When to Hire an Interior Decorator

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You've got a great sense of style otherwise you wouldn't be reading Apartment Therapy every day, right? You probably have a firm idea of what kind of furniture appeals to you whether it's traditional, mid-century, or totally modern. You can easily identify the colors and tones of wood that just say "you." So, you'd never need to hire a decorator, right? Wrong!

Having a great sense of your likes and dislikes is a great starting point, but there's so much more to a well-designed room than simply filling it with your favorite things. For example, I adore mid-century modern, French industrial, and coastal chic style anything. Individually, these elements are fantastic. Together--yikes! Still, hiring a decorator is a major step. So how do you know when to go it alone and when to call in a professional?

1. You can afford it. This is a big one. Obviously, hiring a decorator involves paying someone so you should count that into your budget on top of what you want to spend on furniture and accessories. But take heart! While top decorators earn about $150-$250 an hour (plus up to a 30% commission on furniture), there are so many fantastic young decorators out there who charge about half of that. In additional, companies like Design in a Box will help you design an entire room for as little as $250! Also, remember that all decorators get the same discounts on furniture no matter how big their companies or how long they've been in the business. Often, the discount they can get you on furniture pays for their services (as though you were paying retail). You get the same furniture you want, plus an expert to help you with paint colors, accessories, and pulling the whole room together!

2. You're too busy to do it all yourself. As someone who does this for a living, I can tell you that pulling together a single room can take months and an entire home, years. It took me 6 years to decorate my own home fully, I've been so busy doing it for other people! If you simply don't have the time, hiring a decorator is a great idea, especially if you know what does and does not appeal to you.

3. You are a design-magazine junkie. Anybody can go to Crate and Barrel and order a sofa, but if you spend your free time scouring design magazines and marking your favorite to-the-trade only wall-coverings, fixtures, and furnishings then--in most cases--you'd be wise to hire a decorator to go out and get them for you. Although it is sometimes possible to gain access to designer-only furniture, it can be difficult and will almost certainly be waaaaay more expensive (up to 40% more) than going through a professional decorator. In contrast, if you've hired a decorator, you'll be able to walk through the designer showrooms and "try out" all of your potential furniture in advance. You'll also have someone to organize and oversee the delivery and installation, which is great if you are too busy to do it yourself.

4. You are open to suggestion. As a professional, I can tell you it is always helpful when a client has a clear idea of what he or she wants--after all, you have to start somewhere. That said, you've hired a decorator for a reason, and one of those reasons should be that you are interested in having a professional opinion. In the past, I've had clients dictate exactly what they want, while at the same time refusing alternate suggestions. Not surprisingly, their homes do not end up in my portfolio because not only do I feel like I didn't actually design them, they tend not to turn out very well. A professional decorator has years of education and experience under his or her belt--take advantage of this! If you are just looking for someone to validate decisions you've already made, save yourself some money and invite your friends over to oooh and ahhh over your latest purchases.

What do you think? When would you hire a professional decorator?

Image Credit: Bravo TV

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