When budgeting for a renovation, or just the redecoration of one room, factoring in an interior designer’s fee is, for many, not an option. The cost for a full decoration project can run into the many thousands – but an increasing number of designers are now offering one-off consultations alongside their full service, at a fraction of the cost. It’s a trend that had already begun before the pandemic, and has exploded since, as designers have searched for ways to help clients remotely during lockdowns. As a result, interior design is now more accessible than ever.
‘With so many people working from home, we’ve been inundated with requests for help with smaller-scale design projects,’ says interior designer Anna Burles, who has just launched Miscellany, a diffusion-line spin-off service from her company Run for the Hills. The idea is to offer what she calls a ‘bite-sized’ option aimed at those who might ordinarily think they can’t afford an interior designer. ‘A client might just need some help space-planning, or a paint spec for their decorator, or a lighting layout for the electrician,’ she says. ‘People can opt for small amounts of consultancy, from a handful of hours to a few days, at a transparent hourly or daily rate [from £395].’
Similarly, designer Beth Dadswell recently signed up with The Expert, a new online platform that aims to bring high-end design into the reach of more people by connecting potential clients with designers around the world. They offer virtual services costing from a few hundred pounds (other UK names on the site include Rita Konig, Tiffany Duggan and Martin Brudnizki).
Dadswell’s fee for a full project starts from around £6,000 for a flat, and more for overseeing the renovation of an entire house, depending on the scope of the work and the location. In comparison, a 55-minute video consultation with her costs £350 – and, although the level of service will of course be different, what it offers is access to her expertise and knowledge. Essentially, a consultation could save a client hours of online research, moodboarding and scouring homeware showrooms.
Often, Dadswell finds clients are struggling with the layout of a renovation or extension. ‘People come to me with floor plans that an architect has drawn, which they know don’t really work, but they haven’t quite got the confidence to vocalise it,’ she says. ‘I can suggest how things might be improved, just by tweaking things such as the positioning of doors and windows; for instance, rather than two sets of double doors, you could have one set fixed [ie install one set of doors with full-height windows to the side], which would be cheaper.
‘If you’re thinking about doing a new build or a side return, you could potentially be wasting thousands of pounds on things that you don’t really need or that aren’t really going to work. There are all sorts of tricks and ways of saving money.’
In the case of a kitchen renovation, an expert eye can save time and money, and give a more aesthetically focused result. As Dadswell points out, ‘If you’re using a budget kitchen company, they often don’t think particularly visually about your kitchen. They’re going to advise you on what you can fit in and how big your units are. Small changes to the layout can make such a massive difference, and make it look like a premium kitchen.
‘I often discuss with clients whether it’s better to have Ikea kitchen carcases with nice doors from a company like Superfront and good brass handles, but also how that compares with a more expensive kitchen company such as deVOL in terms of overall costs and lead times.’
Sometimes, people are focused on the decoration at the expense of the practical details, and a practised eye can be useful in helping you to edit your ideas.
Finding the right pieces and finishes is also a key part of the design process, and to that end both Dadswell and Burles have created ‘shop the room’ services on their websites, with lists of products from various different brands that work together to create a certain look.
‘One of the time-consuming things about our bespoke interior-design work is developing a unique concept and tailor-made look and feel for clients’ homes, which takes lots of meetings and briefings,’ explains Burles, who also describes the ‘Insta-Looks’ option on her website as the ‘ready-to-wear’ service.
In effect, options such as these are democratising and demystifying the design industry – and showing that a well-designed home doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
HOW A DESIGN CONSULTATION CAN COST YOU MONEY
A second opinion on your architect’s drawings, if you’re planning a renovation or extension, could bring ideas for cutting down costs by making changes to the layout, or opting for different doors or windows.
A designer will have an encyclopaedic knowledge of paint, tiles, flooring, furnishings and fittings, and will be able to advise on the best options for your budget, without you having to trail around showrooms or spend hours on Pinterest.
It’s generally a good idea to have more lights than you think you’ll need. Getting an expert to help you out with a lighting scheme before you start decorating will help you make sure fittings and circuits are in place before the walls are finished, rather than having to retrofit extra lights later on.
It’s not always necessary to replace an entire kitchen or bathroom; a designer can help you to work around what you have and find ways to refresh it and give it a new look.
A scheme with longevity will save money down the line. ‘Quite often a client will send
me a mood board that’s quite trend-led,’ says Beth Dadswell.
‘I’ll help them to edit out the things that will date, so that they end up with a look that is still current but won’t look old-fashioned in two years’ time.’
HOW TO CREATE A MOOD BOARD
Coming up with a mood board is a key first step to creating a room that works, but if you’re time-poor, or nervous about putting together a whole look from scratch, it can be an off-putting process. Anna Burles’s ‘Insta-Looks’, pictured here, encapsulate the trend for shop-the-room services, which act as ready-made mood boards, put together by a designer, with paint colours, pieces of furniture and accessories selected to complement each other.
Choose a look that you like, and you get a shopping list of everything you need to achieve it in your own home. It’s a good way of getting a designer’s expertise without having to pay out for the full service; and you get access to their little black book of trusted suppliers but can pick and choose what to buy, depending on your budget. Other shop-the-room services include Beth Dadswell’s Shop the Edit and TH2 Studio.
OTHER ONLINE SERVICES TO TRY
The design team at Topology (work pictured above) will draw up a floor plan using architectural software, and provide you with a design plan, shopping lists and discount codes. A designer will also visit in person for an extra fee. From £299.
Stylist Grigg can help with troubleshooting a room that isn’t working, recommending sources for unique accessories, or starting a room from scratch. From £125.
Clients are matched with one of a team of designers, who will talk through requirements and provide a floor plan, shopping list and installation advice. The Classic package (£599) includes a project coordinator and three weeks of post-design support.