3 Clauses to Understand in Your Interior Designer’s Contract

Jun 19, 2024





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Hiring an interior designer is an exciting step toward making your design dreams a reality. However, before you dive into your project, it’s crucial to understand the contract that will govern your relationship with your designer. It’s easy to breeze past the contract when you’re excited, but you can save yourself a lot of heartache and time down the line if you spend 30 minutes up front making sure you understand the contract. Below, I’ve outlined 3 clauses to understand in your interior designer’s contract: Scope of Work, Fees, and Expenses & Costs.

Scope of Work

The Scope of Work clause is one of the most important sections of your interior designer’s contract. This clause details everything that is included in your project, outlining every deliverable your designer will provide. If it’s not listed in the Scope of Work, it’s not included in your project. It’s essential to make sure that this list contains everything you discussed with your designer at the outset.

Why the Scope of Work Matters

  1. Clear Expectations: The Scope of Work sets clear expectations for both you and your designer. It ensures that you know exactly what services and deliverables to expect and provides a roadmap for the project.
  2. Avoiding Misunderstandings: By having a detailed Scope of Work, you can avoid misunderstandings and disagreements down the line. It prevents any assumptions about what is or isn’t included in the project.
  3. Managing Changes: If changes to the project are needed, having a detailed Scope of Work makes it easier to identify what additional work will entail and how it will impact the timeline and budget.

What Should Be Included in the Scope of Work?

  1. Design Services: This section should detail all the design services your designer will provide, such as space planning, furniture selection, color consultations, lighting design, and more.
  2. Deliverables: Specify the tangible items you will receive, such as design drawings, mood boards, material samples, and 3D renderings.
  3. Project Phases: Break down the project into phases, outlining what will be accomplished in each phase. Common phases include design development, procurement, and installation.
  4. Timeline: Include a timeline for each phase of the project, specifying key milestones and deadlines.
  5. Client Responsibilities: Clearly outline any responsibilities you have as the client, such as providing timely feedback, making payments on schedule, and coordinating access to the property.
  6. Exclusions: List any services or items that are explicitly excluded from the project. This helps avoid any assumptions about what is included.

Tips for Reviewing the Scope of Work

  • Ask Questions: If any part of the Scope of Work is unclear, ask your designer for clarification. It’s better to ask questions up front than to make assumptions.
  • Be Specific: Ensure that the Scope of Work is as specific as possible. Vague language can lead to misunderstandings.
  • Document Changes: If any changes to the project scope are agreed upon after the contract is signed, make sure they are documented in writing.


Understanding your designer’s fee structure is critical to a successful relationship. The Fees clause outlines how much you will be paying, when you will be expected to pay it, and what services are covered by these fees. A clear understanding of the fee structure helps ensure that there are no surprises when it comes to payment.

Types of Fee Structures

Interior designers typically use one of several fee structures. Understanding these different structures can help you determine which one is best for your project.

  1. Hourly Rate: Some designers charge by the hour for their services. This fee structure can be beneficial for smaller projects or for clients who want flexibility. However, it’s important to have an estimate of the total hours required to avoid unexpected costs.
  2. Flat Fee: A flat fee structure involves a fixed price for the entire project or for specific phases of the project. This provides clarity on the total cost upfront, but it’s crucial to understand what is included in the flat fee and what might incur additional charges.
  3. Percentage of Project Cost: Some designers charge a percentage of the total project cost. This fee structure aligns the designer’s compensation with the overall budget, but it can sometimes lead to higher fees if the project cost increases.
  4. Cost Plus: Under this structure, the designer charges a markup on the cost of goods and services they procure on your behalf. This fee structure can provide transparency in terms of costs, but it’s important to understand the markup percentage.
  5. Retainer: Some designers require a retainer, which is an up front payment that secures their services. The retainer may be applied to future invoices or may be a separate fee.

What Should Be Included in the Fees Clause?

  1. Fee Structure: Clearly state the fee structure and how the designer’s fees will be calculated.
  2. Billing Schedule: Outline the billing schedule, including when invoices will be issued and when payments are due. Common billing schedules include monthly invoices, milestone-based billing, or a combination of both.
  3. Payment Terms: Specify the payment terms, such as accepted payment methods, late payment penalties, and any discounts for early payment.
  4. Scope of Fees: Detail what services and deliverables are covered by the fees. This helps prevent misunderstandings about what is included in the designer’s compensation.
  5. Additional Charges: List any additional charges that may apply, such as fees for extra services, rush fees, or fees for changes to the project scope.

Tips for Reviewing the Fees Clause

  • Budget Carefully: Ensure that you have a clear understanding of the total cost of the project, including the designer’s fees and any additional charges.
  • Clarify Ambiguities: If any part of the fee structure or billing schedule is unclear, ask your designer for clarification.

Expenses & Costs

In addition to the designer’s fees, there are often additional expenses and costs associated with an interior design project that are billed back to the client. The Expenses & Costs clause outlines these potential charges, ensuring that you are aware of any extra costs that may arise during the project.

Common Additional Expenses

  1. Travel Fees: If your project is located outside the designer’s normal working area, they may charge travel fees to cover the cost of transportation and accommodation.
  2. Receiving Warehouse Fees: When items are ordered for your project, they may be delivered to a receiving warehouse before being transported to your property. The costs associated with this service are often passed on to you.
  3. Re-design or Re-selection Fees: If you request changes to the design or need to select new materials after the initial selections have been made, the designer may charge additional fees for the extra work.
  4. Change Order Fees: Changes to the project scope, known as change orders, can result in additional costs. These fees cover the designer’s time and effort to implement the changes.
  5. Procurement Fees: Some designers charge fees for procuring furniture, fixtures, and other items on your behalf. This can include a markup on the cost of goods and/or a separate procurement fee.

What Should Be Included in the Expenses & Costs Clause?

  1. List of Additional Expenses: Clearly list all potential additional expenses that may be incurred during the project. This helps ensure that there are no surprises when it comes to extra costs.
  2. Calculation Methods: Specify how additional expenses will be calculated, such as by distance for travel fees or by a percentage for procurement fees.
  3. Billing Schedule for Expenses: Outline when additional expenses will be billed and when payment is due. This helps you manage your budget and plan for extra costs.

Tips for Reviewing the Expenses & Costs Clause

  • Understand All Potential Costs: Make sure you have a clear understanding of all potential additional expenses and how they will be calculated.
  • Plan for Contingencies: Budget for contingencies to cover unexpected costs that may arise during the project.


Clarity on these 3 clauses to understand in your interior designer’s contract is crucial for a successful project. By thoroughly reviewing and understanding the Scope of Work, Fees, and Expenses & Costs clauses, you can ensure that you and your designer have clear expectations and avoid misunderstandings. Remember to ask questions, seek clarification, and document any changes to the contract in writing. By doing so, you can set the stage for a smooth and successful collaboration with your interior designer.

For more detailed information and tips on working with interior designers, visit our website. We provide guides and resources to help you navigate the interior design process and achieve your dream space. To work with us, book a free consultation call.

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