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The Real Cost of Hiring an Interior Decorator: An Interview with Teri Larsen, ASID of T. Larsen Design, LLC

By Teri Larsen

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

I am an independent interior designer working in the Western Wisconsin and St. Croix Valley areas, as well as the Twin Cities of Minnesota. I work on projects of all sizes - from the selection of a paint color or window treatment to the design of an entire new home under construction. While much of my work is residential, I also consult on commercial design projects as well, most often on small offices or education projects. I am also able to offer online interior design services via email for folks outside my immediate area.

What is a common misperception people have about working with an interior designer?

The most common misconception is that it will be expensive. In fact, NOT hiring a designer to help you in your selection process can actually be more expensive in the long run. I've worked with many people over the years who bought multiple gallons of paint, only to hate each of their selections after bringing them home. For less than the cost of all that wasted paint - not to mention their time - a designer could have helped them get that color right in the first place. On a larger scale, hiring a designer to make sure that your kitchen layout will function for your lifestyle could save you years of aggravation. Often times, the decisions you make in your home - whether you are space planning, choosing exterior finishes or choosing tile - are very permanent. You will have to live with the consequences of your choices for many years - be sure you get them right!

How is the budget set and then spent for a new project?

Ultimately, the budget for any project needs to be set by the homeowner. It pays to do a bit of research about the costs of particular projects before you contact a designer, so you have a realistic idea of how far you may be able to stretch your remodeling or design dollars. Your designer should then work with you to determine your design priorities and help you determine a realistic budget for the various parts of your project. A conversation about budget should come very early in the project - often, before you even hire your designer. Don't be coy with your designer; give him or her a budget number. It is impossible for a designer to guide you properly without having some idea of how much you want to spend. To keep your budget a secret results in wasted time and effort for both of you.

Can you briefly talk about the main benefits of hiring an interior designer to stage a home when it's for sale?

Most of the general population has a very hard time visualizing - which is the reason that interior designers have jobs. So, when someone walks into a home full of empty rooms, it can be very difficult for them to get a good idea of how large the space is, or how it could be utilized. When selling your home, you want to take the guesswork out of the equation. You want to show potential buyer that you can, in fact, fit a king-sized bed in the master suite. Although it seems counterintuitive, rooms actually look smaller without any furniture in them. By adding furniture and a few trendy accessories, you can make your home feel fresh, updated and modern - what every buyer wants. Staging also allows you to accentuate the positives in your home while minimizing the negatives. A well-placed window treatment can hide that ugly air conditioning unit, for example, while drawing attention to your gorgeous window trim.

What are the costs associated with that?

The fees to have your home staged can vary, depending upon the level of service you require from your designer. It can range from a few hundred dollars for a consultation with on-the-spot recommendations on ways you can improve your home using your own furniture and accessories, to several thousand dollars for a complete staging project including furniture and accessory rental.

What advice do you have for homeowners in Wisconsin who want to redecorate but have a limited budget?

Find a designer who specializes in working with DIYers or smaller budgets. While some designers prefer working with high-end clients, others like to work creatively with folks on more limited budgets. If your budget is small, paint will be your best friend. A fresh coat of paint on a wall or a piece of furniture can make a huge impact on your space, and it costs very little. And, remember, paint in a fun, trendy color costs the same as boring beige. Check out local thrift shops and vintage stores for furniture pieces to repurpose and refinish for a fresh look on a shoestring budget.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

I'm available via email, which can be found at my website, www.tlarsendesign.com or by phone 651/239.5852. For design tips and trends, check out my blog, www.alittledesignhelp.com.

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