A designer’s fees are only “high” if you didn’t get what was promised to you for the price you agreed to pay in the agreement you chose to sign; and if you then have to engage someone else to correct or complete the job.

Most designers earn every penny they charge by knowing where/how to employ appropriate materials; who the reliable vendors are; how to prevent you from making unnecessary and costly mistakes as well as for their vision, talent and training to see your project through to a successful completion.  They show up when they say they will.  They deliver what they’ve promised; and they understand how to communicate with all the trades that make your project come to life.  They are also skilled at resolving job site issues before you’re even aware that a problem existed in the first place!  Remember something; you’re likely making one of the biggest investments of your life here. Having to do it twice because it wasn’t done right the first time, costs a lot more money!!  So work with someone who knows the ropes, and pay them what they ask.

If budget is your issue, you can also scale your project back, or plan to roll it out in stages.  Known in advance, most designers will find a way to work with you, and within your budget.

And while fees vary across the country, I would suggest that you do some comparison shopping.  Someone charging $75 per hour may just be starting out and not have the expertise required to manage client expectations against the realities of your particular project.  Then again, it may be a fair fee for your area.

In and around Metropolitan New York rent, labor and transportation are high.  Annual parking fees cost more than many vacations.   And as an independent business, insurance and taxes are crippling.  Another factor to consider is that a designer often only works for you for a portion of a year, say nine months.  They still have to cover 12 months of expenses to keep their doors open!  Think about it, if you make $65,000 per year, your take home is roughly $850 per week after taxes.  If you only work for nine months, you take home $30,600.00.  When a project ends, a designer doesn’t collect unemployment to make up the difference!

As a general guide, the designer’s overall fees, no matter how they’re charged (time, mark-up or a combination of both) should equal roughly 30-40% of your total budget.  If you plan to spend $100,000.00, approximately $30-$40,000.00 of that will be fees.  Of course this figure will vary with the complexity of the project and where you live.

For further information on what fair fees might be based on, you can check Salary.com and Payscale.com for what an interior design firm in your region might pay a lead designer on their staff.

Finally, your dentist, lawyer or therapist is unlikely to “negotiate” their fee, so if you don’t value the designer you’ve chosen to work with -as a similar professional- you may need to move on.