Why You Should Hire an Interior Designer When Building or Remodeling Your Home

You’ve hired an architect and he said he’d provide plans for both the structure and interior of your house. So, should you spend money to hire an interior designer too? Yes. Isn’t that redundant? No. Here’s why.

Luciana Fragali, Director Design Solutions Miami

Luciana Fragali
Director, Design/Solutions


First things first. When you decide to build or completely remodel your home, certainly you start with an architect. His fundamental job is to design the construction of the building, obviously a multi-faceted and complex task in and of itself.

Among other concerns, your architect has to determine how the structure can best occupy the lot, how he will harmonize the building’s multiple facades, what the optimal placement will be regarding setbacks and sun exposure, of course that it looks like the home you imagine, and plenty more. And he has to pull all this together while complying with the many requirements of today’s dizzying building codes.

The truth is, the inside of the building (i.e. your home) is an after-thought for the architect.

The layout and design that work best for your family’s personal dynamic and tastes — the flow of the house, room sizes and locations and transitions, customized finishes, lighting, ceiling heights, and so much more – none of that interior customization is the architect’s priority or specialty.

Enter the Interior Designer

Once the architect has completed his grand plan for the “skeleton” of your house, that’s when he or someone on his team will start thinking about the inside – the actual “home” part. There is so very much to consider. And it’s all so personal.

Regardless of your home’s size or budget, if you’re building or remodeling it from scratch, it really should be your dream home, shouldn’t it?

This is why you want to hire an interior designer from the start. Someone whose fundamental job is to help you design the actual living part of the home you dream of — the way the architect’s fundamental job is to design the structure.

With an interior designer on board from the start, you’ll have expert advice and guidance to ensure all your needs and wants are possible within the architect’s concept. Without this upfront guidance, you might find yourself later on having to requisition – and pay for – revised plans. Even worse, you might have to settle for less than the home you’d imagined.

It’s one thing to have the budget for what you want to build, quite another to have the budget to do one or more aspects of it twice.

Let’s be clear. Yes, the architect is best suited to select exterior design elements, such as façade finishes, gables, entryways, terraces, and plenty more, even your driveway. However, the seemingly endless detailed list of interior elements (flooring, cabinets, countertops, backsplashes, appliances, tubs, lighting plans, reflected ceiling plans, automation, closets, customized millwork, and on and on) is best trusted to a professional who specializes in designing and decorating interiors.

So, while it might seem unnecessary to pay someone separately to do a job your architect said he could include in his plans, the results simply won’t be as good – or as cost-effective – as if you hire an expert on interiors for the interior work.

A little voice in your head right now might be saying, “Ah, right… don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.” Listen to it! There’s good reason why sayings like that have stood the test of time.

Got It On Value. How About Cost?

Even once you get the reason and value, it can still be hard to process that it won’t be much more expensive to have both an architect and an interior designer working on your home construction or remodeling project.

Of course, it can be. But the important point is that it doesn’t have to beDo your homework on how much – and more specifically how competing architects and designers charge.

Many architects, for example, charge per square foot. Their fees vary between $20-$50 per square foot, based on gross square footage. That fee should include the design concept plus the complete “signed and sealed” set of plans ready to present for city permits.

Some designers charge by the hour, which – as a professional designer – I strongly advise you to reject. It borders on madness to pay someone for how long they personally take to do things, rather than for what they are delivering. How many of those billed hours are spent moving at a snail’s pace, daydreaming, eating, chatting – you get the point. Before you realize what’s happening, you’re on the hook for a fortune in exchange for not much work or quality.

Preferable are the designers who charge a fee per square foot to deliver a spec book with all the finishes and technical drawings that the various contractors will need to perform their jobs. This fee can vary from $10-$25 per net square foot, depending on variables such as the designer’s experience, industry relationships, and how detailed you want the spec book to be. This is work the architect, then, won’t charge you for at his typically higher rate.

Additionally, some designers and their clients agree to channel purchases through the design team. This means the designer will charge you a fixed fee – or an agreed percentage – for sourcing, purchasing, receiving, and inspecting all materials included in the approved design concept. You can also negotiate to get the trade discounts offered by vendors to the designer extended partially or fully to you. This could save you a considerable dollar amount off the transactions.

If the agreement is that the designer will be responsible for the purchases, the design concept fee also drops in price. Otherwise, the designer will charge a higher concept fee and provide all the necessary information in a binder as to which purchases can be completed by someone else, such as the client or the contractor.

Anxiety Alert!

This is a full-time job that can be challenging and stressful, especially for someone who is not experienced in the industry. Don’t take this responsibility on lightly!

And lastly, a word to the wise… If the contractor takes responsibility for the purchases, he will certainly charge you a percentage, usually hidden in his fee. Additionally, it is likely he will get kickbacks from the suppliers which will not be extended to you.

Designers charges

Option 1
Higher Fee: Complete and detailed design concept with the approved materials sourced, purchased, received, and inspected by someone other than the design team.

Option 2
Lower Fee: Design concept with the approved selections sourced, purchased, received, and inspected by the design team.

Making the Big Decision.

Regardless of how the professionals you interview charge – and make a point of interviewing more than one architect and designer – your job as the client is to do your homework to make sure you find the most cost-effective collaboration for your dream home project.

Remember, though, that there’s a critical difference between cost-effective and cheap. High quality, honest, reliable professionals are not in it to lose money or break even. To state the obvious, they need to make a profit. But some profit margins are fair, justifiable, and totally worth it, while others are…not.

It’s your responsibility to research and find the professionals who are worth it before taking a single step forward in the project, then commit to working together and giving their advice a fair hearing. It’s a big part of what you’re paying them for.

There’s a lot of fun involved in all of this, but you need to be fully aware from the start that the process of building or completely remodeling a home is long and hard. It is absolutely not all fun, all the time.

If you think ahead at every stage, plan carefully, and hire professionals who you have good reason to believe you can fully trust, you’ll always have an element of enjoyment throughout the project, even during the more trying times.

One thing’s for sure, no matter what – building your dream home will be one of the most memorable events of your life. So pick the right professionals to embark on this journey with you and dive in!

Keep your eyes and heart on the payoff for all this work, investment, and emotional see-sawing – a happy life in a home that’s your personal creation to the last detail.

Connect with Design/Solutions today to take the
first step on the journey to your dream home!