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Why is interior design so expensive?

There seems to be this unspoken belief, whether you've worked with a designer/design firm or not, that interior design is an expensive service. You might have got a fee quote in the past from an interior designer for your commercial space and questioned how they got to this expensive figure.

Personally, I feel like this misconception of interior designers being expensive comes from decades of interior programs on TV showing you how you can make all of this with your space whilst only spending that... and somehow the entire design process and construction on site was all completed in two weeks?! And to add to this, we've also become a society, over time, that's always wanting something for the cheapest possible price and somehow still being of high quality and value.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a super frugal person myself and am always excited to find a bargain or discount, or to try out a DIY project to save a bit of cash. But I also know when it's worth spending money, and when it's worth hiring a professional for a particular service.

So with that in mind, if you're a bricks and mortar small business owner thinking of hiring an interior designer, what exactly are you paying for that makes interior design (seemingly) expensive and is it worth it?

1. You're paying for an interior designer's time - and great design takes time

As with most services, you're paying for that person's time providing and delivering those services to you. This is where interior based TV programs aren't really helping anyone. Because these shows are (rightly so) for entertainment rather than education, they often edit and underplay how much time goes into an interior design project, especially during the initial design concept and design development stages.

Time is spent at the very beginning getting to know your small business and interior design needs in order to develop a strong design brief and foundations for the project. Time is spent researching interior ideas, materials and furniture, as well as liaising with those material and furniture suppliers. Time is spent experimenting with numerous design layouts for your space and developing a strong design concept to then draw up in detail for contractors and decorators to work from on site.

This is just scratching the surface of how much time and effort goes into each project. As an interior designer, I want to see your small business thrive through the success of its commercial interior! I not only want your commercial space to look great, but also be as functional and pragmatic for your business as possible.

As the saying goes, good things take time, so for your commercial project to be a great thing your interior designer is going to be putting a considerable amount of time into it.

2. You're paying for an interior designer's experience, skill and talent

If you've been searching around for an interior designer or design firm for your commercial project, you may have noticed that prices can vary a lot. This price variation (and essentially higher prices) often comes from an interior designer setting their prices based on their level of experience, skill, talent, or all of the above.

If a designer/design firm has been in the industry for a long, long time their price will often reflect their experience and wisdom, and ultimately you feel like you're paying to put your project in a trustworthy pair of hands.

If you're a small business selling boutique clothing and homewares you may be looking to hire an interior designer who specialises in retail design - they have plenty of expertise and skill in creating a successful retail space. Realistically you'd be more willing to hire and pay them for their retail design knowledge over an interior designer who only works on high-end hotel projects.

Some interior designers and design studios develop a positive track of successful projects, or develop a unique design style and process that lots of people love. These professionals can usually charge prices for their services that reflect their popularity/high demand as well as their project success rate.

3. You're paying for the (long term) value an interior designer will bring to your commercial space and small business

Sometimes it can feel like your forking out a tonne of money on a one-off transaction - your commercial interior project. Why would I want to be giving this designer X amount of money for just creating me this one design? I think it's really worth changing this mindset to considering how much money, in other words financial success, this one-off investment will actually give back to your small business in the long term.

Yes, it may seem like you're spending lots of money at the beginning of your project on an interior designer but just think, once your commercial space has been completed or refurbished how much sales and profit (and business growth) you'll be continually getting back for years to come! This long term outlook is also why I often encourage clients to consider an interior design scheme that focuses on a more timeless aesthetic rather than what's on trend right now... but that's another discussion for a whole other day.

It's also worth thinking about the peace-of-mind value an interior designer will give you personally as a small business owner. Designing a commercial space takes up a lot of time, knowledge and skill as I've already mentioned. It can also become a very mentally fatiguing and potentially stressful process if it's not your area of expertise. And this is probably not another thing you want to add to your list of small business stresses!

An interior designer or design firm can take up all of the hard work of your commercial interior project, making it as stress-free and enjoyable a process as possible for you. They'll provide you with invaluable interior design support and guidance, which can help you avoid costly mistakes if they weren't involved.

So what can you do if you don't have enough money to pay for an interior designer right now?

Hopefully I've shed some light on what makes interior design seem like an expensive service, as well as a few reasons why it's worth hiring an interior designer for your commercial interior project. But I know for a lot of small businesses, especially if you're just starting out and opening your site for the first time, DIY-ing your commercial interior is very much the only viable financial option in the beginning.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! There's plenty of bricks and mortar small businesses that I absolutely love (both the business and the interior) that didn't involve an interior designer. But there will come a time as your business grows and you want to see continual success in all aspects of it that hiring an interior designer is well worth the cost.

So what can you do in the meantime if a designer is currently out of your budget? Well firstly there's no harm in contacting an interior designer and getting an initial design fee quote from them to determine whether you can actually afford one or not. Just bear in mind that to get a pretty accurate quote you'll need to provide them with a fair bit of information and design brief detail.

Many interiors designers, like myself, offer a no-obligation discovery call where you have a brief phone or video discussion about your business and project needs to find out if you're suitable to work together. If it appears that you can't work together because of cost issues, you've lost no money finding this out at least. (And as an unashamed self-promo I also do affordable consultations with bricks and mortar small businesses if you just need interior design advice for your commercial space).

A lot of interior designers (maybe not large design firms) can offer scaled back project outcomes if their full interior design service is out of budget for you. For example, you could hire a designer to create a feasibility layout for your commercial space or create a detailed interior design concept for you to then develop and procure from yourself. This way at least you know the important floor plan layout and overall design ideas for your small business have been thought out and developed by a professional.

And if there really is no money in the bank for an interior designer, you can find plenty of interior design tips and inspiration online, like this blog! To get you started, I have a blog post that gives you ideas on how to refurbish your commercial interior on a budget.


If you want to find out more about my own services and how we can work together on your commercial project, please feel free drop me an email at, I'd love to hear from you.


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