.

    She put together a floor plan, a couple of vision boards, and created a complete list of suggested furnishing items that I could readily mail order. I ended up only using her floor plan, since she didn’t quite get my color scheme right. Her plan was perfectly fine, especially for someone trying to keep down their budget, but overall it was blander than what I had in mind. Her plan did, however, give me what I needed, which was a starting point. I took her plan and modified the colors, bought furniture from a local furniture store, and mail ordered light fixtures. I love how my place turned out, and feel that getting that floor plan from that young interior designer was the key for me.

  5. I think the prevailing, incorrect assumption these days is that anyone should be able to afford an interior designer or decorator. The reality is, most people can’t. I personally cannot and fortunately know it. If you can’t retain a lawyer’s billable hours for 6+ months, then you definitely can’t afford an interior designer. I think marking a piece up to make profit for the designer is an unfortunate reality in the business, because I would think that the majority of the profit for the designer would be their time, not to make a windfall on an item that they got for 50% or more less. Professional interior design is for the wealthy, or extremely comfortable, and no two ways about it.

  6. Congrats on hiring a contractor and moving forward!
    Appreciate the perspective on hiring a designer … a lot of ‘tip of the iceberg’ work …
    But hiring a designer requires being on the same esthetic wave length, in my experience.

    Please write a book! Ready to pre-order on Amazon – and a good way to spend the time while your construction is happening…

  7. Hello Laurel, Everything you point out here is spot on, yet I still feel a little for the “letter writer.” The difference between the markups you mention and the decorators’ is that with retail/store products, we at least know what the final price will be, say $5 for a coffee, but with decorating, the owner doesn’t have a grip on the final costs, yet sees them astronomically creeping up way past the initial budget. Also, simple retail items even when overpriced are still relatively within average finances. Decorating on the other hand can cost $10,000+ or even $100,000+, thus inducing some anxiety.

  8. I just wanted to say that the decor you put together twelve years ago is just as fresh and lovely as though you had designed it yesterday. That says a great deal about your abilities.

    I hired a decorator once many years ago and that did not go well. Fortunately there’s no need for one now as I have you and your wonderful guides and blog!

  9. I used to charge an hourly fee but got tired of having to defend my billing. Clients would insist they only had 2-3 meeting with me and then my design decisions. What they don’t seem to understand is that sourcing takes time as well. The perfect sofa at the perfect price and size and color and fabric and decent lead time don’t just pop off the page or present itself the moment you want into a showroom. Now multiply that by everything that needs to be sourced for the project. Not to mention the time it takes to order, follow up, check in at the workroom, arrange for delivery, both from the delivery person’s and client’s availability, travel time, and you’ve got HOURS that have gone into the job that the client doesn’t see. Add to that the time spent at the job site with workers, unpacking and sometimes assembling pieces, interviewing and meeting painters, electricians – I could go on and on. It’s a juggling act and all within budget (and that budget includes taxes, delivery, etc..) Now I charge a flat fee per room and 25% market up on everything purchased. But I don’t like that either so I have to come up with another plan.

    1. Hi Anne,

      You know, sometime within the last decade, I was chatting with a designer, and I don’t remember who. She matter of factly told me that she doubles the price of everything, and expects 100% payment up front. It seemed to work for her, but obviously, her clientele were very wealthy.

      But, you’re so right. Clients never understood how long everything took. There’s a lot of thinking time too. But, I guess they imagine we just wave our wands and poof, the design is done. Look how long it’s taken me to design my own home. lol

  10. Thank you for once again, an extremely informative post.

    As a self-employed, divorced/single woman (I am not a designer), there are other considerations that go into my fees, which have been criticized and mocked at times. I’m sure some of these things are ones shared by Designers. For the consideration of readers, those include paying for life upkeep (housing, insurances [health, life/accidental death, home, vehicle], utilities, etc.). As do a number of traditionally paid people working on an executive level (which I would consider professional designers to be among), I do not receive vacation, retirement/401K, sick/family/maternity leave, clothing/cleaning/laundry allowance, vehicle, etc. I maintain a number of subscriptions, but do not have licensing or membership expenditures, which Designers would. Also, I do not employ support staff – I write the email campaigns, daily social media posts, take phone calls and answer emails, design and maintain my website, etc. Oh, I do the cleaning as well…of my online material, and my toilets. I do my own laundry, and pay someone for mowing grass, edging and trimming.

    Designers that I have encountered, generally present themselves impeccably… they are well-coiffed, dressing fashionably. They arrive in a presentable vehicle. Fortunately, I work from home in a skort and tank-top in the summers, no makeup, and still drive may faithful ’09 vehicle. Since fashion (of interiors) is part of a decorator’s profession, presenting themselves as-such is part of the drill. The drill isn’t cheap – clothing, hair, nails, etc.. Also not inexpensive is keeping current, be it shows, conferences, ongoing formal education, workshops, etc., and related travel.

    Laurel mentioned ‘overhead’ – support staff for some designers I know is part of that, rent and related expenses if they have an office outside of their living quarters, office equipment and repair, furniture and all of those special touches which present them as who they are, who they wish to be to the World.

    Like many, they have an accountant and/or tax person they pay well. Yet on a weekly, monthly and annual basis, they, as do I organize in keeping a detailed, written trail of expenditures, and of income. Certainly many things mentioned are deductible. Nonetheless, the bottom line of net-income, is considerably less-than the gross so far for me, although I have been making a profit now for several years. According to only 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first year but 50 percent fail within the first five years. Thus, the Laurel’s of the world in my view, are talented miracles. The greatest reason attributed to failure, is lack-of sufficient start-up capital. I would suspect some of the survivors, myself included, began with insufficient funds, but finessed through it. Finesse is hard to assign a dollar figure to. Some people thrive with the opportunity, while other survivors suffer through it.

    As I write these considerations, if I attached a dollar-figure to them, it would shock my clients as to ‘where’ it is that some of their fees go. Comparably, were I to assign the number of hours it takes me per day to accomplish these and other life-work tasks, one would sincerely wonder, “Where does this woman find time to actually WORK???” This might also explain a dilemma a self-employed Designer might experience – what they ‘love’ to do (design, source, write, etc.) does not always account for the bulk of their working hours.

    Not listed is ‘fun’ money and travel. Usually if I travel, it includes a work-related task – education for example. Recently relocated to be closer to, but not on, one of my passions – the Gulf. Occasional day trips to the beach are much more cost-efficient, than a several thousand dollar jaunt twice per year to sustain me at my best-self. Often we hear of Laurel sharing her beautifully beloved Boston – her environment I presume is part of what sustains her, as does designing her own space. You go Laurel – the wheel is moving on implementing your own designs!

    My clientele live around the World, with the bulk in the U.S. Thus I must consider this when setting fees. With Designers, I imagine considering location, and the population they prefer to work with, goes into their payment structure. I’m sure I’ve left off other expenses that I consider when setting fees. I wanted to add what might be some behind-the-scenes duties/expenses for a small business owner. Were I to detail these to my own clientele, I fear they would consider me as a complainer. I wouldn’t trade what I am afforded to do, and the freedom of working by/for myself. It is easy to see the surface, but more challenging to look toward the depths.

  11. Laurel, congrats on the kitchen!

    I have a question though. From start (i.e. when you began researching designers/contractors) to now (start the work) what was the timeline?

    1. LOL – I’m laughing because this path has had all sorts of twists and turns. My first go-around was two years ago. I met contractor #1 and one or two others. I liked contractor #1 and my neighbor was using him for a relatively small project.

      It’s a long story, but it took me a while to get cracking. That first year, I really focused more on integrating myself in the community and adjusting to a new city. Plus, moving to a new state, and registering my business in the new state, medicare, new doctors, (who had me getting dozens of tests)… well, I didn’t have anything to show the contractor until the first year was over.

      Then, I had to first line up the kitchen cabinets. That was a fiasco I won’t go into. Finally, I found Crown Point.

      Anyway, I signed the lease on the apartment today. It is teeny-tiny, but a stone’s throw from the the Boston Athenaeum where I’m a member. I’m working out finalities with the new contractor who is NOT just off the boat. Someone wrote me all concerned. No, he’s legal and gets building permits. My job requires a long form.

  12. I had two bad experiences- the first designer I found on Houzz in my area met with us. She seemed very detailed and her style was somewhat similar to mine. I showed her Donald Kaufman design book, along with a specific palette of colors that was my inspiration. We were going to do open living room and home office. I really wanted a classic look, soft muted colors mixing antiques in and maybe some nice wool carpets. We started off with the office. She showed up one day with carpet samples of horrid “ indoor outdoor carpet samples” she had just used for a client in Florida, and three renderings of “ matching furniture sets” from Amazon, Wayfair and Pottery Barn- all matcha matcha- no imagination, none of the colors I wanted. I could have sourced it myself. She said she spent a lot of extra hours sourcing. I would need to order from Amazon myself as that was the best of the worst. So generic. I was crushed and defeated. Then the pieces sold out before I pulled the trigger and she chastised me. Oh and she kept suggestinh a Murphy Bed, despite me saying I did not want one as we were turning a small bedroom into an office. She also kept suggesting we get a Hall Tree for the entrance by our front door despite me saying I did not want one. Currently I have a lovely antique server on that wall with art over it and had some small pieces of antiques on it. She muttered to herself “ all the cluttered things” like she had seen the mistake before. Well I hired her because I needed help with how to tie in things that were unique, simple and lovely in a high ceiling open plan. I get it, but she didn’t have to insult me. She was a one trick pony. I was so disappointed. We got lucky and paid her for her time never selecting anything. We managed to get out of the contract paying a few thousand for nothing. To this day I’m frustrated that my home just does not feel comfortable to me. I’m afraid to make any decisions. I am a lover of One Kings Lane and she was giving me Amazon. She made me feel guilty for all the e
    “ extra time she took” oh last of all, she kept insisting on handmade curtains- she used to own a large fabric store so that was her “ big thing”picky as I am, I did not want heavy fabric curtains. She even showed me an ugly pattern she suggested that looked outdated already but one she used in her own home. They would cost about $500. I would have been perfectly happy with neutral Pottery Barn linen curtains like I have in a large window in our living room that are classic and still look so after 15 years. Ok I’m done. Apologies. I thought I found someone good and was so disappointed. I though5 we would consult back and forth with me sharing what I loved and her sourcing things I could not find on my own, but instead she showed up with the most generic things. She had not listed to one thing I asked for.

  13. This is off the subject, but it would be great if you would publish a book. You already have the information from your blogs so it would be almost already written. All you would need to do would be to compile them in some order, and, voila, a best selling book! It would be nice to have that information in a book instead of having to go back and search through the blogs.
    I’ve bought many interior design books but none have had the information that I find in your blogs. Most are just beautiful pictures with no explanation of how that happened. So I hope you will seriously consider a book (in your spare time).
    I am a HUGE fan. I know everyone who reads and looks forward to your blogs would love to buy your book.

    1. That is such a kind thing to say, Nelle. I wish it was that simple. It would still take a tremendous amount of time, but I’ll think about it. Actually, I have already thought about it.

  14. First, congratulations on moving forward on your renovation. I am looking forward to following your progress. I am loving it so far.
    Next, I just want an opportunity to vent. Your post triggered a strong reaction. I hired a designer to select paint color, an area carpet, and fabrics for reupholstering a couch and two chairs for my sunroom. She came to my home, and we agreed on a fee of $150.00/hour. Her guestimate was that she would spend approximately 20 hours on my project. No sourcing of lighting, furniture etc. required. This was to include a design board which we could work off of if necessary. I offered to accompany her to a design center, but she insisted it would not be necessary. One day she dropped off two bags of fabric, none of which were in the designs or colors we discussed. No carpet samples or paint colors were included. I had also provided her photos of room that appealed to me. The bill was $1,000.00. I called and asked her what I had just paid for. She told me to select a few fabrics I liked from the samples, and then she would work on putting something together. I could see where this was going $$$$$. I paid her invoice and did not continue to work with her; however, I still feel like a fool. Thank you for letting me vent. I do feel a bit better.

    1. Oh gawd… Vent away, Catherine. That is no way for a designer to run her business. I’m not saying my way is the best, but it worked for me. I charged a too small, in my case, design fee, for the preliminary work. I didn’t charge any hourly fee. But, I did mark up the items they were buying which were never more than retail and usually 10%-20% less. That way I could keep up with the internet businesses.

      However, for that to work, I needed to work with as many vendors direct, as possible. Many gave a very deep discount if not their bottom wholesale price. Not all, of course. Still, it was difficult to make a decent living.

  15. Hi Laurel,
    Your patience is paying off. Everything seems to be falling into place. I’m very happy you found a contractor. And a good one that can start soon. It’s smart that you’re moving out during the renovation. You don’t want to be around all the dust & mess.
    Thanks for sharing your insight on how designers charge. Fascinating. Designers have to wear many hats. The skills that are needed for any project & to keep a business successful has to be many. And that comes at a price.
    Fortunately for people like me that can’t afford a designer there are designers like you that give free advice through their blog. I appreciate you.

  16. I have a designer I’ve worked with for years. We have an agreement – I hire her for consultation. She recommends what we do and we do the work. I pay her hourly. Of course we’re only talking about paint colors, room layouts and rugs to buy but someday I hope to to be able to afford to hire her for more.

  17. Definitely the designer should bill for emails. That’s time spent on the project. About the book shoveling, flea markets and Offer-Up types sales are huge. I had no idea. We have lots of estate sales where I live and they can be pretty fun. I avoid going early because so many dealers and I’m in their way!
    This is very exciting news about your contractor. I never thought of having to move out! You are a patient soul.

  18. I hired a designer after I saw his work at a show house in Baltimore. Met him and he shared designs he had done. Asked him to help with my first home. Just Living area and bedroom. General colors. He came up with a plan. It was nice. During this time I was visiting open houses on weekends. Mostly new construction to get an idea how/what people were doing. I walked into one and saw the exact design he had given me. Colors, fabrics etc. I asked the realtor if she could share who did the house. She was hesitant but did. Same guy I was working with. I was disappointed. Paid him, went on my way and did it myself. I understand decorators have a “style” but I wanted something special. Maybe I should have explained that to him and worked it out. And that was over 20 years ago.

    1. Ugh. That’s horrible. I would’ve done the same.

      I knew a designer once who said she never used the same fabric twice. I can’t make that claim. However, every job was unique, even if there was a fabric on a pillow for one client that ended up as Roman shades for another. (That definitely happened) Some of my favorites, were plain with no pattern. Sometimes I’d use a favorite fabric, but in a different colorway.

  19. life in the age of the internet: is it my imagination or is everyone out shopping in a store looking up merchandise on the internet and trying to figure out if they should buy the item somewhere else? It’s crazy. On another semi-related topic:
    went to a library book sale recently. Instead of people just browsing the books trying to decide whether to pay $1 for a hardcover book, NO. People were scanning books and shoveling huge piles of books into boxes to take away. I guess they were hoarding books to resell on Amazon?? Who knows. I like an in-store shopping experience, not a big fan of buying something I haven’t seen first. Have a nice day everyone!!

  20. Very informative article on pricing! Truthfully, Shuda’s charges being a possible norm surprise me. Retired, average folks couldn’t afford those fees so THANK YOU for sharing all your designer knowledge and tips. Much appreciated!

  21. So happy to hear you found a contractor and that you’ll be starting your project. Your patience and perseverance is commendable. And you’ve kept your sense of humor through it all. Glad you found a place close by to move to while the work is being done. You can keep a close eye on it. One of these days I hope to meet you in person.

    1. Hi Pat,

      I hope to meet you too! For those who don’t know, Pat was from Boston and left her exquisite apartment about a month before I moved here. Pat lived on the far southwest corner of Beacon Hill across from the Public Garden. I am moving to the opposite corner, not quite, but almost across from Mass General. lol, It’s still Beacon Hill, but just barely. It is relatively close, but the walk is 1.4 mile and unless I go the long way down Cambridge street, I have to walk up the hill. But, the hill isn’t as steep at that location as others. Still, it’ll be up the hill, and down the hill and twice in one day. I am going to be very fit!

  22. Thank you for this blog post, Laurel. It should be required reading for anyone who is considering hiring an interior decorator or designer.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
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