Is it worth it to hire an interior designer / decorator?
November 19, 2010 10:27 AM   Subscribe

MeFi, please help me make a good decision of money versus sanity/time regarding hiring an interior decorator / designer.

We're doing a cross-country move right now. I'm also trying to work on my dissertation (which I have, with permission, put on the shelf for the entire month of November.) I took the month of December off from work to oversee this move as well as work on my diss. I start work 1st week of January and would love to have the house stuff finished. (I know that I can write in the evenings/weekend, but I don't want to spend my evenings/weekends tromping around Ikea or Home Depot with a 2-year-old.) (FWIW, my diss doesn't HAVE to be done by any job or university standards, this is self- and advisor-imposed.)

I can pay an interior designer / decorator ~$1300 (based on their proposals, not my budget) to do a lot of the new house things which I am not good at nor do I enjoy doing, and most importantly, don't really have the time to do (pick out blinds and hang them, find carpet and someone to carpet the stairs, hang shelves, do spaceplanning.) I've discussed this with a few and gotten proposals from a few, but most of them are not as understanding about toddler needs as I'd like (I have a bunch more to interview though! One does just "interior refining" and is ~$400. With that I could hire a handyman to do the installs, I think.)

(FWIW, this is what I've asked the designer to do:
- Arrange existing furniture (and possibly add some pieces - specifically master bedroom furniture and office furniture.)
- Add touches like art and rugs (but affordable ones) in consultation with us, as well as blinds and carpeting the stairs.
What do we need in terms of space: Master bedroom, toddler bedroom, office, living room, playroom with a small dining area.)

A tiny part of me thinks - damnit, I CAN do this stuff. If I give myself M-F 8-5 for the entire month of December, I can really get this done. And for free! (Well, except for the purchasing of things.) I know that it won't look as nice or as well put together, but it wouldn't cost us anything. The price would be that I would, without a doubt, get no writing done and would thus spend all weekends for the next 3 months locked in a Starbucks (rather than enjoying a new city with my family.)

A few factors:
- Money is tight right now because of move, but won't be tight in a few months.
- This is a rental that we intend to stay in for at least 2 years.
- We have a 2-year-old who will be starting a new daycare.
- We have pets that don't deal well with change.
- This is a brand-new-to-us city, and although we can figure out where things are with GPS, we don't really know where things are.
- Waiting to get the house set up over a period of time REALLY doesn't work for us. In all previous moves, we have fallen into the "let's make the 2nd bedroom the place where all of our boxes live while we unpack" thing and then they never get unpacked. I don't want to do this again.
- I am a serious bargain shopper, which I am trying to put aside in order to get through this move. (We'll need to buy some sheets right away, normally I'd read reviews, get coupons, shop online, etc. I am not going to do that this time.)
- In case you care or have ideas, here's a link to our what we need doc, the floorplan (although it changed) to the new house, the not-to-scale floorplan that I did, and the floorplan/spaceplan of our existing house, photos of the space.

My questions:

- Any DC interior designer recommendations?
- Is it worth the time to work on my diss and the ~$1300 to pay someone else to do this for me?
- What about the whole "interior refining" deal - does that work?
- Have you been pleased with hiring people to do this for you in the past?
posted by k8t to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Unless you have someone whom you really know and trust, it is very risky to hire people to do your interior decorating. No one cares as much about your interior decor, or better understands your needs and preferences than you do. I would recommend that you do your own interior decoration.
posted by grizzled at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2010

It sounds like it will be worth it for your own work and peace of mind to do this. You could do this, but it's a lot of time you could spend on things that aren't Hell for you. I presume that you will review any purchases they're going to make, and that you've looked at their portfolios.
posted by ldthomps at 10:54 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

This really doesn't sound like a huge list at all. You can arrange your furniture in a few evenings, one room a night. You can buy the other items you need online or by taking a quick tour through a short list of local stores, one or two items a week until you're done.

Try not to over research your items. You mention that you would read reviews, get coupons, etc., to buy sheets. That's overkill. If you do all that before deciding on sheets I don't wonder that you think of buying the other items as a major task. Just go to wherever you like to shop (it can be a lower-price-point store like Zellers or Target if you're worried about price) and pick out a set of sheets.

And you sound like someone who pushes herself and stresses out about what she hasn't accomplished. Try not to do that. Just set a modest goal of buying one item for the apartment every week and you will get done in a few months and you'll have the time to make decisions you're happy with.

Of course, if you reeeeeeaaallly hate decorating stuff and you can't manage to take it in stride, hire someone to do it for you.
posted by orange swan at 10:57 AM on November 19, 2010

Just guessing here, but you sound like a bit of a perfectionist, and as such, I don't think you'll be satisfied with whatever an interior designer does for you. Therefore, I think you'll feel like you wasted your money if you spend the $1300 on the decorator, and add to that the difference in price of all the bargains you won't be getting.
posted by hazyjane at 11:16 AM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I say, if you have the money, do it. I theoretically have all the time in the world to do this sort of thing, and it doesn't get done because I get overwhelmed by it. And we've lived in this house for almost 11 years!

Find someone you really click with, make sure you're both working off of the same punch list, and make your budget clear from the start. A move with a 2-year-old in December is likely to be crazy-making to begin with; why not make it easier on yourself by having someone help you make your new house a cozy home?
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:31 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

- Is it worth the time to work on my diss and the ~$1300 to pay someone else to do this for me?

I would say heck yes but that would depend if the money was readily available. You said funds are tight right now. If 1300 dollars will pay for the legwork of ordering of furniture/accessories, the install of said furniture and accessories, and install (or even shopping for) blinds I would say yes. 1300 dollars is an inexpensive price to pay to get it right the first time. It can cost a lot to undo decorating mistakes. Make sure you love it. Make sure it is absolutely pet and kid friendly. Make sure your area rugs hide pet hair and light dirt. (I can recommend the absolute best rug if you have pets that shed. It's the "House Pet" line from FLOR. It's awesome! The best rug I have ever had. Hides dirt and pet hair like nobody's business.) Make sure nothing is overly trendy because it will date and you might hate it in a year or two. I have made a lot of decorating mistakes and now I always advise anyone who will listen to go with a timeless, traditional style. You did not ask for decorating advice. Apologies for giving it.

Another thought...

It looks like you already have most of the furniture you need for your house to run efficiently. it sounds like you need help unpacking and setting up, not necessarily a whole lot of decorating. You can hire a professional organizer for a day or two and she can help you put all of your stuff away properly and recommend pieces of furniture you might need to for the place to function better. You don't have to buy everything at once and you don't have to spend every weekend shopping. Take your time and live with what you have now and think about how the new place works and functions. A lot of professional organizers can help you with light decorating. Professional organizers will sit with you for hours at a time and unpack/organize/straighten/light cleaning.

Your kitchen is beautiful. The floors are beautiful. The place has good bones and it's not going to take a lot to make it look great. I would run with the warm, inviting, we are a family with a toddler vibe. If you have a sofa and beds and few tables, you are off to a good start.
posted by Fairchild at 11:35 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recommend finding a professional organizer to research rug choices, find art suggestions, find a painter, repair person, etc. That person can do lots of unpacking. A friend gets hired by a local company to unpack when new execs move in.
posted by theora55 at 12:17 PM on November 19, 2010

Is there any reason it needs to be done right away? I'm a big fan of living with what I have for a while - the space will tell you what it needs. Taking pressure off until you settle in can be a good thing.
posted by cestmoi15 at 12:19 PM on November 19, 2010

You didn't ask, really, but I do want to point out that you are an easy 20-minute drive from an IKEA and Home Depot, if that makes any difference (hi neighbor!).
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:52 PM on November 19, 2010

You have a 2-year-old, a "paying" job, and a dissertation to write. Already that's like 3 full-time jobs. Hire it out if you have the cash.
posted by u2604ab at 4:33 PM on November 19, 2010

Ditto the organizer. You can hire a great organizer/assistant for $1300 but frankly, you're not going to get much of a designer for that amount. Find an organizer who has handyperson connections.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:08 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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