Lori Dennis Celebrity Luxury Interior Designer | Blog

A blog about luxury and green living by top interior designer Lori Dennis

How Much Do Interior Designers Cost?

January 27, 2012

I get this question, a lot .



There are a few ways to charge for interior design services.

Flat Fee for Interior Design


1. FLAT RATE.  An interior designer quotes a specific fee and includes a detailed list of services and the time frames that these services are covered. When a client has a project that exceeds a $50,000 budget, I prefer to use this fee structure because both sides win.  The client doesn’t feel like they are in the dark regarding never ending design costs and my team knows exactly what is expected and how much time they need to work on a project.


Commission Interior Design Fee


2. COMMISSION.  Most Los Angeles Interior Designers that I know charge 30-35% commission on items that they purchase for clients when they use this method. I’m not a fan of doing things this way because it can put designers and clients on opposite sides of the table.  For instance, if two items are comparable and one costs more, a designer will make more money buying the more expensive item. It leaves room for doubt by the client as to why the selections are being made.  A designer can also suffer when a client purchases an item without the assistance of the designer in order to save the commission.


Hourly Interior Design Fee


3. HOURLY RATE.  The most simple of all ways to pay an interior, this rate structure works best for smaller projects with limited amount of time required for completion.  Rates can run from $50 per hour for a student to $1,500 per hour.  I like to use this structure when my clients only need a little bit of my time.  I charge $500 per hour.


Square Footage Interior Design Fee


4. SQUARE FOOTAGE. This fee structure takes into account the amount of square feet that will be covered on a project.  For example a 10,000 square foot property with 6,000 square feet of exterior space that is being billed at $6 per square foot, would have an interior design fee of $96,000.  This is generally the structure that interior designers use when they work on hospitality  and commercial projects.

Percentage Interior Design Fee



5. PERCENTAGE.  A percentage interior design fee takes into account the total budget that the client will spend, including things like: construction, materials and furnishings.  This fee structure is multiplied by a percentage to calculate the interior designer’s fee.

Barter Interior Design Fee


6. BARTER. If you have a service or item that an interior designer wants, they may be willing to trade with you.  For example, a spa owner who is interested in the interior design of their shop may give their products and services to the interior designer in exchange for interior design services.

Combination Inteior Design Fee


7.  COMBINATION.  Any combination of the previous  five fee structures can be used to come up with a combination fee structure.  Interior Designers and clients can get very creative  and specific in the fee structure by combining rates.

Other things to take into consideration are the status of the designer.  Do they have decades of experience? Are they professionally trained, licensed, accredited?  Have they been published?  Do they have a body of work that reflects a client’s particular needs -style and type of project? Are they in demand and able to charge a premium?







Comments to “How Much Do Interior Designers Cost?”

  1. Howdy, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam comments?
    If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can suggest?

    I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any
    help is very much appreciated.

  2. I’m interested to know what you meant by charging for the area of design. If I only need a built in wardrobe design in a 400 sq ft room, will I be charged for the whole room area or only the wardrobe area?

  3. $500 per hour?????

    Fuck off! Even doctors dont make that much!

    • (Administrator)

      Thanks for the spirited reply! Actually some specialists make much more than that, but yes, great designers do make decent money. After the 4 years of college, the 4 years post graduate work in design, specializing in Sustainable Design, getting accredited by passing two excrutiatingly difficult and expensive national exams: LEED and NCIDQ, writing a book on Green Interior Design, Touring the Country lecturing on the topic, teaching at UCLA, being published in countless books, magazines, websites and newspapers around the world, appearing on television umpteen times and starring in my own series on HGTV, working in the field for two decades, opening a construction firm and windows and doors distribution company to enhance my offerings and knowledge, leading the top interior design summit in the world-where I teach thousands of interior designers, designing furniture, fabric and rug lines and working with the top clients in the world for nearly two decades, yes I am at a point where people are willing to pay $500 per hour for my expertise. Let’s also add that I pass my designer pricing along to clients, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars by hiring me. Finally, what I do for living is a LUXURY service business, much like a Rolls Royce dealership. Fortunately there are cars for every budget and places like West Elm that can help people who have more modest budgets. Even though many television shows mislead the public into thinking that an interior designer’s role amounts to “whipping up” a room in 24 hours for under $1000, it’s not. So if you don’t mind, I won’t “fuck off” just yet.

  4. Just got a job from a large builder who wants me to select all finishes, hard and soft, lighting, paint colors, window treatment, tile, etc. for a new 4000 s.f. house he has framed out. The house will list for 1.1 mil. How would you charge for this.

    Thank you,

  5. Hi Lori,

    I have a living room that is 54 square meters that requires to be completely redecorated. Would you say that 15% of the total billed amount on the furniture would be a fair rate to pay for an interior designer?

    Many thanks!

    • (Administrator)

      BTW I would say 30% sounds more like it.
      15% is a steal!

  6. I am working on a commercial project in Texas. It is a wonderful opportunity and I want to be fare about my fee. the project is a total of 50,000 sg.ft.. I will be supplying all services and construction observation. I normally charge $95.00 per hour or $2.75 per square foot. My client wants a flat fee and I totally do not know what is fare. The scope of this project is huge and will take a total of 4 months every day. Please help. Bid is due tomorrow.


    • (Administrator)

      If you think you’ll be working 16 weeks at 40 hours a week, do the math. 95 dollars per hour x 16 weeks x 40 hours= $60,800. If you feel that’s too much because you won’t actually be working 8 hours everyday on it, make it $49,500.

      IN any event, you should get yourself to DesignCamp.com Oct 9-11. You are not charging enough!

  7. We want to renovate and extend our kitchen. It is currently apprx. 200+sqft and we want it to be apprx 400 sqft. We thought it might be wise to get (pay for) advice from an interior designer rather than relying on whoever works in a store. If we just wanted an hour, would we be dinged for that? I know builders and I know what I want. I would just like a little advice and this is something I would like to budget for.

    • (Administrator)

      I charge $400/hr for consultations, other designers range from $75/hr-$1200/hr.

  8. I work for a custom home builder who has recently taken on a large residential project with a small commercial wing. I come from an art and design background, with lots of real world experience in many fields, however, I have never worked on an interior design project. The interior design/redesign of the main building is being done by myself, on top of my normal project management and office work. if the scope of the project is around 55 million, I estimate the main building at about 25million… what percentage is fair to charge on this project? Taking into consideration that I don’t have a degree in this field and that it is great experience.

    • You charge ’em bitches 10 dolla! Ya heard!

  9. I have a small interior design business. After the project is completed I hand over all receipts along with a spread sheet outlining every penny spent. I know there is a much better way to prove where there money was spent and do I have to show them their receipts?. Please help?

    • (Administrator)

      Try my friends at Connexion Software, it’s what you use to keep Professional records and run your office the right way!

  10. Hi Lori,
    I appreciate your comments and advice.
    I recently have been approached to put a proposal together for a high-end spec house. I have a conceptual floor plan which the client is asking me to provide full design. Produce all exterior elevations, interior elevations, specifications, etc. They have already selected a GC but are looking for me (if they accept my proposal) to put together the full design team; architect, civil and structural engineers. I’m very excited about the opportunity but to be honest I’m not sure how to bid it. If I go square footage (6600 sq. ft. including covered lanai’s, garage, porte cocher.) I think biding this as square footage is a good route but than you might get stuck with clients wanting numerous changes in the process which means lots of redrawing. If I’m doing interiors at a rate would this include all the exterior elevations/designs as well or would I incorporate a sliding rate for exterior/interiors. I really could use some advise.

    Thanks, Tamara

    • (Administrator)

      It sounds like you’re on the right track! We’re doing a Design Camp in Orange County Oct. 9-11. The best person I know regarding designer rates, Kim Seldon, is coming to speak. Try to get to that camp and spend some time with her and get feedback from the other 120 designers.

      • Is there a web site available for info on the Design Camp in October?

        • (Administrator)

          Yes. DesignCamp.com If you bring a friend, it’s $500 off! Hope to see you there.

  11. If you use the square footage approach, does that fee cover furniture, merchandising, accessories or is it just for your design time?

    • (Administrator)

      If you bill enough and set time lines… it should cover everything.

    • (Administrator)

      If you charge enough per square foot, yes.

  12. I m going for job at furniture store how would be the charge as interior designer consualting at shop.

  13. Hello this is Rohith Gupta from India my self architect/interior designer can you help me in how the designers, architects charge for interiors,elevations with total execution . myself just started my business as we charge to clients in % based or hourly based or some fixed amount or monthly based how do should charge its confusion to and what is the present market fess going on .! please can do help me .! i will be very thank full to you .! in every project i m facing the problem with clients in fees matters .! please mail to me at kalakondarohithgupta@gmail.com .!or please post ur reply.! and ryt know i have started a elevation design for one of site its total sq ft is 1800 i told to client to charge as for 12 % on total elevation making value .! can u please help me .! and i have project in my hand i have to design a museum can u help in that also

  14. Hi. I live in Dallas, TX and we are currently in the beginning of building a new home (break ground this summer). We have hired our architect to be in charge of the project form beginning to end and we are paying him 10% of total build.

    I interviewed a decorator yesterday – to help me pick out tile, help me have a consistent look throughout, etc…she quoted $4/sq ft. Does that seem reasonable. (sq footage will be around 3800)

    • (Administrator)

      Congrats on your new home!! The designer gave you a very reasonable price. For your reference, I’ve quoted $6-11/sq ft.

    • (Administrator)

      sounds reasonable to me.

  15. Lori-

    I’m in a tough spot. I am responding to an RFP that I was sent for a commercial housing project from a property management company. They are soliciting bids from interior designers to design the space. More or less furniture selection, placement, color scheme throughout the space. They inform me that I would be working with the architecture firm to collaborate on flooring, lighting and other finishes. This would be my first “BIG” commercial project and I am having a difficult time coming up with a bid. I am a single owner of my company. And I currently hire another interior designer for special projects that require more time commitment. I don’t want to outbid myself but I also don’t want to get stuck doing more work than what I will be paid for. I was going to do a per sq/ft rate. But I have a question about your approach. In your example you are billing the client $6/sq/ft for their outside space. Why would you bill for the outside space when it is not directly related to the interiors where you are designing? The total square footage for this project is 60,000 but I am not required to design for the entire space. So, if I charge on the square footage, would I charge charge a percentage for furniture too? I am excited to get this job, but stressed out at the same time. I currently charge $125/hr for myself and $50/hr for assistant designers. Any thoughts on how I should write up my proposal?

    • (Administrator)

      You’ll want to find out exactly how many square feet you’re responsible for designing for interior architecture and FF&E (furnishings, fixtures and equipment). Your square foot charge will vary in region. But $6/sqft sounds right. You would only bill for exterior if you were working on the spaces, i.e., hardscape, landscape, seating, furniture, lighting. In this rate you would include furniture specs and either have a separate contract for purchasing or hire a purchasing firm.

      I hope this helps.

      You really sound like a great candidate for Design Camp. You’ll learn a lot about the business of design and meet designers from all over the country. It’s great to have other designers to collaborate with when you’re uncertain how to proceed. Our next camp is Altanta Jan. 30 -Feb. 1. Check it out. http://designcamp.com/

  16. If I am doing a project for $29000 how much should I charge as a designer? I am buying furnitures and I am selecting all finishes through out the whole space ( carpet, tile, wall paper….)

    • (Administrator)

      It really depends on your experience level and area where you are designing. For a flat rate, start with 15-30% of the entire budget as your fee.

  17. Lori,
    Very well thought-out I get this question quite often as well. I was wondering if you ever use the square footage method for residential projects? I have used this method a few times with my projects and clients seem to be fairly receptive to it.

    • Yes, I have used the square footage method for a large, residential project that included both design and construction services. The client was extremely reception to it.

      • (Administrator)

        I’ve had mixed experiences with this. Larger homes tend to be frightened when I do the math!