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What You Need To Know About Renovation Design Fees

September 28, 2017

Many homeowners believe that interior designers are costlier than contractors due to the design fee they charge. But is it merely fluff to upsell their service, or a legitimate cost that should be considered when budgeting for your renovation? To help you figure out - we dive into the components of design fees, how it is being charged and the big question - whether it is truly value for money.

Trilive by Authors • Interior & Styling

What does a design fee include?

It goes beyond spatial planning and 3D mockups! Design or professional fees are often charged to reimburse the interior designer on the amount of effort and time he/she has put in making your home come together. In particular, design fees may include some (or all) of the following:

  • Discussions about your home’s requirements/design
  • Preparation of design sketches (Perspective drawings)
  • 3D-Rendering
  • Detailed drawings on carpentry
  • Advice on materials and colours
  • Project coordination and supervision

Of course, do note that most IDs don’t actually break these services one by one. They are usually lumped under 'Professional fee’ as mentioned.

St. George's Lane by Authors • Interior & Styling

How are design fees charged?

It may seem amazing (or shady) how an interior designer can rattle prices off the bat, but even they have a formula for calculating the right design fee amount to charge their clients.

Here are some factors that may affect the cost of your design fee:

  1. The area size of renovated works
  2. Property type (Design fees for landed properties usually cost more than HDB/condo renovations, due to its complexity)
  3. The firm's resources (labour costs, material costs, etc)
  4. How design-centric the firm is – the more design-based it is, the higher design costs usually run.
Toa Payoh Lorong 1 by Artmuse Interior

Interior Firm: Artmuse Interior

A general design fee range for HDB or condo units start from $1,500 to as high as $6,000. Not all firms follow the same rules to charging their clients though. Some IDs still charge as an additional cost, give a discount, or absorb them if you decide to sign with the firm.

However, for situations where a homeowner simply wants a design – but hires a contractor (not the ID) instead to get the works done, the interior designer will charge a design fee – based on the area of renovated works, and/or number of detailed drawings and revisions required by the homeowner.

Tampines Street 61 by Authors • Interior & Styling

Note: Even if you did engage an ID for design and not the renovation, you can request if the firm can help with project management. Though chances are, the interior designer may prioritise projects that require more of their invested time.

Gloucester Road by Artmuse Interior

Interior Firm: Artmuse Interior

What can I get out of my design fee?

More tangible stuff includes receiving perspective drawings and sketches during the preliminary discussion. This is to help homeowners better visualise the space and the design solutions according to their requirements. And upon signing of quotation, homeowners will also get to receive 3D renderings of their design, plus detailed drawings on all planned renovation works, including carpentry, hacking, ceiling and flooring works, wiring and elevation drawings.

Note: It is important that homeowners were to check through the designs and all detailed drawings. Ideally, the interior designer should run through on these drawings before they commence the renovation.

Toa Payoh Lorong 1 by Artmuse Interior

Interior Firm: Artmuse Interior

More things to note…

Ultimately, you can't escape from paying design fees when you engage an interior designer – they are a staple cost for the all-in-one expertise and service interior designers usually offer. Now that you’ve understood what they are all about, here are a few more tips to help you be a savvier homeowner.

1. ID has waived off design/professional fees? Check through if any additional costs may be included in the quotation before signing, like ‘management fees’. And if you’re unsure of what those extra costs are – clarify with your ID.

Bukit Panjang Ring Road by Authors • Interior & Styling

2. If you’re doing just a design draw up – ask if they have a fixed price, or is it ala carte. If the latter, request the ID to break down how much each drawing may cost, or how much consultations cost (is it by session or per hour?). This will also help you figure out the amount of budget you’d like to spend solely on design.

3. Who you ask counts too – design fees may scale up if you’re engaging a more experienced, head designer compared to a junior one.

This article is done in collaboration with Artmuse Interior and Authors Interior and Styling.

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