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How to Hire a Decorator on a Budget

I don’t think I’m the appropriate person to write about how to hire a decorator because as of a month ago I had never done it before. But a lot of people have asked about it so I’ll tell you what I do know. Basically I needed help finishing my one- bedroom apartment. We will only stay in our current place 3-4 years so I didn’t want to put it off or it wouldn’t be worth doing. {One of the advantages of hiring someone over using a talented friend is they can help keep you on task.} I’ve heard that decorating a house is sort of like planning a wedding… most people don’t do it very often so they make a lot of mistakes.

I have definite opinions about what I like but I needed a professional to help me avoid making mistakes. I realized this when I decorated my last place–I made a few expensive bad choices that could have been avoided. A good example of this is our sofa. For me, if a sofa fits through the door and there is room against a wall, then it fits. The decorator talked me out of buying the sofa I wanted and instead showed me a few examples of sofas that were similar but smaller and better for the space. Things like where a rug should fall and how to hang curtains are other easy mistakes to make. {I know because I always seem to get them wrong.}

One of the biggest concerns I had before I hired someone is I wasn’t sure if they were “my style.” What I’ve learned is that if your decorator is good, once they understand your style, they know what you want and can help you with your ideas.

I hired an interior design student who is building her portfolio. Not only is this better for me because she is more affordable but she is closer to my demographic and is used to finding things off Craigslist and at Flea Markets for her own house. {That kind of decorating is in my budget.}

I sent three or four emails out to people I knew who were either students or were starting out. I told them what I was looking for and asked if they were available and how much they charged. Elizabeth wrote me back pretty quick so we set up an initial meeting. If it didn’t work out I would’ve ended it there {like a bad first date.} But I really liked how she worked with me. I think she is helping my style come out more than if I did it myself.

Besides an ongoing working relationship some people prefer to just do an initial consultation and then the designer or decorator puts together a book with paint swatches etc. Another idea if you are on a budget is to do all the groundwork before hand {choose swatches and couches you like etc.} and then have a decorator meet with you and make adjustments and suggestions.

Anyway, thats all I got. Domino has an article here on the subject. If you don’t have money for a decorator try a talented friend.

Anyone else with more experience have ideas on how to hire a decorator on a budget?

{photo via Domino}

  1. lisa

    April 24, 2008

    We have a great local decorator who works for a privately run store carrying good case goods. The design fee you pay her (500) gets taken off any purchase that gets made through the store. The fee includes scale drawings of the room and help w/ colors etc.
    I like the idea of contacting a design student through a local university. We aren’t far from Parsons…

  2. R-Eight

    April 24, 2008

    super advice

  3. liz

    April 24, 2008

    thanks! this is perfect. we are about to buy our first home and after 8 yrs of renting and not even trying to decorate much at all the thought of doing it to a perm. space freaks me out. So this is a good start for me, I appreciate this post!

  4. Inez

    April 24, 2008

    Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that you felt you needed any help. You are so savvy about this stuff! But it’s all continuing education, yeah? 😉

  5. Kate

    April 24, 2008

    So funny you posted this. I just decided to hire a girl who is graduating from design school in two weeks. She’s the hostess at one of our favorite restaurants here in town and we started talking and she mentioned that she was about to be done. So, I think I’m going to hire her to do a couple of small projects in the house.

  6. Molly

    April 24, 2008

    I graduated with a BS in interior design. I am now a SAHM, but occasionally help family and friends. Any how I really like the idea of the home owner collecting a bunch of samples, and then meeting with a designer to narrow down choices. A few one hour sessions would be really helpful, and affordable.


    April 25, 2008

    Brilliant. The idea of hiring a design student is sounding feasible and wonderful!

  8. Alya

    April 27, 2008

    I think you hit the nail with choosing design students. They always look to improving and adding their portfolio, and they’re not as – excuse the word – snobby as the established ones.

    And not to mention that they’re eager beavers! Packed with energy!

  9. jonathanorenstein

    July 17, 2010

    I am in the same boat as many of you. Can you suggest how to get in touch with a design student in the NYC area? I am in the process of purchasing a 2 bedroom apt. Thx!

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