Thoughtful interior designs do so much more than please the eye. They can maximize space, solve problems and help foster the home environment you want.
While engaging with a pro was once exclusive to those with huge budgets or square footage, today’s professional interior design services are far more diverse, offering greater flexibility than most people realize. Whether you’re tackling a small room or an entire home refresh, turning to an expert can save you time, stress and (yes) even money.
In addition to the traditional interior design services you’d get partnering with a professional, many have also begun offering a-la-carte services.
“Sometimes a client just wants a color consultation, or a DIYer has a list of questions they’d like advice on,” says Sandy Nelson, owner of Designs of the Times in Kenmore, who has been working with clients for over 25 years. For these types of projects, she charges a set fee (usually $200-$300) instead of by the hour, to create a mood board with recommendations for her client to take and run with.
But for those looking for more hands-on direction and help, the classic designer-client partnership remains the way to go. “I do a free half-hour initial consultation in the potential client’s home to get a feel for the job’s viability—if the client and I seem to be on the same page in terms timeline, budget and general expectations, we proceed,” said Nelson. “I charge $100 an hour; that includes consultations, selections, drawings, presentations and internet research. If the client purchases anything, I pass along manufacturer and showroom discounts where I can.
From virtual to reality
“The customer goes online and gives some information about the project they’re doing, and what type of decor appeals to them. They also select one of our professional designers,” said Erin Davis Judkins of Wayfair Design Services. “They select their package—the simplest is a one-time consultation. That’s $29 per session; it works well for someone who is maybe looking to add some flair to their existing items and wants advice.”
When customers choose the Lite ($79/room) or Classic ($149/room) package, they get one-on-one phone time and unlimited messaging with Wayfair designers, plus concepts and revisions, and more.
“Our designers connect better with customers via a phone call to gather more information that might come up organically and help clarify what they’re looking for,” said Davis Judkins. “It gives a personal touch.”
Davis Judkins iterates that Wayfair’s design services are not linked to any Wayfair purchases that customers may make. Like Amazon, the site features multiple brands—but also source items from other stores and brands they don’t carry on Wayfair.
Another option is to check in with a favorite locally owned home or design shop. Hayley Carrow-Janecki, owner of Ró Home Shop in the Elmwood Village, offers an array of design help to customers.
Her services range from a style or color consultation and space planning (around $65-$95) to a single-room concept ($450), which includes an in-home consultation where she takes photos, measures and learns about the potential client’s vision and taste. (For customized projects, her rate is $75 an hour, and can include as much or as little as the customer likes.)
“I get an idea of the types of colors and textures they like,” said Janecki. “Then I’ll email them some initial recommendations, and make a digital rendering of the room.”
Step by step
The one-room-at-a-time strategy is a sensible one: you can see how the provider, process and results work for you. Many designers enjoy working that way, and if you proceed, it gives them the chance to incorporate cohesion into the overall space.
“A one-room concept is a popular service, versus taking on the whole house all at once. It’s not as overwhelming, and when it’s done, you can move on to the next thing,” Janecki said. “I want to make any project part of the bigger story. I ask where they hang out, what’s their favorite or most important space in the house. Is it the kitchen where they cook or entertain?”
While any designer is providing their expertise and experience, they also are committed to helping clients feel that their home is a unique expression of their own personal taste. With any project, there are back-and-forths until final decisions are made—and having a professional on your side can help.
“There are a lot of details and work that goes into, say, redoing a living room,” said Nelson. “You are picking and combining furniture, flooring, window treatments, carpet or rug and other decorative items like pillows.”
Clients, say our professionals, come in all flavors, from having a set idea of how much they want to spend to having no concept of what’s appropriate.
“It’s always helpful when clients can give me their budget, but sometimes they don’t know how much to spend. I can help with that,” said Janecki. “I can advise them to maybe spend more on a couch, something that is intentional and an anchor piece, as opposed to a light fixture, though you can also do a statement fixture.”
No matter what your style, level of decisiveness or desire to be involved, there’s an interior design solution for you.
“Every client is different. Some like me to go out and make selections, then present samples of cabinetry, flooring, color and paint choices,” explained Nelson. “And some like to go out and shop on their own, they do the exploration, collect samples and ask me to come help and edit. It’s all about helping a client make the best choices for their needs and their budget.”
Here to help
We asked our experts to weigh in on some of the common pain-points interior design expertise can help you fix.
Seeing the big picture
All of the designers interviewed agreed that space planning—the ability to envision what the furniture will look like in a room, and how it should be placed—is an area where they can help people.
“A lot of clients say their home just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes it’s as simple as rearranging the items in the house. I can create a floor plan and make a list of things they may want to add or edit out. Providing help with spatial planning and adding some furniture elements for cohesiveness can go a long way to make someone feel entirely different in their home.” – Hayley Carrow-Janecki, Ró
“Designers have the ability, experience and training to envision alternate layouts for a room and can space-plan multiple options to make it work. This may involve things that a client might never think of, like moving or closing off a window, or moving electrical or plumbing.” – Sandy Nelson, Designs of the Times
“A lot of people have trouble with space planning. Especially when moving—they’re not sure what to take, or how to place it in their new house. Designers can help decide what they might want to buy new or refresh and suggest a floor plan.”– Erin Davis Judkins, Wayfair
Making it work
Not sure what to do with an unusual space or an item? Designers have a lot of experience with figuring that out.
“A lot of people have eclectic style. Sometimes clients have or see something they really like, but it could be kind of different. They may lack confidence about whether it will work or make sense in the room. Designers can encourage people to buy it and try it; they can also suggest a few other things to mix in.” – Davis Judkins
“I have clients who may have a weird corner or room that is so awkward, they have no idea what to do. I can come up with a custom furniture piece—something that fits the space exactly, that looks like it belongs. Then I consult one of my craftsmen to help build the piece.” – Carrow-Janecki
Honing in on hues
“Color can be difficult. When the house feels flat—maybe there’s too much of one color—adding color can help. While I don’t ever go overboard with it, I do push clients to explore ways to create color with three-dimensional elements, like furniture, rugs and throw pillows as well as two-dimensionally with wall color. Adding a few pops of color can give the space variety, which is extremely pleasing to the eye.” – Carrow-Janecki
“I advise clients to look at big swatches of the paint colors we’re considering in various lighting and at different times of day, because they change according to the light. Contrary to what many might think, I advise choosing the paint color as one of the last things. Paint highlights the other items in the space and should be the thing that pulls a room together.” – Nelson
Story topics: Home & Style