Inside The Design Process – How Much It Really Costs To Work With A Designer

Designing your dream space is an exciting endeavor, but have you ever wondered how much it actually costs to work with an interior designer? In this article, we'll dive deep into the design process, shedding...

Designing your dream space is an exciting endeavor, but have you ever wondered how much it actually costs to work with an interior designer? In this article, we'll dive deep into the design process, shedding light on the time and money involved when collaborating with a professional designer.

How We Charge For Design Services Here At EHD

At Emily Henderson Design, our approach to charging for design services is a little different from traditional residential design firms. As a primarily blog and partnership-focused company, our projects often involve blog-content productions, sponsored projects, or friend/feel-good makeovers. Instead of charging our clients directly, we make our money on the backend through partnerships and collaborations.

However, for our friends and family who benefit from our design services, we charge a nominal fee of $75 per hour. This helps cover overhead costs such as payroll, office space, insurance, and more for our dedicated design team. We value these relationships, and in exchange for our services, we get to document the entire process and showcase the finished spaces on our blog.

The Time and Money Breakdown Of Sara's Makeover Takeover Project

Let's take a closer look at Sara's project to give you a better understanding of the time and costs associated with a design makeover. So far, I've spent approximately 80 hours on the design process, not including installation services, which are expected to take an additional 10 hours. However, it's important to note that this excludes the 55 hours dedicated to blog content for the project.

Using our current rate of $75 per hour, here's a breakdown of the costs for Sara's project:

  • Design Services: 80 hours x $75/hour = $6,000
  • Installation Services: 10 hours x $75/hour = $750
  • Blog Administration & social shoots: 55 hours x $75/hour = $4,125*

*This is specific to our EHD process, which involves trade for press sponsorships. Keep in mind that clients may share in these benefits but should also consider the additional time it might take.

Overall, considering the scope of Sara's project—designing three small rooms (living, dining, and TV) and a custom cabinet design—the total cost is relatively conservative. It's worth noting that designing a single room makeover, including concept development, color palette selection, floor planning, sourcing furniture and accessories, and installation, can typically take anywhere from 35 to 50 hours. More extensive projects like kitchens or full renovations can take even longer, ranging from 8 to 24 months.

How Other Interior Designers Track & Charge For Their Design Services

To provide a broader perspective, we reached out to several anonymous interior designers working across major US cities. Here are some key insights we gathered from our experts:

  • Charging Structure: Most interior designers charge an hourly rate for their services, typically ranging from $100 to $200 per hour. Some designers also offer flat fees based on square footage or project scale.
  • Team Collaboration: Designers account for their team's time differently. Some itemize it separately, while others charge different rates for different team members based on experience and expertise.
  • Time Estimates: Designers make accurate time estimates by basing them on past projects of similar scales. They often provide weekly updates to clients to ensure transparency and manage expectations. However, they acknowledge that project timelines can vary due to client preferences and the level of decision-making involved.
  • Going Over Time Estimates: Designers communicate upfront with clients about the billing process and make sure clients understand that billable time includes factors such as electronic communication, phone calls, and driving time. They emphasize the importance of client collaboration in keeping costs manageable.
  • Furniture Commission: Many designers charge a commission on furniture purchases to cover the time spent on sourcing, purchasing, and managing deliveries. This commission is often a percentage of the discounted price, which ensures that clients still pay less than the retail price.


Designing a space with the help of a professional designer is undoubtedly a luxury service, one that comes with a price tag. However, it's essential to find a balance between affordability and value. Keep in mind that choosing the cheapest option may not always yield the best results. The expertise and resources that designers bring to the table are worth considering.

If hiring a designer doesn't fit your budget, don't worry. There are alternative ways to work with a designer, such as partial designs, consultations, or utilizing online design services. In an upcoming article, we'll explore these options further to help you create your dream space within your means.

Remember, great design takes time and effort. Whether you choose to collaborate with a professional designer or embark on a DIY journey, the end result will be a space that reflects your unique style and personality.

Stay tuned for more design insights and tips on how to work with designers effectively. Happy designing!