From home stylists to certified specialists, the field of home design has widely varying costs. To get the most for your design dollars, industry experts offer these tips:
• Consider frugal alternatives. Younger designers and in-house store decorators are low-budget options for consumers. Professional organizers and stylists -- who charge by the hour or the day -- can give a room a new look by working with the furniture and accessories that you already own. Some designers are willing to take on smaller projects such as a single room or a bathroom.
• Get referrals: Do you admire the decor in a friend's home? Ask about the decorator, says Tori Mellott, senior market editor of decorating for Domino Magazine. ''Ask if the designer is easy to work with, accommodating and if they explain their fees upfront,'' Mellott says.
• Use Internet search engines: Many designers operate websites showing work samples, Mellott says. Looking online lets you study a portfolio without the pressure (or potential cost) of a face-to-face meeting. If you like the online version, make an appointment or request to see the full portfolio.
• Pin down fees: The range includes initial consultation, shopping rates, hourly charges or fees based on the cost of the whole project. Ask about additional costs for illustrations and floor plans. Inquire about mark-ups on furniture purchases. If your designer purchases furniture at a wholesale price, ask for a lower markup or a cut in shopping fees.
• Request a contract: Don't rely on word of mouth when it comes to financial details, according to the American Society of Interior Designers. A written contract protects both parties by outlining the size, deadlines and budgetary limits of a project.
• Create your own portfolio: Reduce hourly fees by collecting samples and photos of furniture and accessories from magazines, books and store catalogs. Your tear sheets will help eliminate misunderstandings that waste time and money. By doing your homework, you also create less work for the designer, Mellott says.
This is from my latest column in the home & design section of the Miami Herald.
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