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Thread: Hiring a Decorator

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Alexandria VA

    Default Hiring a Decorator

    This past week an inquiry came in from a forum reader on Hancock and Moore sofas and the pricing. As we did our email exchanges the client indicated that he had hired decorators for his newly acquired home and they quoted him $ 17,000 each for the leather sofa he was interested in (x 2 = $ 34,000). That in turn, led him to this forum. Of course, that price is ludicrous and greedy, there is no way around it. Even in a high end leather we can shave $ 10K off the cost of each one if not more. How does that happen?

    I have been doing this since 1986, that's 35 years. In that time I have come across many, many customers who use decorators and also had many decorators come into my store for advice and shopping. And here's my takeaway on it all, maybe this will help you avoid falling into the rabbit hole!

    A top tier decorator is expensive, certified by ASID and NCIDQ. That means they are licensed and trained in working to building codes in given spaces, and its a continuing education kind of thing, they also have a portfolio book of completed projects to show you to demonstrate their work. You will pay for these top-tier professional decorators and they do good work.

    More common is running into someone who is a self-appointed decorator, or who purchased a Decorating Den franchise, or is fresh out of college and working for a store. They have little formal training and are most interested in getting in and out as quickly as possible while maximizing a sale to you.

    The mistake - and its a huge one - is to accept "Free" decorating consultation. There is nothing "Free" in life, and those decorators expect you to use their buying sources to furnish your home - and will put in the plans only what they can sell you. Result? You wind up with the brands they have access to, which are usually far inferior in quality at substantial markups over what you can buy the pieces for yourself. I see this time and time again in people's homes. Hotel-grade contract furniture at high prices, or if you specify a brand such as Hancock and Moore then you suffer ridiculous markups.

    What I always suggest you do if you want to use a Decorator, is review their credentials and portfolio first (If they don't have either, walk) and then arrange a fee-for-service with them. Have them draw up the plans and submit to you at an hourly rate for their service, and then you own the plans and are free to shop the furniture yourself. Yes, you will find a plan many cost you $ 2K to $ 4K depending on the depth, but you are not obligated to buy mediocre pieces or 3x markups on name brands. Once you have a plan, you can take it to the store of your choice and a good merchant can look it over and have your pieces set up in short order. Over the long run, this will actually come out less expensive and you will have superior furnishing in your home as well.

    Some people - usually the more wealthy - want "turn-key", they don't want to be bothered with shopping and putting it altogether. Nothing wrong with that, but at this point you have to budget for the high end, which may be 3x more than you thought it would be. I have seen people take the turnkey approach and set a limit of $ 100K for the whole house, and then they wind up with a lot of furniture that has an integrated look, but is all Chinese imports that are of low to middle quality. Know if you opt for turnkey, a common mistake is to set a price point that is too low for the project.

    Myself, I have no formal training at all. But I have a good eye for spatial proportion and have been in thousands of customers homes over those thirty-five years in addition to resetting my store hundreds of times. While I don't go out to customer's homes to assist, I help out using graph paper and customer photos whenever I can - and always at no charge.

    Hope that helps....
    Last edited by drcollie; 08-14-2021 at 10:30 AM.
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2022
    New York

    Default Re: Hiring a Decorator

    Solid Advice here!

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