How much to charge as an interior designer?


Hey guys, 

I'm new to the US, in my country I'm an interior designer and architect and I wanna start getting interior design projects here, but I don't know how much to charge and how American professionals are charging in the Bay Area - California. Can anybody help me? 

Another thing that I'd like to know is how the interior design projects and plans look like in here, any good example of project or book that I can use as reference? 

Thank you very much.

Dec 8, 22 8:56 pm

Since you are in California, look here for the certification (ID) or licensing paths (ARCH). 

Interior Design certification (California):

Architect licensure (California):

This doesn't answer your question about how much to charge. Getting these may help you in getting better position in marketing by having the license.

Dec 8, 22 9:08 pm  · 

I've heard rumors that ID projects are often priced by the throw pillow.  Unverified, but interesting.

Dec 9, 22 12:40 am  · 

First, I'd look at a per hourly rate equal: 

((base salary + benefits) x (2.5 to 3.5)) divided by 2080 hours as a quick & dirty approximate amount to charge per billed hour. You can then convert the estimates for fixed fee amounts by multiplying billed rate by reasonable estimate for the time it takes. I'd advise you to work with firm to get acquainted with the work involved. Use figures for base salary from based on lead project interior designer up to principal as the baseline. Look up what they would be in the bay area of California. Billed rate needs to be sufficient to provide you with a profit margin. You can flexibly adjust figures based on project scope details and all that goes with it. Do NOT waste your valuable time racing to the bottom just to get a client. Every client will love to pay you less or not at all if they can get away with it. Stand your ground and be professional about it.

Do take a look at the links I referenced in my previous reply.

Dec 9, 22 1:29 am  · 

From what I can gather for Bay area, I'd be looking at about $150 to $325 per hour as billed hourly rate will typically call within. Meaning the direct hour labor cost being about $40 an hour + $20/hr worth of benefits then times by 2.5x to what may be $60/hr direct labor + $30-$35/hr worth of benefits times 3.5x and rounded up to the more easier to remember numbers like those in $5, $10, or $25 increments. The $325/hr. would be on the higher end projects with lots of professional experience. Lesser known designers would likely be in the $150 to $175 per hour range. Substandard billed hourly rate would likely fall below the $150/hr rate by a significant amount. I wouldn't go with less than $125/hr billed rate, in the Bay area. That area tends to be more expensive places to live and why you should pursue a suitable and adequate pay. Pay as an employee would typically fall below that by some amount usually with base salaries in the $35k to $100k range. with up to about 1.75x that amount for the benefits package... normally between 1.3 to 1.6x the base salary. It depends on the firm. The pay is often on par with architects... especially those that work on commercial interior but can be done by people doing residential and commercial. Residential Interior designers of good quality professional rapport would be on par or maybe about 80% of the above figures. The bottom dwellers so to speak, would likely be under half the above figures. Interior Descecrators... *cough* decorators are often not worth more than minimum wage. If they were good, they would actually be interior designers. Decorating isn't really professional activity by any cognitively sensible understanding of what is a professional activity. Getting paid to pick out the color of the curtains....???? Really???? 

Dec 9, 22 8:24 pm  · 

As a newcomer to interior design in California, I would aim at about $125 to $160 an hour. Moving up in bill rate with projects under your belt in California.

Dec 9, 22 8:26 pm  · 

Besides, the billed hourly rate is that of BILLABLE HOURS, not all your hours. The things you need to do to get familiar with professional practice and in general the code requirement and how to read the codes, many things, you would be reasonably expected to already have/know/possess are not billable and clients will not want to pay that. By yourself, you might only get up to 1500-1600 hours worth of billable hours for every 2000 hours of total labor if you are lucky. Most likely, you might be about 1000 to 1300 billable hours per 2000 hours worked in total. This factors into your utilization rate which is important to consider when going into business.

Dec 9, 22 8:37 pm  · 

I personally believe that penalties in our legal system needs to take consideration of a person's wealth. A $2,000 penalty is a significant penalty for someone earning only $20,000 a year but is a joke to a person who earns $2000 a minute. To be a disincentive and meaningful deterrent, the financial penalties need to scale with wealth. A $24.96 Million fine would be an exact mathematically equal level of disincentive/deterrent factor otherwise the rich snob would not take the penalty as serious as a person in poverty.

Dec 10, 22 1:36 am  · 


For some material, I recommend:

Interior Graphics Standard (student edition, professional edition, or both) Professional edition being the version that does not say Student Edition.

I also would recommend the Architectural Graphics Standards and the book in the series for Landscape Architecture/Design (Landscape Architectural Graphics Standards). As a building designer, I would do interior design, building design, landscape design as a whole, criss-crossing the design disciplines.

I would recommend the book by Francis d.k. Ching & Corky Binggeli ----"Interior Design Illustrated" along with other books by Francis d.k. Ching.

I may also recommend The Interior Design - Reference + Specification book 

I recommend Professional Practice of Interior Design and the Interior Design Handbook of Professional Practice.

I also recommend a number of other books for specifications. There are a lot of books in a lot of subject areas within interior design and related professions in the AEC industry, that are popular in the U.S.

Dec 10, 22 5:18 pm  · 

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