How Designers Charge For Services

There is nothing like a heartfelt testimonial from a client who truly appreciates and understands the value of a great designer.

How do designers charge for their services?

In today’s world of both interior design and kitchen and bath design, there’s nothing more confusing than the myriad of options available when it comes to how designers get paid for their services. This is one profession where costs seemed shrouded in mystery. Today, I am going to try to demystify the system and help you in understanding how designers charge for services.

Interior design and the kitchen and bath business have started to intersect. On one hand, more and more designers are providing kitchen and bath design services while K+B designers are adding interior design services. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily, it depends on the designer.

Basically, it is up to the client to do their homework when choosing a designer to work with. As a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) and Certified Interior Designer (CID in NJ) and I hold a National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certificate, I have experience in both areas of design. Historically, these 2 professions use different methods to charge for their services. In my experience, kitchen and bath design showrooms use the one-stop shopping model. 

Designer Client Relationship Image of a designer and client reviewing color choices

There is no such thing as free design services.

Whenever I see free design services advertised, I see red. This is such a misleading statement to make. Although the word free is used, no business gives anything away for free or they would not be in business very long. The time someone spends meeting a client/customer, developing a design, and selecting materials is figured into something. The store is charging for the designer’s service, it just is not shown as a separate fee.

Why do designers charge for services?

In the words of a favorite client, “I don’t just give you money, you earn your fees by providing me with design excellence, professionalism, and dedication to the projects you create for our home” That is why designers charge for their services. Designers are highly dedicated professionals whom you have invited into your personal sanctuary, your home. As professionals, we should be compensated for our work. The complicated part is how we are paid.

Client testimonials are heartfelt statements about what a designer can do for a home.

Three ways designers charge for their services.

One-stop shopping fee

With this system, all the components needed to complete the project (the design, specification, and procurement) are contained in one contract under one contract cost. Each area of the contract and specifications are detailed including the scope of work, terms and conditions, compensation, payment terms, state and local laws, areas of responsibility etc. Overall, I find this is the easiest contract for everyone to follow as there is a payment schedule, a mutual understanding of all the components of the project, and a precise project cost. This method requires trust in both parties which is the bedrock of the designer-client relationship. There is no separate billing for fees or materials.

Flat Fee

Whereas one-stop shopping is the simplest method, some clients like to see costs broken down a bit more. Here designers charge for their services using a single flat fee based on the actual hours they believe it takes to create the project and the number of revisions offered regardless of the value of materials to be selected.  The client knows what the dollar investment will be for the design.  Charges for the procurement of materials are addressed in a separate agreement. 

Square Footage

This process works much like the flat fee except rather than the designer determining the hours required, the fee is based on the total square footage of the project. This can be one room or a whole house. Sometimes, designers will require a minimum of square feet. For example, the fee may be calculated like this: $10.00 per square foot with a minimum of 1000 square feet.  These fees can range from $8.00 -$30.00 depending on the designer. This is a very transparent system to determine what the designer will charge for their services. In the same way as the flat fee, procurement is separate.

Hourly Fee

This is a tried-and-true classic fee structure. The designer bills everything for the project based on an hourly rate. However, rates can vary for a principal designer ($195.00-$500.00), junior designer ($100.00- $150.00), or production assistant ($75.00 – $100.00). The client will not know precisely how much time will be required. Some designers work much faster than others. Some clients make decisions faster than others. When I bill this way, it is for a set amount of time usually in blocks of 4 or 8 hours. What we get accomplished in that time is up to the client and how quickly they can make decisions. Clients will be paying for phone calls, emails, presentations, production, and so on. It is easy for the time to spiral beyond what the client expected.

How do designers charger for their services? This is an often asked question. There are many options from selecting materials to creating renderings.


One thing that we have all found to be true in the last couple of years is that everything takes longer than expected and changes are a way of life. In addition to the flat fee, square footage, and hourly rates, designers have started to charge separately for procurement, in other words, the purchasing.

 Depending on the designer and your contract, a percentage of what is being purchased will be charged. This can range from 20% – 35% above designer cost or a percentage discount off retail. Each designer works differently. These costs are included in the one-stop shopping fee.

Is there a best way for designers to charge for their services?

In general, there is no best way. The most important thing to remember is the designer-client relationship; one of the most important components of any design project. I believe it is so important, I wrote a blog about it. You can click here to read that post. 

Sharon L. Sherman, ASID, NCIDQ, CID, CKD


Sharon is the founder of Thyme and Place Design, headquartered in Wyckoff, New Jersey. She’s been practicing kitchen and bath design for the past 40 years and is a Past President of the American Society of Interior Designers – New Jersey chapter. She is a current member of the editorial board of KBB Magazine, the official magazine of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Sharon has also received a Kitchen Bath Design News 2022 Innovator of the Year Award.

Her award-winning designs and editorial comments have been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, Design Milk, Furniture Lighting and Decor, Designers Today, Bergen NJ magazineKitchen & Bath Design News, Woman’s Day, Country Decorating, Design NJ, New Jersey Home Magazine, 201 Magazine, The Best of Bergen, Savvy Living, The Vue, The Record, The Star-Ledger,  and Aspire as well as several books.

Her blog “Tips from the Trade” appears in digital form on and She has also appeared on HGTV’s My Big Amazing Renovation and episodes of House Smarts with Lou Manfredini.  Sharon was a featured speaker for  *Voices From The Industry*  at the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s international convention and The International Surfaces Event and is available for further speaking engagements nationwide on all topics related to running a successful kitchen and bath design business. She is also a CEU provider for IDCEC. 


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Sharon sherman

My award-winning designs haven been featured in multiple magazines, industry publications and on television. That’s nice affirmation, to be sure.

But perhaps the greatest accolade I’ve received is the repeat engagements with so many clients, project after project, year after year.

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