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melbourne interior designer and home style blogger chris carroll

How do Designers Charge their Clients? Let Me Break it Down

So just what do interior designers charge their clients? I’m sure if you’ve considered working with a design professional, it’s one of the first questions you want an answer to.

Today I thought I’d lift the lid on how I charge my clients. It’s possibly how a lot of designers charge, but definitely not all of them. If it’s one thing I’ve learnt on my journey in this industry, it’s that you do what works best for you, your clients, and your small business. And my approach might not work for everyone.

So in the interest of transparency, I think it’s good for you to understand how the charges work and why they’re there. It might mean that less of you approach me to work on your home as a result. But what it does mean is that if you are ready to work with me, there will be no awkward conversations around budget or money. Because nobody wants that, right?

melbourne interior designers tlc interiors grey armchair with faux fur throw

What Do Interior Designers Charge?

Well, here it is quite simply. No smoke and mirrors, just the facts on what this interior designer charges the clients he works with. And there are three main figures to keep in mind here:

  • Phone consultation: Free
  • In-home consultation: $396
  • Hourly Design Fee: $198

Now Let’s BID: Break It Down…

Below I’ll go into detail about what interior designers charge with regard to the above figures. I’ll also tell you how the process rolls out so you can get your head around when charges occur and why.

hamptons master bedroom with grey and white wallpaper and white bedside tables

The Phone Consult Costs Nothing

It all starts with a bit of a catch-up over the phone to get a better idea of what you need. What do interior designers charge here: Nothing, nada, zippo. It’s free, the call goes for about 20 minutes, and it’s a great way to ask all the questions you need. It’s also an opportunity for me to assess what it is you’re after, and whether I’m the best designer to help you (more info on how to prepare for the call here).

This is the first step in working with an interior designer. And if you want to take that step, click here to book in a time to chat. I should point out that not all interior designers do this initial call free of charge. Some do longer phone consults or Skype calls with a fee attached. But not yours truly.

I find a quick 20-minute call is a nice way to get a feel for one another. And after that, you’re free to book an in-home consult if you wish.

modern luxe living room with grey sofa tan leather cushions and marble coffee table

The In-Home Consult is $396

I never used to charge clients for consulting with them when I first started my business. I felt bad to. I felt a bit awkward about it.

But you know what happened time and time again? I would drive for an hour to someone’s home. I’d spend 90 minutes with them giving them all of my advice, hints and tips (intellectual property, as they call it). And then I’d drive another hour to get home. That’s over three hours in total out of my day with no income to show for it.

Turns out you can’t pay bills and buy Christmas presents with mere appreciation from people 😉 And the truth is, I have too many clients wanting to work with me now to dedicate hours to free consults.

So now, you get me and my glorious, varied design skillset for up to 90 minutes, in your home, where we can discuss anything you like. This is a great opportunity to pick my brain (with no obligation to go further) or we can use the time with every intention of going further.

We can put together a list of products and requirements you have for the home, I can take measurements, and we can start to develop a style story you want to tell across the home.

tlc interiors design consult

The Hourly Design Fee is $198

OK, so you’ve decided you want to work with me after our consult. That’s fabulous news. What happens now is that I estimate how long I think I’ll spend working on your project. This helps me calculate a rough design fee.

Let’s say it’s 40 hours overall, for example. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. But let’s say 40 to make it easy. That means across the course of the project you’ll spend $198 hourly rate x 40 hours = $7920.

If this has you falling off your seat, run for the hills now. I never said interior designers were for everyone. But trust me, when it comes to what interior designers charge, it’s a very competitive hourly rate.

If you agree to go ahead after the estimation of hours, I will ask you for a 50% deposit. So following on from our current example of a 40-hour project, I’ll ask you to pay for 20 hours upfront ($3960). This ties me to your project and gets me started working on a concept for your home.

Once I’ve worked close to the 20 hours on your project, I will let you know we’re reaching the end of your 50% deposit. From this point onwards, I will invoice you weekly for the remaining hours I work on your home. Which, if I’ve estimated correctly, should be an additional 20 hours!

black metal storage unit and black globewest side table in entryway with fake plants

Now, Not all Interior Designers do it this way

Some designers don’t break it down for you. Totally their prerogative. 

Some will just give you a design fee at the start. Some want you to pay everything upfront. Some ask for 50% deposit like me. And some will only charge you an hourly rate from the beginning.

Trust me, I have tried it a number of ways since I started this gig years ago. And doing it with a 50% deposit upfront is in everyone’s best interests. It commits you and the designer to one another. And I find by telling the client upfront what my rate is, and how long I’ll spend on the project, it keeps everything very open and transparent. No smoke and mirrors. You know what you’re in for, and so do I.

But again, every designer has figured out what works best for them. You either love their process and roll with it, or you look for another design beau elsewhere. There’s a hat for every head.

nine grid of black and white framed photos gallery wall above upholstered bench seat in entryway

Outside of Design Fee, You Pay for Products + Trades

Outside of the design fee you obviously have to pay for any products I specify and you approve. Turns out those pesky furniture and decor suppliers won’t give them away for free (bummer!).

What you’ll pay for products is also estimated after our consult based on how many rooms you’re furnishing, what level of furniture you want, what style it is, and whether trades will be required. Things will cost more if we’re wallpapering or painting or tiling, for example, and trades have to come in to carry out those tasks for you (I organise all the trades, by the way).

Of course, the initial product cost is also an estimate, because things can change. You might want more product than originally discussed. Or you might have expensive taste; opting for a sofa you have your heart set on that costs more than some of the other options presented. I do find, however, that my estimates are usually pretty spot on.

If you want to figure out what a decent product budget is for your home, click here for more.

what do interior designers charge their clients chris carroll tlc interiors

Has this Made Things Clearer?

Hopefully this has answered the most-common question of what do interior designers charge. If you have any additional queries, do drop me a comment below and I’d be happy to answer them. Or, as I said above, if you want to book in a consult, click here.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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17 Responses

  1. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the post. I find pricing such a hard task so this was really insightful!

    In regards to paying for products, may I ask what sort of discounts the designers should expect from decor suppliers? Does that vary much by product e.g. sofas v kitchenware v rugs?

    We can obviously see how much suppliers are charging for direct consumers. Just unsure if the trade discounts provided are fair or aligned to the industry.

    Thanks a lot, Amelia

  2. We are building a new house in Woodend and are in the early stages. I love the Metricon Bayville and would like to follow a similar theme. At what stage in our build would be the right time to discuss the interior of our new home.

    1. Hi Joy and John. Very exciting about your build. And yes, Metricon’s design team have done a wonderful job with the Bayville – it’s stunning. Given the delays occurring with Covid at the moment (product delays in particular), I would recommend starting to work with us at least six months before your handover date, even earlier if you can. The process to get to the products being delivered to your home is not a quick one (we do a lot of ground work to get it right, as you’ve probably read), but then the suppliers need to have stock, which is the major issue at the moment. So, the sooner the better. Feel free to email us on admin@tlcinteriors.com.au if you need more advice.

  3. Hi Chris,

    Thank you so much or the info. This is really useful for an aspiring Interior Designer!

    Could you clarify if the hourly design fee includes the time you take to organise trades, furniture deliveries and on-site inspection/installation/styling?

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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