Is an interior designer worth it?

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financial.freedom
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Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by financial.freedom » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:07 pm

We purchased a house in the past year and still have a lot of furnishing to do. My spouse wants to hire an interior designer, but it seems pretty simple to just sift through magazines and copy the same layout for our house.

Here are her thoughts:

1. Interior designer (ID) would do a better job than us.
2. ID would get a discount through connections with suppliers
3. ID would save us time

Here are my thoughts

1. We can do pretty much the same designs by copying what is online and in magazines.
2. Most charge $100/hr and have a mark up on items (up to 30% markup sometimes), so would be more costly
3. Would save us some time, but we still would have to review/approve everything

Do any Bogleheads have experience with this? Recommendations? If we decide to go with an interior designer, any ideas on how to get someone good?

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mrc
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by mrc » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:20 pm

Decorating taste and preferences are very personal. I've never much cared for most ID's visions. Historically (pre-internet) one could quickly expose you to alternatives that you may not have found otherwise. But in the internet age, I don't think I would use an ID unless I just wanted them to "do" the house and write the check at the end. Any discount a pro can get is negligible because that 20% off "retail" they get, you can still beat by ordering materials online. I regard an ID like a roofer: Use one so you don't have to climb a ladder and take the old shingles to the dump.
People often hate what they fear

partgypsy
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by partgypsy » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:22 pm

"worth it" is a relative term. My sister worked for an interior designer. They are hired by people who want a unified look for their house, possibly host frequently, and are willing to spend a significant amount on new furnishings. She worked through her own furniture/furnishing store, and yes using the designer would give you a discount on items. However you will probably end up spending more than if you did it yourself, as is the nature of the game. Is your spouse someone who is very particular about all the various details of the house including wall and ceiling colors, flooring, finishings, fixtures, window treatments, knows the various furniture brands and lines, possibly wants to incorporate "important" pieces of furniture or artwork in her home? Then maybe it is worth it to her. Many people get designers by word of mouth. So, one thing she can do, is if there are houses that she likes the interior of? Ask the homeowner how they did the insides and whether they used a designer.

If you decide to use a designer, be very up front regarding the scope of the work, both in the rooms or spaces, and the amount of money to be spent. Otherwise it can get costly quite easily.

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Taylor Larimore
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by Taylor Larimore » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:23 pm

Bogleheads:

I avoid questions I know little about (but I read the Replies to learn). For this reason, I have asked my partner, who is very knowledgeable about interior design, to give you her reply:
It all depends on what you are trying to achieve, and the extent to which you feel competent to do this yourself. There are many furniture stores that offer free design services. Choosing an interior designer is a very tricky exercise. Do you want someone who will design to his/her taste or yours? If you decide to use a professional, be sure to go see some of his/her other projects, so you may see how much you like them. If Time is important, know that this will not go quickly, as you will want to see the work of several designers before you choose one. Do not assume you will save money because of the designer's discount. Also know that designers tend to go high end, and that suppliers are notoriously late. Finally, make sure any contracts have penalties for going over budget and beyond a specified time!
Best wishes.
Taylor
"Simplicity is the master key to financial success." -- Jack Bogle

ArmchairArchitect
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by ArmchairArchitect » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:27 pm

Just use houzz.com for ideas.

Often the rooms pictured have links to the items that you can buy (or in the user comments)...and you're not confined to one source.
Last edited by ArmchairArchitect on Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

HornedToad
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by HornedToad » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:36 pm

We are going through this right now. Primarily for the time savings factor as well as helping us design.

We are using Decorating Den. Their model is they don't charge for the Interior design separately but the design services is embedded in purchasing the furniture/etc from the vendors and you primarily use the 100s of vendors decorating den works with. So far it seems to be going well, and for us, it was cheaper to use this than to pay someone $100/hr for design and then purchase the furnishing separately.

I would take a look at them if interested. It's always cheaper to do design yourself; you use a designer to get different design ideas and to save yourself time.

financial.freedom
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by financial.freedom » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:41 pm

Great advice so far, thank you!

Yes, houzz.com has a lot of great ideas.

I think it's a great idea to see someone's projects before hiring them.

I will look into Decorating Den.

Thanks!

quantAndHold
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by quantAndHold » Mon Mar 07, 2016 3:20 pm

We used one when we were moving to a new city and had really tight time constraints to get the choices made, and the two of us couldn't agree on anything. The designer charged us by the hour, and chose the color palette and the fabrics, and helped us find competent tradespeople to do the painting, window coverings, and upholstering. For us, it was worth every penny, and we'll probably hire her again the next time we move. We found her by asking our real estate agent who he used.

The only advice I would have if you go with a designer is to make sure beforehand that the designer's aesthetic matches yours, and that both you and the designer understand that you can veto any of their choices. 95% of what ours chose was perfect. The other 5% was wildly off.

takeshi
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by takeshi » Mon Mar 07, 2016 3:24 pm

financial.freedom wrote:Is an interior designer worth it?
If you don't have the ability and experience and interior designer can be worth it but worth also entails your budget, where you're willing to compromise, how in tune your designer is with your preferences, etc. It's not a one-size-fits-all matter. Best way to answer your question is really first hand experience. Compare what a designer comes up with versus what you're able to do on your own.

As a person with a fine arts background I think I have a good sense of aesthetics, color, etc but all that is nothing compared to my wife who is an interior designer. A good designer has the experience and vision to pull it all off, considering every little detail and how the big picture comes together in a given space with various constraints. Finding a good one is the trick. See if you can check locally for recommendations and take a look at what a designer you're considering has done. Designers have portfolios and a good designer should be proud of and willing to share info on his/her work.

Luckily I didn't have to find mine and we don't have to pay for her time like her clients.
financial.freedom wrote:My spouse wants to hire an interior designer, but it seems pretty simple to just sift through magazines and copy the same layout for our house.
Anything seems simple when you're unaware of the details. I'm not saying you couldn't do it yourself though. I have no idea.
Last edited by takeshi on Mon Mar 07, 2016 3:39 pm, edited 5 times in total.

jaj2276
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by jaj2276 » Mon Mar 07, 2016 3:32 pm

We bought a house back in 2010 and wanted/needed someone to help us decorate. I think my wife and I both have "good taste" but it's hard to choose items. I can walk in to someone else's home and know what I like and don't like about their decorations but starting from a blank slate was too much for us. On the other hand, being somewhat frugal, we also did not want to involve an interior designer who in addition to her hourly rates might suggest items more expensive than we would want to spend.

So we contacted our local art school which has an interior design program and asked if there were any students looking for some interior design work. We got one enthusiastic student to respond and we couldn't have been happier with the results. We also felt good to be able to give our money to a poor-ish student and give her a chance to build her book for when she graduated.

I would recommend looking for a new and/or interior designer-in-training.

obgraham
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by obgraham » Mon Mar 07, 2016 6:41 pm

Our houses are now intended for us to live in, not make a statement to anyone or any thing. We don't care about having a "unified appearance".

It wasn't always that way. Had a big house, fancy "view", all that. Now years later we don't find all that of any interest. We like our "stuff" that has meaning to us, and we buy new stuff when old stuff wears out or breaks.

I guess that makes us officially "geezers"! Proud of it!

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BTDT
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by BTDT » Mon Mar 07, 2016 7:02 pm

obgraham wrote:Our houses are now intended for us to live in, not make a statement to anyone or any thing. We don't care about having a "unified appearance".

It wasn't always that way. Had a big house, fancy "view", all that. Now years later we don't find all that of any interest. We like our "stuff" that has meaning to us, and we buy new stuff when old stuff wears out or breaks.

I guess that makes us officially "geezers"! Proud of it!
Beat me to the punch. Have been there and done when it comes to interior and exterior decorating to impress others. We now decorate for our enjoyment, and to heck with the Joneses. I guess I'm a geezer too :oops:
If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians.

vveat
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by vveat » Mon Mar 07, 2016 7:32 pm

I have used an online designer already 4 times - from full room design to specific small question about paint color. She has a menu of services. Prices are very reasonable and you can follow up with (many) questions, I typically do.

http://www.interiordesignserviceonline.com/

I have been invariably happy because some of her suggestions have been things I would never have thought of but they look great. I don't always take her full advice, but even when I don't, her ideas spur our final choice.

Just my experience. This option is low cost enough that even if the advice were completely off it won't be a huge deal.

vveat

DEZ1
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by DEZ1 » Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:11 pm

A good interior designer will figure out your taste and develop it. They will also help you make decisions; I addition they have access to items you usually do not.

This is usually a pricey convenience.

Mintee
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by Mintee » Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:23 pm

These are all great responses.

I always thought that I did a pretty good job of designing our homes, and at one point, I did. But in our new home, I would have been better served to find a good, reasonably priced designer. Ultimately, I believe we would have saved money by buying the right things the first time rather than trying to live with the choices we made. (We started with very little furniture, so if your job is smaller, you may not have so many choices to make).

As others have said, there are all kinds of designers. It's smart, as Taylor's friend suggested, to look at the work of the person you are considering.

Good luck.

Nowizard
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by Nowizard » Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:51 pm

We chose a designer who had a reputation for listening to her clients. Not so much the case, and she actually went with furnishings that were less expensive than we would have chosen. She did save money by using what we had effectively but, overall, a very mixed response. Should have seen some of her prior projects rather than going with the recommendation of friends.

Tim

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mephistophles
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by mephistophles » Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:36 pm

We did major refurnishing last year with high end stuff. When dealing with high end furniture companies we find that the sales people are trained and experienced and come into the home to make recommendations, help with fabric, etc. These people do make commissions, but they earn it in our opinion. If going with lower cost furnishings you simply must bone up on the subject and shop for the best deals. Huge resources on the Internet.

staythecourse
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by staythecourse » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:55 am

We are currently building a custom built home and made ALL the choices ourselves. I like this stuff (maybe even more then finance) so didn't mind, but it was a TON of time, effort, and thought.

If I was to do it again I would have spent 1/2 of that time up front looking at Houzz for the local pros. Seen the work which is similar to our style and called up 3 to interview and see what their vision was and just picked one of them.

An ID is definitely worth it to insure completing one's vision, but the difficult part is finding one that sees the same vision you do and at at price point you are comfortable.

Houzz is a great resource to lookup MANY ID and design/ build firms and see their style.

In the end, I chose everything and hired an ID for about 8 hours of work to look over what I chose to make sure the flow fit. Some of her suggestions I listened to and some I didn't. It did help me understand better how to make one room flow smoothly into another based on some of her comments and suggestions.

Good luck.

(p.s. A good ID should be offering options at different price points for each choice to give you an opportunity to decide yourself how much you want to spend here and there.)
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sport
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by sport » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:38 am

BTDT wrote:
obgraham wrote:Our houses are now intended for us to live in, not make a statement to anyone or any thing. We don't care about having a "unified appearance".

It wasn't always that way. Had a big house, fancy "view", all that. Now years later we don't find all that of any interest. We like our "stuff" that has meaning to us, and we buy new stuff when old stuff wears out or breaks.

I guess that makes us officially "geezers"! Proud of it!
Beat me to the punch. Have been there and done when it comes to interior and exterior decorating to impress others. We now decorate for our enjoyment, and to heck with the Joneses. I guess I'm a geezer too :oops:
I feel the same way. I have been in some homes that were obviously decorated professionally. In some respects, the decorations are "too slick" and look almost institutional rather than homey. I prefer a homey comfortable feel. YMMV

WhyNotUs
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by WhyNotUs » Tue Mar 08, 2016 8:09 am

seems like you are considering a decorator rather than a designer-- there is a difference in training and cost-- to help you. As others have mentioned it is not uncommon for higher end furniture stores to offer free or low cost decorators.

A decorator can also help you with a palette of colors and textures that will stand the test of time in addition to providing advice on the scale and placement of furniture. If you have a couple of images of similar rooms that you found on the net and can articulate what you like about them, that would speed the process.

I was recently in a model unit of a new construction project put together by a local builder. The furniture was large, bulky, club style leather but the architecture was contemporary with high ceilings and small spaces. It was very uncomfortable. The builder explained that he and his wife had outfitted the place, ouch.
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J295
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by J295 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 8:16 am

My spouse has a great eye, and so on our first two homes we did not use a designer (plus, on our first home we were newlyweds, and our second home started with three kids, ages 6,4, and 2).

Fast forward to all kids grown and gone and a town home purchase with a TOTAL gutting and renovation, and we hired an architect and designer. We have the skill set and time, so we served as the general contractor (18 subs used on this project to give you a sense of scope).

As for the designer decision I'll share these observations:

1. If you can't afford one or don't want to pay for one for whatever reason, that's fine, just skip it.
2. In our case I completely trusted by wife, but know I don't have the design skill set. I really like our look (transitional), but there's no way I could be of any assistance. It was too big and too important of a project for her to fly solo; I didn't want her to have all the pressure of making the decisions alone (since I can't be of help) and then if she wasn't satisfied having that on her shoulders. So, a designer was a great support system.
3. Our designer is awesome. We became good friends.
4. Here's what made our designer awesome:
a. She is not a one trick pony. She first got a sense of what "feel" we wanted and why, and then worked to make that happen for us. We looked at a couple of other designers and everything they did was the same.
b. She didn't sell product, just charged by the hour for her time. If she could get us something at a price lower that what we could get, she would using her designer discount.
c. We communicated well. If she thought we should alter a decision she'd say so. If she thought A or B would work and we choose A and she preferred B, she'd be fine and get behind that idea.
d. The one time my spouse was over thinking a paint color the designer came over and said (as she'd told us before) everything was great, and then (because our relationship was so good) suggested to my spouse that she go take a yoga class and chill out :--) We all had a good laugh about that!


Honestly, I didn't believe in the past that I'd care about living environment as much as I do now. It's probably in large part because I'm mostly retired and we spend a lot of time a in our home. The architect and designer added great value, and I enjoyed watching them and my spouse and learning new things. "Impressing" the neighbors had nothing to do with it.

One final note, our architect is an award winner and longtime friend. He retired early but still takes on projects (typically contemporary home designs, but due to our friendship he helped with the transitional design in our renovation). It's very tough to find someone of his caliber that is reasonably priced, but because he's mostly retired but still enjoys a few projects and works out of his home he uniquely fits the bill. If anyone wants some info on him PM me and you can see if there might be a fit.

mws13
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by mws13 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 8:37 am

We used the Interior Designer that is included at Ethan Allen. She was very helpful, especially is piecing/measuring the rooms. Obviously, Ethan Allen is not the cheapest out there, but it worked for us as a package.

Flashes1
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by Flashes1 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 8:37 am

I got a lot of value out of our interior designer. She had ideas regarding wall colors, drapes, blinds, etc. that we never would have come up with on our own. The one area I curtailed as much as possible was her buying things on our behalf unless it was "pretty low priced"......I preferred to buy the stuff ourselves, and then have her people install it.

Erwin
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by Erwin » Tue Mar 08, 2016 8:48 am

It took me many years and very stupid remodeling to realize the value of an interior designer. This is a profession like any other, no different from a doctor, or accountant. The key is for the designer to understand your needs, and even more important what you like, and then translate that into something that you can be satisfied. That makes the difference between a good and a bad designer. So, if you hire one, make sure to watch for that.
Erwin

desiderium
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by desiderium » Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:03 am

Many interior designers use a compensation model borrowed from the financial industry. In addition to an hourly rate, there is a markup on items from some sources. Hence the incentive to steer you to sources that provide the most revenue, rather than the best value. This is often less than transparent.

At a minimum I would insist on a completely transparent understanding of the financial relationship. I think a straight hourly fee is probably the fairest in terms of aligning interests, but I am sure that some designers can do much better than that.

davebo
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by davebo » Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:24 am

I used to think it was a waste to hire a designer, but if I bought my house today I would do it. I usually just resort to the same colors/style and waste a lot of time trying to figure out if something looks good.

I spent a couple weeks getting paint samples and trying them out before choosing 3 different colors for our living/dining, kitchen, and bedroom. They all basically look like the same color because of the light in the room.

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Toons
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by Toons » Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:29 am

I say if you can afford it and that is what you want,
Go for it and enjoy your surroundings.
We never hired a designer,,,we did it ourselves.
Painting etc,,,,. :happy
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee

pinecone
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by pinecone » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:44 pm

If your spouse really wants this and you can afford it, why not? A happy spouse is always a good investment.

fposte
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by fposte » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:27 pm

I've never used a professional, but one clear advantage to me is access to materials that are only sold through the trade. I've eyed a few fabrics I'd consider only to find that I couldn't buy them as a retail customer.

Jackson12
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by Jackson12 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 9:24 pm

Is your home filled with furniture and items you love? If so, a good designer can edit or "curate" your home.

I know this idea is going to sound crazy but it worked for us. Many years ago, we hired a home stager. We were actually thinking of moving.

For around $2000, far less than a professional designer,our house ended up looking amazing. This stager did NOT create the generic and neutral look you see in so many staged homes, Because she assumed we didn't want to spend a dime more than necessary (because we were planning to move) she used most of our own possessions, with some relatively inexpensive accent pieces.

We did pay extra for some changes . She had us replace one dated light fixture in our entrance way, another over our dining room table, etc.,The walls were completely repainted. Our bed side tables were repainted,etc. Lovely bit inexpensive blinds were put over the Windows in one room instantly adding warmth to the space.

Some of the most amazing results came from simply rearranging the furniture in our rooms. Since then, we"ve replaced some pieces ("sofas, etc) but kept the room arrangements .

While the work was being done, we had to put most everything we didn't use daily in a POD.
Once the staging was done, there were many things we never brought back into the house. We're still living in thst home and still loving the results,

And our friends thought we'd used a professional decorator

TMCD75
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by TMCD75 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 9:30 pm

I do have experience with it. I'm a painter and routinely knock interior decorators in the creek. I've been able to offer similar services for half of their starting prices.

It cracks me up when rich folks hire ID, talk about goofy spending...

mouses
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by mouses » Tue Mar 08, 2016 9:46 pm

I can't imagine hiring an interior designer. Why should I have my house furnished to someone else's taste? If the amount of work seems overwhelming, you can start with just what you actually need and add on from there as you have time.

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by FrugalInvestor » Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:53 pm

We've always found a furniture store that caters to our taste and then use one of their designers to help coordinate things. We've also found that the store we choose will often times match others' prices if we take the time to shop around a bit. Once we also shopped around extensively for a Persian style rug that our store obviously put huge markups on and once we found the rug we took photos and had the furniture store designer build the other pieces around it.
IGNORE the noise! | Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. - Henry David Thoreau

financial.freedom
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Re: Is an interior designer worth it?

Post by financial.freedom » Wed Mar 09, 2016 2:07 pm

Thank you for all of the great advice!

No, we are not looking to impress anyone. If we wanted to impress the neighbors we'd drive fancy cars, wear fancy clothes etc.

This mainly came up because we have lived in the house awhile now, it is still unfurnished due to limited time and other factors, and my spouse thinks that an interior designer/decorator would do a better job than us.

Thank you again!

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