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Decorating & Furniture/Cost of hiring a designer


Hi there!  Hopefully you can help me!

We're thinking about hiring a professional to help us furnish our entire 1st floor.  This will include all furniture/color selections, window treatments, art selection, etc.  It also includes a major kitchen remodel.

We have already had her draw out the space plan, which includes furniture placement, kitchen layout, etc.  The next phase of the project will be all the design and selections.  It's for a family room with a breakfast nook, the kitchen, foyer, library and dining room.  Approx. 1100 sq feet total for the entire thing.

Our question - I know it's difficult to say without first seeing the space and scope of the project, but the quote to complete this phase is quite a lot of money - to include all of her time on the selections/planning/coordination with contractors, etc, she has estimated that it will cost us $14,000.   That is before the purchase of furniture - she will be sharing her furniture discount with us 50/50.  We did have another firm out to quote on a similar project and their quote was much more - like over 20K!

We just really don't know if this is a reasonable amount because we have also heard from friends that they only paid about 5K for a similar space with their designer.  I do not, however, know if their designer was a 'real', certified designer or just somebody with an eye for decorating.  

I really like the work that I've seen from this designer, we get along great, and really want to use her, but am wondering if her quote is reasonable and the norm for the industry.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

Thank you!

Hi Maggie,

So sorry for my delay in responding - have been on site with a big job the last 2 weeks!

This is a great question and one that I think a lot of others will benefit from.

First of all, let me just say that I can really only compare to my own fees and those of others in my area.  I'm not sure where you are, but that can have an effect on the fees, as well as, like you said, whether or not a designer is certified.

I'm in Ottawa where the standard fee is about $85/hour.  I personally charge $100/hr, but others in the industry charge anywhere from $50 up to $125.  Now, I'm talking about interior decorators, not interior designers.   Registered interior designers (in Ontario that means they have passed the NCIDQ exams and are members of ARIDO - Assoc. of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario) charge considerably more due to their knowledge of the Ontario Building Code.  In Ontario it is illegal to call yourself an "interior designer" if you are not a registered member of ARIDO.  Interior decorating, however, is not a regulated field and ANYONE can call themselves a decorator, whether they have training and experience or not.  Decorators can join CDECA (Canadian Decorator's Association) which is not a governing body like ARIDO, but only accepts members who are formally trained by a recognized institution or who have 10+ years experience and who have gone through a portfolio review.

So basically what I'm trying to tell you in that long-winded speech, check out the designer's credentials.  If she's properly trained and experienced, her fees are probably pretty reasonable, considering the scope of the job.  The fact that you had another firm quote in the same ballpark, though a bit higher, also suggests that her rates are within the industry standard for your area.

Other things to consider when choosing a designer:  Are they insured?  Did they give you a contract to sign and explain their methods of operation?  You should be able to answer yes to those questions.

The fact that you like her and like her work is probably a good indication that she's a good fit for your project.  Trust is extremely important in a big project like this.  Maybe her fees are a little higher than you expected, but what is your peace-of-mind worth?

Hope this helps! Good luck!


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Sarah Kidder


Ask me anything! I'm a formally trained decorator, am passionate about decorating and design and am pretty well rounded in all areas.


I'm a Certified Interior Decorator with a diploma in Interior Decorating from Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario. I'm a member in good standing of the Canadian Decorator's Association (CDECA). I've been active in the design industry for about 7 years. I've been working with private clients for the past 5 years while running my own decorating company.

Canadian Decorator's Association (CDECA)

Diploma in Interior Decorating

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Currently working on a kitchen reno, a bathroom reno, and a bathroom design...and lots of colour consultations!

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